My wife is a horse.
“Watch it,” she says, hinting that she is a horse that kicks.
It could be worse, I tell her. She could be a pig, a snake, a monkey, a dog.
She smiles the way horses do — with their teeth bared — and then, with one foreleg poised to strike, she tells me back that I could be a turkey. A dead turkey.
“Yet it’s nothing but a New Year’s jest,” I think, for in truth we are both horses.
2014 is — according to the Chinese zodiac — the Year of the Horse. Born in a distant year of another cordial horse, we thus celebrate the spin of the 12-year cycle. This year is our year!
“Well, they can take it back,” she says. “I don’t want it.”
Right. After all, it’s not like they give you anything. They don’t hand out a golden key to the planet or a free weekend at Disney World, or even a packet of tissues. I could get that much at least with a quick trot around Shinjuku Station.
The only thing you get is a horsey glow — that is, if you’re a horse. And the wry realization that you have passed another of life’s milestones.
Twelve more years have galloped away. In our case, the horse race of life has taken the quarter pole. What’s that I spy in the distance? The finish line?
I think we need to hold up on the spurs a little. Bring on the rats and goats and roosters; give them some extra years while we horses take a break.
Besides, if you can add by 12, you can also calculate a horse’s age. Making mine 48.
“Well then, I’m just 24,” says my wife, a mere pony.
That’s the thing about horses: They lie. That is because — according to the zodiac sites — they are selfish, hot-headed and impatient . . . yet also charming, cheerful and witty.
And when you are a bundle of contradictions like that, you do end up trampling on the truth here and there. Think of all the horses you have known: Black Beauty, Trigger, Mr. Ed. Always the life of the party, right? But still full of horsesh-t — there is no other way to say it.
Rembrandt was a horse. So was Nikita Khrushchev. And Bela Lugosi. And Annette Funicello. See the behavioral pattern?
OK, so maybe it is a bit obtuse. But how about these horses?: Clint Eastwood, Sean Connery, Harrison Ford, Denzel Washington. And me. See? Virtual peas in a pod.
And, whaddaya know, Katie Holmes and Emma Watson and Jennifer Lawrence are horses too, proving talent and a pretty face can only take you so far. The rest is zodiac.
Yet the overall point is that we horses are a mixed bag. We have our thoroughbreds and we have our nags, but we can all run off at the mouth.
So it may be wise not to bet on any of us. Remember: The best horse is only a few short chromosomes away from a complete ass.
“Now that you have disparaged 8 percent of the population,” says my wife, “the question remains: What are we to do with our year?”
Yes, what shall we do? As an English teacher, I am torn between two idioms: Work like a horse? Or eat like a horse?
I suppose I could take a vote of that 8 percent. How many want to work like a horse this year? Raise your tails.
OK, that makes it unanimous. Bring on the feedbag.
Cheesecake? Lobster? Peking duck? Line ’em up! For a horse can have an enormous appetite — especially when celebrating.
And we have to celebrate because, once you hit that quarter pole, you never know; this could be our last Year of the Horse. The track is only so many furlongs long — and that’s not a bunch of horsefeathers.
My wife sits lost in thought at this. Until I nudge her.
“I’m sorry. Did you say something? I mean, after ‘cheesecake’?”
And, who knows, in future Years of the Horse — should we be so blessed — we may have to gum our food. Or drink it: cheesecake-lobster purée.
John Steinbeck once quipped that the young of this world are all united in one shared view: That they will never be old.
What he didn’t say was this: The joke’s on them.
With the moral perhaps being that you have to romp while you still can.
“Cheesecake?” says my wife. She has that horsey glow about her.
And 2014 looks a fine year to romp. So open the barn door; the pasture can wait.
“Yes, but cheesecake can’t.”
I guess not. Time to go eat like the zodiac says we should.
Happy New Year, everyone.
IN FIVE EASY PIECES WITH TAKE 5