The Gift Horse

You can’t understand why the gift horse has come to you with those presents tied to its side. Surely there must be some mistake?

Is the horse a Trojan one? If you pull back the pretty pink ribbons and strip each layer of wrapping paper until the gifts lie naked before you, would you find poisonous snakes within or expectations that you’re just not ready to meet yet?

No, it’s a mistake. It has to be. Gifts can’t be freely given with no hope of anything in return – that’s just crazy talk. There’s always a motive and a crime waiting to happen. Always. So just keep on walking and don’t make eye contact with the gift horse. It will realise it has made a mistake eventually and gallop off to find someone more gullible instead.

What if you didn’t like the mystery gifts and had to pretend that you did? Would the gift horse cry (you’ve never seen a horse cry and would sooner not see it today) or trample you underfoot? Too risky. Far too risky.

And anyway, what if the gift was too nice? You’re unworthy of nice gifts and would feel obliged to give something back and if the gift horse had presented you with the Holy Grail, it wouldn’t seem fitting to just give a sugar lump in return.

The gift horse keeps pace with you, clip clopping a few steps behind, waiting for you to take the gifts that it has brought you. Perhaps you could just take one gift. Would that be enough to pacify this strange stallion? You turn to face the gift horse and reach your hand out towards one of the presents – the smallest one which is wrapped in the star patterened paper.

You didn’t mean to do it but as you face the gift horse, you look straight into its mouth. And as you’re gazing at its mouth, the gift horse narrows its gaze to look straight into your eyes and into your soul. It sees your doubts, expectations and fears for these prettily wrapped presents that it brought you.

The act of giving has been tarnished for the gift horse. It brays and bolts, gallops far away from you, taking each gift with it. You are alone in the street with only your insecurities to keep you company.

Never look a gift horse in the mouth.

Copyright © 2015 Philip Craddock. All rights reserved.

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