You Can’t Get Here from There
Jeff Blechle

“You OK in there, slim?”

The farmer squinted through his kitchen window screen at his ass, amazed that the beast could speak—and what a stupid question! Couldn’t that hoofed fool see the kitchen light burning and his truck idling over by the barn? Slim? Who’s “slim”? He heard a crackling noise above and looked up to see a massive white explosion expanding out from the dusty ceiling fan and he turned away quickly fearing it might swallow him. Bracing himself, he sniffed at his cup of coffee and in it he saw the blank silhouette of his head rushing toward him.

“Uh, yeah, I’m kicking,” the farmer mumbled. “I think.” After an awkward twitch and a cock-eyed squint he rubbed his white whiskers and added, “That you talking, Giddyup?”

“Duh! Now let’s go, man, we need to get some decent feed around here.”

Giddyup’s tail fell limp and an ear twitched when no reply came. He clopped up to the window and pushed his long brown nose against the screen. “What’s with the bug eyes, slim? Do I look like I’m about to eat one more damned oat? The silos are full; you’re work’s done. Now come on!”

“I never knew an ass could be s’ dad-blamed sass-mouthed and—”

Two snorting calves clip-clapped into the kitchen, tug-o-warred the farmer outside and jackknifed him over the laughing Giddyup.

“Sorry I had to get rough with ya, slim—thanks, boys!—but I’m getting too old for the shilly-shally. Now straddle up, you’re in for a long hard ride.”

The ass let out a stylized whinny, stood up on his hind legs and positioned his front legs like a gold horse trophy. But the pompous gesture proved too much for the farmer and he quickly flipped off and landed on his neck.

“Gag-blastit! Hurts like hell! Can’t catch my breath! Run fetch Doc Portum and see can he tend me!”
The ass shook his fuzzy brown head and rolled his big brown eyes.

“Oh, for Christ’s—you’ve had worse pain! You ain’t, huh? OK, big boy, you want slapstick, you got it!”

No sooner did Giddyup reach down and sink his huge yellow teeth into an inner thigh bone than screaming curses filled the furry ears of the farm. An incensed goat trotted over in a rapid zigzag.

“Hey, loudmouth, if my old lady’s kids wake up I’m gonna show you just why Satanists put my head at the center of the pentagram.”

The farmer began to object to the irreverence by identifying himself as his owner, but the goat cut him short.

“I don’t give a cob who you are, you dumb hick, I’ll ram you—”

The goat’s mouth formed a sudden “O” and his huge hazel eyes got even wider and veered nervously toward his leaning shack. He continued in a softer yet grittier voice, working his head like a stuck doorknob. “I’ll ram your bony ass into last week—not you, Giddyup—and you won’t say a damn word about it!” He took a few brisk steps toward the farmer and narrowed one eye close to his white whiskers. “You hear me, son?”

The farmer wondered if his corn squeezings had gone sour because not during any of his yesterdays did any of his animals talk, at least not to him.

Dumfounded, he swore off Looney Tunes and Walt Disney. Then he watched a goose mount an inverted rain barrel to recite a passage from Richard III, which almost convinced him that he was still asleep in bed. Trying to recall a rooster’s crow this morning, he clambered into a dry trough and stretched out for some restful contemplation.

“Why you lying in that’n horse trough, Versy?”

The farmer reached out with groping fingers to make sure his wife’s puffy, deep-lined face didn’t belong to one of his hogs.

“Damn good to hear a human’s voice call me by name, Mama, damn good.”

Erna turned to face the dusty wind with the back of her wrist on her forehead. Eyes squinting into the white sun, she mumbled, “Leaving ya, Versy. Going off with that Bible salesman, Ferlin, you know, the one that blowed your fool guts out when he was putting his dog down this morning.”

“I knew something was screwy,” Versy piped. “Nobody puts their dog down for fleas!”

“Ferlin’s waiting for me out back of the church right now in his Caprice.” Forcing her red puffy eyes against the gray, weathered barn, she said, “God on high, here’s come that damned goat again, what’s his name?” Erna leaned down to squeeze Versy’s shoulder, muttered some sympathetic oath and then shifted toward the truck with an affected limp.

“I love ya, Mama!”

Erna kept limping.

“Can’t live without ya, Erna!”

She dropped her limp and kicked at a black rooster.

“Is it ’cause of I got my guts blowed out, Mama?”

Erna turned to him with dirt in her eyes and sobs in her chest, screamed that she wasn’t about to run a farm by herself with talking animals and that he better stop trying to get in the last word and screw up her big exit. She had had enough excitement this week by bullying Ferlin into blasting out one side of a shaky love triangle.

Versy’s cognizance, such as it was, returned to him on the kitchen table along with two black eyes and a rusty thermometer from the feed store, the latter moving under his tongue. In the midst of twelve cuckoos he began thinking of all the people that had slighted and abused him over the years (this was the same procedure that had years ago, during bouts of insomnia, displaced counting sheep). Then he turned to see bright sunrays and dark animal heads at every window. A squeal from a piglet blazed through him like lightning and laid him out on the sunlit floor planks.

“Yeah, he seems all right, considering,” Giddyup said to the goat, who had a hopeful smirk on his face as he pulled a wool placemat over Versy’s face. Giddyup added, “But then I'm a poor judge of character, ain’t I, handsome? Hyaw hya hyaw hyaw.”

The goat sent the self-satisfied ass an indignant glare. Giddyup returned an enduring smirk.

“By the way, horn head, what’s your name anyhow?”

“Guess.”

Four big glassy eyes connected as if to acknowledge history’s eternal setback, but Giddyup made no guess—he was fairly certain the goat’s name was Carrington.

Versy was back in his pappy’s garden sniffing up a sweet moist spring night. He didn’t know the names of the flowers he was smelling or the insects that buzzed around him. He liked not knowing, it kept things real. But surely he knew the fiddlers playing at the edge of the soybean field and the girls that were dancing in bright noisy yellow light from the barn and he could recognize these precisely for what they were. He wondered what would become of all this now and all that had passed if his memory ever failed him—if he was zapped into the future unburdened. He turned to see a bright moon stuck atop a silo and was reminded of something obscene. He turned again and urinated on a creep feeder.

“What th—oh my God, slim!”

Versy strapped up his overalls prematurely and spun in horror. “You!”

Giddyup clopped back a few steps and surveyed him with disdain. “Yeah, me! Now tuck in your guts and hop on so we can get to market! You think I got time to chase you down in some freaked-out miasma you’re treating like a sweet dream? Sheesh! Yeah, I’m pissed! Don’t you know I’m at the heart attack age?”

Versy mounted dazedly and moments later they were meandering down a cool bright supermarket aisle.

“There they are,” the ass said, tapping a cold glass door with his hoof. “Hot wings. Well? Do I got fingers? A little help here, pal. Grab em!”

The farmer caught his gray reflection in the glass door. He (or somebody just like him) would always have that face to identify with. This conclusion drained him, and he slumped in the saddle to reflect.
“Now wait, hold on, asses don’t eat chicken. That’d be like me eating my nephew Crenshaw.”

“Man, you can rattle your food chain all you want, so as long as you hurry up and grab my wings.” The ass, not getting the cooperation he expected, shook with an impatient rage. “Uhhg, you and your fool stubbornness. I’m surprised your old lady didn’t have you whacked years ago. I’d a trampled ya during introductions!” He brayed fiercely and clapped his hooves on the glossy tiles as if to say, “Now move it! Let’s go! C’mon!” and then he said just that.

Looking around with embarrassment, Versy snatched the wings and slid them into a saddlebag. Some coarse bickering ensued. Giddyup got in the last word. As they clip-clopped past a line of meat coolers, they found themselves face to face to face with a blood-spattered butcher dressed in white.

“Finding everything OK?”

“Cinnamon Life, bulk,” Giddyup snapped rudely without making eye contact.

“I’m strictly meats, sorry.”

The ass assumed his trophy pose and sent Versy crashing into a tower of Count Choculas.

Moments later Giddyup was nudging a loaded grocery cart down the gravel shoulder of Sticks Avenue, cussing and kicking rocks at honking cars. He stopped to turn a resentful look on his rider.
“What the hell’s the wheel wobbling on this cart for?” Giddyup waited with a hateful grimace. “Well, just don’t sit there, open me a pop, stupid!”

Versy folded his arms and crinkled his nose. “Nope.”

The ass exploded in a bucking frenzy, flinging Versy off the saddle and into a deep ditch where he landed crookedly on a stiff leg, fell face first in a pile of stovepipe soot and moments later suffered the rasping sounds of Giddyup delighting in a box of BooBerry cereal. Giddyup burped and lowered his front half (the way a dog does when it stretches) and dangled his hooves over the edge of the huge gaping culvert.

“You ever been to—wipe off your face, Jolson—you ever been to Spain?”

“Nope. Never will be neither since Mama brought that fool Bible salesman and his flea-bitten mutt to the house this morning. Why couldn’t he put it down on his own place? That clumsy damned moron must have been sauced.” Versy looked up at Giddyup, who was staring down at him as if Versy was the most gullible of idiots, and wiped soot from around his eyes and lips. “Want my farm back, want Mama back too. All of it.”

Giddyup pretended not to hear him and cleared his throat to speak.

“Good-looking dark-skinned dark-haired broads in Spain, slim. Had a slender black-maned sweetie—I mean beautiful—ride me bareback for about three miles, three of the best, most gorgeous and memorable miles of my life, like I was galloping on air, as close to heaven as a guy can get without living right and dying, you know? Heck, yeah. I would’ve given my past and future to stay in that moment. But she got off and got on a frickin’ camel and I never saw her again. She didn’t even look back or wave goodbye.” Giddyup angled his head thoughtfully. “I think it was Spain. Might have been Israel. Oh, well, they all look alike to me.”

Versy’s chest tightened and he fell against a grassy slope, massaging his aching leg. He refused to accept the analogy, especially in the guise of some quixotic vision from the mouth of an ass. “Take me home, Giddyup, just take me home.”

“Your past is gone, slim, and everything in it. And as for your future, I don’t know, it might never show up, you know how fickle the future is. Humph, kinda like the present, ain’t it?”

“That’s a damned lie!”

“You better believe it.”

Giddyup glanced down at his outstretched front legs and realized that a plump ungainly beast like himself shouldn’t be in such a position. Righting himself in a series of cracks and pops, he piped, “Son of a buck I’m out of shape!”

The farmer lit a cigarette, grabbed onto the top edge of the culvert as if he was about to leap for the first time from a plane and, as he lifted a thin inflexible leg, fought against the thick spreading weight that had been pulling at him for some time now and, to make matters worse, a recurring image of his windpipe twisting into a square knot began to plague him.

“Look at us, slim, we’re about shot. Uh-h-h-h crap. All right, come on outa there, it’s your turn to push the cart.”

Giddyup chomped a coil of rope from his saddle and flung it into the ditch. “Heads up, dummy!”

“Hey! One end has to be tied to something ’fore I can climb out!”

“What the hell am I, a frickin’ circus horse? Ain’t it enough that I plow your fields and take your grain to market like some damned 19th century slave?” The ass cocked his head arrogantly and chuckled. “Look at you, for God’s sake! I should fit you with a lantern and stand you out in front of the porch! Hyaw hyaw hahyaw hyaw hya hya hya ah ah achoo!”

Versy threw a circle of rope at Giddyup’s hooves. But Giddyup was enjoying himself too much to notice.

“Hold that end in your mouth.”

“Ha! I ain’t holding that nasty thing in my mouth! Ever tried removing a piece of rope fuzz from a tongue with hooves?”

“Then step on it!”

“You step on it . . . sambo.”

“Huh? You better get me out of here!”

“Say ple-e-ease.”

“Consarnit!”

The ass yawned and then moseyed down the road and through the door of The Endless Knot Tavern. Moments later, he returned with the irascible goat, both were stumbling and laughing and belching.

“You gotta be kidding me,” the goat barked, leaning his horned head over the edge of the massive ditch and finding the soot-faced Versy as rigid and threadbare as a discarded store mannequin. “Hey, dimwit, you sure are taking your time going to hell. You’ll like this news, though, I done forbid my old lady to give up any milk till the new guy patches our roof. Leaked right down between my horns all morning. ’Bout went nuts. Had to sit in a bar all day to ease my sorrows.”

“The goat,” Versy murmured. “My past ain’t gone after all.” His voice brightened with glee. “Hey, you two, get me out of here and back to that blessed farm and I’ll treat ya’s like royalty! I’ll feed the chickens to ya’s! Ya’s can talk and sass me till doomsday!”

His newfound hope dimmed as he watched the ass and the goat turn to each other and nod their profiles against the swirling gray sky as if they were in some devious conspiracy against him.

“Well, help me out of here now,” he said in the tone of a friendly warning.

Clearing his throat, Giddyup whispered into a furry twitching ear, “D’ya bring it? Good. Toss it in.”

The goat removed a soft black book from his knapsack and, after chewing on it for a few minutes and working his confrontational eyes, chucked it into the ditch, striking Versy on the cheek.

“What’s this?”

“You don’t know?” Giddyup asked.

“What do I need with—”

“Hey!” the goat interrupted, and through a series of hiccups, said, “Open it to the book-marked page and read the hoof-marked passage!”

The farmer stood incredulous for a moment staring at the book. It had sat around various parts of the house for countless years but he couldn’t remember the last time he had opened it or even thought about it. Finding the passage, he read aloud: “The harvest is past, the summer is ended, and we are not saved.”

As the last syllable left his parched lips, a spray of gravel peppered his face, then another from the opposite direction stung the back of his neck, now groceries, now rocks, now sticks, now dirt and a shopping cart and two orange cones a stunned pedestrian and one manhole cover. Versy, with great difficulty, packed the fill under his feet as it came in and within half an hour was able to step out of the ditch and be among his buriers, who were still bucking and guffawing and kicking for all they were worth.

Versy shambled away unnoticed, certain that he would never see the ass or the goat again, at least not socially, and after approaching some pals at the barbershop with talk of a big homecoming back at his farm, he headed alone down a street filled with grainy silence, carried himself over a low hill and disappeared in the brownish gray sunset.

* * *

“Versy looks so—natural, Erna,” Erna’s sister said. But feeling the pangs of insincerity that pervade all such statements, she went on to compliment Erna’s thriftiness in making the horse trough into a coffin by simply hinging an old barn door to it and then without a pause or change of expression she criticized the sheriff’s efforts to corral Versey’s killer, made general complaints about the lack of human understanding in the world and all this flowed seamlessly into a sniping appraisal of a woman sitting in a pew across from them who had the nerve to sweat and fidget at such a solemn, albeit rushed, memorial service.

Erna spoke to shut her up, “Just can’t believe he’s gone, that’s all. Too quick, like yesterday and the day b’fore. Too fast. Never enough time.”

“Nary a burden on his face, Erna, nor thought in his head—so natural.”

Erna hid an inevitable smile with her handkerchief. “At first, when I found him, I thought he had drowned in his coffee . . .”



This is a true story. It merits study. The moral: never show up at the funeral. And here's another clue for you all: the Antichrist was Carrington.


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