Too close for comfort

2 Feb

I have been waiting to do something worthy of your attention, or for something to happen to me that would merit a blog. But, I realize, I have to find something to tell you about. I once went to a reading by Pam Houston, an author I have admired since my Worst Boyfriend Ever introduced me to her in the mid-90s when I still lived in Manhattan. She wrote SIGHT HOUND, a wonderful and devastating work that will stay with me for the rest of my days. Anyway, during the reading she spoke of “glimmers,” or moments a writer observes that can lead to a story. A spark. A burst of something that intrigues or conjures a question or suggests a further event. Pam talked about them in terms of fiction, but I have to also think of them in terms of blogging.

Here we go. This past Thursday and Saturday, my horse Brooke colicked. If you know about horses, you know how scary this can be. Most colics are not serious, but they can go bad quickly and your horse can die. Brooke had to have life-saving surgery last December for a bad colic. For those of you who have the good sense to keep a horse out of your life and your bank account, let me explain. Colic, technically, is any sort of pain or discomfort a horse feels in any part of its digestive tract. Horses are horribly designed, with scads of intestine that just kind of hangs out in a vast cavern of equine torso. A lot can happen in there, and none of it good. When your horse colics and you keep it at a boarding facility, it’s like having a baby who can never tell you where it hurts, and the baby lives somewhere else (in my case, 25 minutes from home and more than an hour from work at rush hour). When they call you from the barn to tell you your 1,300-pound baby is ill, it’s a terrible feeling.

I called the vet for the Thursday colic, and, happily, all Brooke needed was a pain killer and she was right as rain. Usually she’ll colic and be done with it, I’m off the hook for at least a month. But no. She has apparently joined a Colic of the Month Club, as she has colicked in November, December and now January. This is a new and delightful aspect of my horse ownership. In this most recent instance, she colicked 48 hours later, on Saturday afternoon.

What the hell? Again, happily, it wasn’t serious, and I didn’t even  call the vet. Still. I was a wreck on Saturday night, keeping my phone attached to me as if it were a new appendage, waiting for it to ring with another colic alert. I had left the barn at 8:00 that night, but still. I thought I would have a relaxing evening after a harrowing day. HA! I couldn’t concentrate. I had to watch something mindless on TV. I had hoped I’d be able to write, since I had spent the entire day at the barn and lost all that precious writing time, but no.

I couldn’t even THINK of writing. As you might deduce, one of the topics of my second novel, facetiously called LOVE IN THE TIME OF COLIC, is colic. I simply couldn’t do it. I couldn’t write about some poor fictional horse dying of colic and his owner’s subsequent distress when my own horse had been flirting with succumbing herself. It was too close for comfort.

In the days since Saturday I haven’t had much time to write, even though it has been freakishly cold here in Denver, well below zero Monday and yesterday. I still had to go to work, and although I didn’t go to the barn on Monday or Tuesday, I didn’t write. LOVE IN THE TIME OF COLIC poses new challenges. It starts out with the colic surgery, and that’s how our hero and heroine meet. However, I had intended the book to be a romantic comedy, but it starts out about as light-hearted as a lynching. I either have to change the whole tone of the novel or fix the beginning. I think I have to fix the beginning. I ventured out into the Arctic Circle tonight (it was -2 at the barn) and as I walked Brooke for 30 minutes in the indoor arena (she wore her blanket, don’t go reporting me to PETA), I thought about how to make the beginning, um, happier.

How to make a beloved horse’s death happy?

Okay, so it’s not going to make you skip down the lane, swinging a basket of flowers and whistling. But I think I can make the heroine a little more composed and have her use humor to cope with her grief, as many of us do.

This is making me grow as a writer, right? To change the scene I’ve seen in my head a certain way for a little more than a year? I sure hope so, because I think it has to be.

And Brooke, if you’re reading this, please drink a lot of water and DON’T COLIC.

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