Wild Horses: The Joke
A man who works in an office goes out to lunch with his wife. He says, “Wife, I have a meeting with my boss after lunch.” The wife says, “Husband, you must eat all the food you can eat so you have energy and wit for your meeting.” The husband says, “Yes,” and eats his lunch, his wife’s lunch, and the lunches of the diners at the table next to them. The man goes back to work bloated and wonderful.
The boss calls the man into his office. The man sits down. The boss says, “How are you?” The man says, “I am so filled with lunch it is like I am made of food.” The boss, at this point, has not yet had lunch. He says, “Lie down on my desk.” The man does so.
The boss then takes out a knife and fork, cutting through the man’s belly, not even bothering to unbutton the man’s shirt. The boss says, “You will be able to afford a better shirt when I am through with you.” The boss then examines the contents of the man’s stomach, “Fettuccine Alfredo, don’t mind if I do,” he says as he scarfs down the half-digested fettuccine Alfredo.
The window cleaners are outside the boss’s office at this moment. They see what’s happening and begin vomiting on the windows, leaving a smear that half-blocks the light from the sun.
“Cheeseburger, I think I will.” The boss eats the pulp of a burger, afterwards dabbing at the corners of his mouth with a silk napkin. The boss says, “I forgot to say a pre-lunch prayer.” The boss lowers his head, closes his eyes, “Gimme gimme gimme, Lord. Make me not so skinny,” and he laughs a deep belly laugh.
The boss, now dazed, looks out the window. “Why so cloudy, sky? Won’t you empty out your rain and let me see you once more?”
The boss’s phone rings. It’s his palm reader. She tells him, “The results are in. You are a very lucky man. You will never see another cloud for as long as you live.” The boss hangs up his phone. He looks out the window and says, “You hear that, sky? Not another cloud.”
The boss returns to his work: picks up his fork, picks up his knife, and culls another meal from the man’s stomach. “You call this spaghetti and meatballs? I hardly consider these to be meatballs.”
The boss then takes a nap. Inside the nap, he dreams of an empty lake that is the exact size as to fit the contents of his expansive mind. He kneels on the shore, stabs a pocket knife through the top of his skull, lets the contents of his mind fill the lake. He takes a swim, swims out, swims far, treads water in the middle of the lake. “I think I’ll stop here,” he says. His muscles seize. His body fat keeps him buoyant. Days pass. Nights gallop like wild horses. His skin turns a bright red under the insistent sun. “No clouds for as long as I live,” he reminds the sky. Days pass. Nights echo the boss’s demands. No clouds for as long as I live. A vulture lands on his cooked belly and packs, the boss asleep within his own dream. Fettuccine Alfredo, thinks the vulture. Cheeseburger.
The man on the desk wakes up, looks at his ripped, blood-stained shirt, says, “Bah. I’m gonna hear it from the wife again. ‘Unbutton your shirt first. Always.’ You think she could do this job? She could only stomach two meals, maybe three if she practiced.”
On his way home, the man makes a stop at a miracle healer’s house, a man whose practice is viewed by some as unproven and even blasphemous. The healer says, “So you haven’t found a new job yet?” The man says, “Just fix me up.” The healer says, “Lie down.” And the man does so. On the table, his mind lapses into a baby coma. Inside the coma, he is a tiny heart. The heart is a maniac. It says to all, “I say to you all: I am a heart, and I am going to drown you in my love,” but there is no love inside the heart, only blood.
When the man wakes up, it is 7:30 PM. The healer says, “You must go home now. It is time for me to eat dinner with my family.” The man pays the healer, says thank you, and heads home.
The sky seems empty. The man momentarily imagines the emptiness of the sky as a single white blood cell getting pumped through the heart of heaven. The man arrives at home to find that his wife has prepared dinner. “I’m not hungry,” the man says. “I know,” she says, “but I am.” The man sits at the table with his wife, watches her eat, feels lucky, thinks of that song. Wild horses couldn’t drag me away…, thinks, I still don’t get it.
Daniel Bailey is the author of several books of poetry, including The Drunk Sonnets (Magic Helicopter, 2009) and Gather Me (Scrambler books, 2013). He lives in Athens, Georgia, where he continues to revise his bio.