EPISODE V - THEY SHOOT HORSES, DON'T THEY?
(Mr. Leousis, greets some students in the hallway on his way to class, an excited student who notices him, approaches.)
"Sir, who are you replacing today"? (Mr. Leousis smiles and raises a file folder upon which is written the name of the teacher he has come to replace this day. The student then, punches the air, calling "Yyyyes!" in total delight. Mr. Leousis now enters the gymnasium and calls out to students. )
Everyone, please come to room 202; do not change into your gym clothes.
( In room 202.)
Good morning, everyone. As you can see today, I have come to class without my tie as you have come to know me; in fact, I have come with my sneakers on, (He chuckles). Mr. Cameron had a last-minute emergency to attend to, and so I was called to come in and help. (A hand goes up and then another and another): Yes, (Mr. Leousis, asks?) "Sir, please can you finish the story?" "Oh, which story is that?" (Mr. Leousis, responds in jest, with a smile?) "The Secret Garden Story.," the student responds. "Why sure." (Mr. Leousis answers. Another student puts up his hand.)
"But sir, we have already heard The Secret Garden Story. I want to hear the story of The Horse." (Several students cry out that they too would like "The Horse Story," while others insist, that they want to hear The Secret Garden Story, completed. Mr. Leousis puzzled, remarks.) We have a dilemma. Because you people come from different sections and may have had me for math or science separately, in your division, you have heard different stories or parts of one at different times. I would suggest that those who would like to find out what happened in the story of The Secret Garden or any other of my stories for that matter, please go online, and read about them on my blog; http://canadianstoryteller.blogspot.com/
(He writes the link to the blog on the whiteboard and then emphasizes ;) Please go there, read at your leisure, and "Leave a comment!"
You should all remember that one of my goals in posting my stories online is to encourage you to read. I think by "wetting your appetite" of sorts, and initially acting out my stories in person, that I would invite you, to go online and continue reading. I am also looking for "critical thinking!" That is why I ask you to add your comments. I am happy that many of you have posted how great and "super-duper," I am as a substitute teacher (Mr. Leousis, blows at his right-hand fingernails and rubs his shirt, smiling.), but what I am looking for, is really critical commentary. Let me know, for instance, what parts of my story connected with your life experience. What you think may be questionable about what I have to say or how and what I write, could have been better stated, etc. I want to make my stories "palatable" for your teenage group. Your constructive criticism will be my guide.
I would like to begin by referencing, something I had mentioned in The Gypsy Story, about the possibility of a world nuclear war. If you have not had a chance to read The Gypsy Story, don't worry about it, I will fill you in as we enter this new adventure, "They Shoot Horses, Don't They." So let me begin.
It was early spring of 1962; I was about twelve years of age, living on Park Avenue and Mount Royal. I had settled into living here, and after losing my first love, Lucy, I would often walk up the mountain and visit her grave. I would not stay for long; many times, I would just look from a distance, when I got to the summit. I knew, Lucy, was no longer there, and she was in a serene place. In fact, without sounding too eerie, I would see my Lucy, every time I would come across a butterfly in my path, as I walked up to the summit of Mount Royal. In other words, the journey through the woods, up to the summit, was as important as the goal of reaching Lucy's grave. She accompanied me all the way, and I felt her presence as if she and I were in the garden of Hôtel-Dieu de Montréal Hospital.
And so it was one day, when on my journey up the gravel road to the cemetery, I heard a horse-drawn carriage, "clip-clopping," gently up the hill. I am sure you have all seen the horse-driven "calèche", up on Mount Royal. (Many students nod their heads in agreement while others raise their hands or call out, that they have had rides on them with their parents or friends.)
I remember turning around and seeing this majestic young horse, (Mr. Leousis continues.)... proudly, with his head held high. It was pulling this carriage as if a feather, carrying on it this older man, its driver, who smiled at me. I moved to the side for them to pass. Only meters away, the horse stopped suddenly, and the driver kept on insisting by whipping the horse's hold-back leather straps and calling out, "Away, away mon esprit, aller de l'avant!"
As I moved up to them, I could see the animal was holding still and refusing to move up, challenging his rider by calling out, "Hmmmm,Hmmm," (Mr. Leousis, now imitating the horse's calls.) When I walked up to the horse's face, what I saw, stopped me in my tracks! A huge butterfly had landed in front of the horse's nose. It just sat there; a sign from Lucy, I surmised? I moved closer; I whispered at the butterfly, "Lucy is that you; you are frightening this animal." At which point the butterfly flew up in an almost vertical ascent. The horse seemed to relax at the tone of my voice, so I was encouraged to stroke his head. He turned to me and pushed me gently as if to thank me. I moved back a few steps, and off they went.
As the old man moved up near me on his carriage, he called out to me, "Merci mon fils, je ne sais pas ce qui lui a pris.” (Thank you, son, I do not know what got into him.) I responded by just using my two fingers in a type of military salute and continued my climb. Only a few meters forward and the horse stopped again! I again moved to the front, only to discover, "The butterfly." I whispered to Lucy, "What are you up to," and smiled? She gently let go of the horse and fluttered in the direction of the trail. After stroking the horse's mane once again, he began to move forward as before. This time, the old man stopped by my side, looked down at me and said, "Vous devez avoir une touche de magie avec des chevaux, pourquoi vous montez pas à bord et nous pourrions monter ensemble au sommet? (You must have a magic touch with horses, why don't you climb on board and we could climb together to the summit.) I was ecstatic! I yield out, "Oh, thank you, Lucy, I love you!"; only to be met by a puzzled look from the old man, followed by a smile.
I had not ridden on a horse buggy since my home in Tripolis, Ellas, and sure felt the thrill of home when I sat in the cab. "Oh, vous êtes Anglais,” the old man remarked. In my poor French, I said, "Oui, je suis anglais, grec!": The old man responded, "Ti kanis" (How are you, in Greek), as he turned around to connect with my gaze. I replied, "Kala, efharisto." (Good, thank you.) and we both smiled at each other.
As we rode up to the hill, I found out that the old man's name was, M. Joseph. He was a war veteran of the Second World War, a military man; he referred to himself, having proudly served his country, Canada. "I too am a military man.," I called out to Mr. Joseph. He laughed! With a smile, I proceeded to tell him of my extraordinary years back home at the military barracks, my home, my friends, and my "military experience." Mr. Joseph laughed so hard; he kept on saying, "Mon Dieu, vous allez me donner une crise cardiaque!" (My God, you are going to give me a heart attack!) We both laughed and laughed as we exchanged, "Our military experiences!"
When we arrived at the summit, Mr. Joseph had learned enough about me and I about him, that we felt a strong bond had developed between us. He asked me when I would be going back down the mountain. I responded that I needed to return home and be at my father's studio by noon: My father had to be at the St-George’s Cathedral, in the afternoon, to take pictures of a wedding. M. Joseph asked me if I wanted to come and visit him at his horse stable on, rue de Bullion; I jumped at the opportunity and could not wait!
When I returned home and to “the studio,” I found my father glued to his portable red, Telefunken radio. He was listening intensely to the news; he was a news buff: “Afti I Amerikani, kitane na perifraxoune tin arkouda. Kai afto den tha mas pai se kalo.” (Those Americans are trying to surround the Bear", he said, "and this could lead to no good.) I had no idea what he was talking about, but I knew that his reference of "The Bear," was Russia. I tried to communicate with him as to when he will be back from the wedding, but his ears were deaf to my request because of his total focus on the news. I proceeded back home, (Our apartment was connected to the studio), to prepare some lunch. I heated the green beans and potatoes, which were left in the refrigerator by my mother and called my father to come in and have lunch.
When my father joined me at the kitchen table, he advised me that I should mind the store and that my sister had gone to Angie's. She would spend the day there until my mother returned from work at the Royal Victoria Hospital. After drinking his glass of homemade red wine and eating his "epidorpio" (desert), he advised me to stay keen and listen out for the doorbell: He had connected a switch to the door of the studio. If anyone entered, the bell would alert us to go to the front of the building where we had the photo studio and attend to any customers. After my father had left for the wedding that afternoon, I felt heavy from having had lunch and sleepy. I decided to have a snooze; if anyone were to come to the door, the bell would wake me.
As I began to fall asleep, I felt I was once again drifting away from my body: An out of body experience, one that I had felt many times before. I was now under the control of "The Light." I drifted at phenomenal speeds away from my home, the Island of Montreal and beyond. Today, looking at the Google map, I realize that I had traveled to Arlington, Virginia, because I remember seeing the military complex, which is known, as the Pentagon:
It is a huge, five-sided complex of buildings, shaped like a pentagon, which houses the US, military "brains." (Mr. Leousis quotes.) As I descended into one of the buildings, I entered a fortified bunker, way below the surface; I would hazard to guess at least a kilometer deep. There, in a room comprising of computers, monitors, and large maps, sat five men, three were wearing different colored military uniforms. Two of these men were civilians with ties. I could hear their discussions or rather arguments but could not understand their "lingo." I remember such words as, "The Chief", "pre-empt", "nuke", "MAD", etc. Other than "the football" and "biscuit," they kept on talking about, all the rest was techno language for me. They shook hands and left the complex.
I followed one of the civilians in their limousine as it departed the complex. He was carrying a small metal briefcase chained to his wrist: He was to deliver this updated "football" to the President of the United States, President John F. Kennedy. Two other vehicles were in the escort, one in front, and the other behind this limo. As I watched "the civilian" enter and take his seat in the back, the shaded glass window to the driver, rolled down. The driver reached in and handed him a "pink," square folded piece of paper. The civilian unfolded this paper. On it was written two series of digits, "6736" and underneath it, "3378769." He positioned the metal briefcase upright on his lap and began to enter the first four numbers on the scrolling combination lock; the suitcase popped open! He then proceeded to pull out this small antenna and started typing on this miniature pad the second series of numbers. As he was doing this, I felt the sensation of "The Light" guide me to touch the right shoulder of the driver. When I contacted him, he suddenly proceeded to floor the gas pedal of the limo. The limo smashed into the security vehicle in front of it. Both the driver and the civilian were knocked unconscious from the impact. (Mr. Leousis, in a serious tone, explains.) Years later, when I attended university, I discovered that this incident saved the world from a nuclear war. (Some hands go up, asking how this was so? Mr. Leousis responds.)
Do you know what a "Conspiracy is? (Mr. Leousis, asks?) Well, during those years, we had what is called, "The Cold War.,." The two superpowers, the USA and its allies and the Soviet Union, were amassing vast arsenals of nuclear weapons, each trying to outnumber the other. We had so many atomic bombs, we could blow up our world ten times over. On both sides, of "The Iron Curtain," there were people in power who wanted a nuclear war, they were referred to as hawks. Those who viewed such an act as madness were seen as doves. One historian best described this madness as having two people in a closed room, the room representing our planet. Imagine for a moment, a room filled with gasoline, up to their knees. Each of these men, threatening each other, who had the most matches, "Huh!" (Mr. Leousis remarks.) Only a lunatic would dare light a match! Would you? That is what the acronym MAD, stands for, Mutual Assured Destruction, in other words, no one, or anything survives!
Getting back to the episode with the limo. What was discovered then, after the accident, was a conspiracy by the hawks in the USA, led by a man named, Edwin Walker. He was a US Army General, who organized others like him, to attack the Soviets in a surprise attack. When the security detail following the limousine, discovered the presidential suitcase opened and a code half entered, they arrested "the civilian" and the driver for conspiracy. The "evildoers," had their claws everywhere, including the secretary of defense of the United States. I cannot go into detail at this point, but if you visit my blog, I have all types of links there to satisfy your curiosity; if you are interested in these things… so let us move on with the story as you call it, "The Horse."
After, "saving the world" (Mr. Leousis, quotes for the second time.) I remember having these flashes, seeing my body being shaken and hearing my name, "Liako, Liako, ximpna."(Liako, Liako, wake up!) It was my mother who had returned from work! I rubbed my eyes and disoriented, I could feel my heart pounding, ready to explode; the sudden wake-up, left me dazed. My mother waited a while and again, started rubbing my left arm slowly, nursing me back to "the current world." After getting up and washing my face, now fully awake, I asked my mother if she would mind the store so I can go out and play at the Park: What I really was intending to do, was walk over to, rue de Bullion, and meet up with Mr. Joseph and Espirit, his horse. My mother refused my request and asked that I not leave the house/store until she had gone over to Angie's house to retrieve my sister. After she had left, I counted the minutes, the hours, and what I thought would be days, until FINALLY, my mother and sister arrived by eight o'clock. I rushed out of the door!
I ran to de Bullion Street, as fast as I could and there, sure enough, was an old red brick building with an arched passage to a small courtyard, just as M. Joseph had described to me earlier. As I approached, I could smell the "country air" of a farm. No sooner had I approached the entrance that I could hear Esprit's neigh; he had sensed my presence and was calling out to me. From a room next to the stable, I could also hear M. Joseph called out to him, "Facile, facile mon garçon, Esprit. Take it easy." "Monsieur Joseph.," I called out. Opening the side door and looking out, I could see the surprised look of M. Joseph as he caught sight of me. "Oh, vierge marie, mon Dieu, c'est vous, Elias?" (Oh, Virgin Marie, my God, it is you, Elias), M. Joseph called out. "Now I know why Esprit, became restless." "Can I see him," I responded? "Vous n'avez pas besoin de demander," (You need not ask.) M. Joseph called out. With that assurance, I rushed to the stable, patting, and stroking, Esprit. It was not long before M. Joseph and I became very close:
Most days, when I could get away from "the store," I would run over to the stables, to feed, water and brush this majestic animal. The most exciting part of this experience was when I would walk to the gravel road entrance to the Sir George Etienne Cartier Monument, and wait for Esprit and Mr. Joseph to arrive. I would hitch a ride up to the summit, sitting next to M. Joseph, holding the horse reins and slowly clip-clopping through the luscious mountain landscape: These were majestic moments of tranquility filled with amazing conversations of war and peace!
As it turns out, M. Joseph was able to help me make a "human" connection and understanding of "The Light."
You see M. Joseph had been stationed in Egypt during the Second World War, serving in the British cavalry division, Canada being part of the Commonwealth. Here, he was able to visit many of the Ancient Egyptian monuments, the Pyramids, as well as historic sites in Syria and Iraq.
One day, he recalled, he was visiting, The Red Pyramid, when he came across a very "interesting character," as M. Joseph described him. This person, named Habek, was an amateur archeologist. Habek claimed that through his intense studies and research, he had come to the conclusion that the ancient high priests of the ancient world, were carriers of "The Light." They had been handed this power through successions, going back to ancient Babylon, almost four thousand years ago.
M. Joseph went on to say, that among the many powers that these high priests possessed was to be able to transfer some energy to serpents, which made them glow. In this way, these snakes would be used as a source of light, like lanterns, inside the Pyramids. When workers were constructing and designing the inside walls of the Pyramids which were void of any light source, these serpent lanterns, would glow to provide "The Light." The mystery then was, how were all these spectacular works of art and hieroglyphics done, if there was no light for workers and artist to see?
According to Habek, one such high priest or bearer of "The Light," was Moses: In fact, it is clearly written in the Bible, that God, who is the source of "The Light," instructed Mosses to "Make a fiery serpent." "Venez y penser maintenant" (Come to think about it now), "Venez y penser maintenant.", he repeated himself. "Did you say that you received "The Light," in the firing range, on the mountainside, in Greece," he queried. "Hmmm, it can't be a coincidence." M. Joseph explained as if a light bulb had been lit in his brain. He reached for a copy of his Bible that he kept on a small night table by his bed and read aloud "The burning bush.", And how Moses had received such, "The Light" from God! It was all there, in black and white! Vous êtes vraiment bénis mon fils, d'avoir reçu un tel cadeau." (You are truly blessed my son, to have been given such a gift.), M. Joseph remarked. "But you must be extremely careful, "Mon Dieu" (my God)," he cautioned. "You must not tell anyone about this!" I had not spoken of this to anyone, except Lucy, I said, and she had dismissed it. As for my parents, they only thought it was my temperature, "The Pireto," that was the oddity: Both my parents and the doctors at the Royal Victoria Hospital had warned me of grave consequences if I mentioned this to anyone. I had not even told anyone, except Lucy, about my visits to the Elysium Fields: "Ce qui est bon." (That is good.), M Joseph remarked.
M. Joseph was now my mentor! We talked, talked, and experimented too! One of the theories M. Joseph had was that if the ancients could transfer such energy to other living things, like serpents to cause them to glow; perhaps, I could transpose my energy as well. I will now, stop, here about the results of what we found. (Mr. Leousis remarks to the class.) I am drifting to another subject altogether, and I must try to finish the story about "The Horse." I promise you, I will deal with this subject, in my next episode, called, "The Photographer."
I spent a glorious summer and fall that year, being with and sharing with, my mentor, M. Joseph and my beloved horse, Esprit; but soon, like my dear Lucy, it was time for the darkness of winter, and for all that, I loved to return to Hades and the underworld.
One day, in late November, I was walking home from school, just at the corner of Mount-Royal and Park Ave, when I could hear a tremendous chaotic call of noise. Car horns blowing, cars squelching and pandemonium having set in. As I looked over the hill, overlooking Sir George Etienne Cartier Monument, I could see a horse running down the hill towards me. I prayed to God that it was not real, and it was not Esprit; it was! As the helpless animal rushed through the traffic, in panic, he ran into multiple vehicles, slipping on the asphalt roads, crying out! I was devastated witnessing this horror! As he reached the intersection of Mount Royal and Park Ave., he slid into an unsuspecting car that was coming down the hill of the mountain. The impact broke Esprit's front left leg, and he pounced onto the ground! I ran and ran, calling out, “No, no, Esprit, No!".
As my beautiful Esprit, lay on the ground frothing at the mouth, all covered in sweat, I rushed over and jumped to the ground, holding and kissing his head. (Mr. Leousis' voice now drops to a low soft tone, as he gazes to the floor, he pauses for a moment, and asks the class for forgiveness). Sorry about that, he calls out; this is not easy for me. He musters his energy and takes a deep breath.)
As soon as he felt me, he quieted down, "Calmer, mon précieux, calmer mon, Esprit," I whispered in his ear. Then, the shock of my life! As I looked down to his knee, I could see the break in his leg, a sharp broken bone sticking out like a needle, the blood running through! I gasped for air, crying, "No, no, no…" A man reached down over me and rubbed my shoulders, saying, "It's alright son, it's alright." When I looked up, it was a man in blue, a police officer. As people gathered around, another few officers arrived. One approached me and asked if I knew the driver of the horse? I then realized that I had not considered where M. Joseph was. I said, "Yes, M. Joseph. He has his stable over at de Bullion." The officer then asked the two other officers to hold the horse down while he took me away to speak to me: I would not leave my place! The officer insisted and started to pull me away.
As soon as I was only a meter away, Esprit got up suddenly, the crowd rushing back, in panic. He proceeded down the street, limping along in the most horrendous agony. When he reached the next block, near Esplanade Ave., a daring young man jumped and grabbed Esprit from his manes and wrestled him to the grown. In horrific tears, I called out to the police officer, "Please, please, officer, let me go to Esprit!", he relented.
When I got to where Esprit had once again fallen, the young man holding Esprit down from his head, cautioned me, "Jeune garçon tenir à l'écart, il est dangereux. Il est fait très mal!" (Young man, keep away. He is dangerous; he is fataly hurt!") Soon after, the police officer who had held me had caught up with us. While the other two officers assisted the young man in keeping Esprit down, this officer, advised the young man that I knew the horse, and I could calm him down. As I rested over my Esprit, weeping, and listening to his gasp for air, I could hear the adult discussions. Another officer who just arrived advised the senior officer, who had attended to me, "La SPCA, sera là dans cinq minutes." (The SPCA, will be here in five minutes.) As we waited, what seemed to be a "lifetime," I heard another man in the crowd call out, "He is finished, poor animal." When another called out, "On achève bien les chevaux n'est-ce pas?"
(They Shoot Horses, Don't They?)
(Mr. Leousis, once again, pauses, lowers his head, visibly shaken.)
"I am sorry, class, I cannot continue." Soon after, the bell goes, and the class is dismissed. Several students now surrounding, Mr. Leousis, ushering empathetic comments and thanking him for the story.
By Elias Leousis,
(Η αγάπη είναι το μελάνι, η σοφία είναι το μήνυμα.)Love is the ink; wisdom is the message!
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