Handsome Grandsons

Wellington Arts Zine

The Man From Horsemouth – Thomas P. McGrath

Posted by handsomegrandsons on July 31, 2008

The Man from Horsemouth

The Man down the road from us drinks his own urine.
He also invented a cure for the common cold by grinding mustard seeds, ginger, the ash from burnt bones and then enough tequila to make it a paste.
He used to sell it at the monthly fairs in town in old toothpaste tubes he had washed out and relabelled using masking tape and enamel paint the colour of fingernail bruises, before being banned by the organisers for being unhygienic and quote ‘mysterious and unpredictable’. In various forms from various people and at various times these, among various other things, I have overheard and been told about him.
He rides a bicycle and can be seen at very obscure hours. We always wonder where it is he is going. Perhaps he cannot afford lights because driving home one foggy night he appeared out of nowhere and the fog. I was lucky I did not hit him although he didn’t even seem to notice, which got me thinking that perhaps he wasn’t even there.
He is very well known in our area and in one way or another it seems as though anyone at all can start a rumour about him, and by word of mouth it is true in no time. In a graceful and unknowing way he is the collage of all our imaginations.

My affiliation with him was non-existent. But one bright and clear day he stopped, right by a dead possum about one mile from my house. Out of curiosity I slowed and pulled over to watch, and wound down the window to listen. He was leaned over in the middle of the road with one foot aloof on a pedal and one foot grounded on the rural tar seal. His eyes, fixed on the half-flat deceased possum I had run over the previous night. The soles of his shoes looked nigh on paper thin and the stitching had long given up trying to hold the incompatible pieces of leather together. Carefully he swung his right leg over the seat to the ground and then stood in his button-less, frayed, grey and omnipresent suit, holding his bicycle upright. He knelt down. I sat in the car with the engine off, probably ten horse lengths behind him wondering if it was the ash of possum bones he used in his cold cure.
The hot, high noon sun made the creases and ripples on his face pronounced and outspoken. His long beard and wild hair shone a deep twenty-fifth wedding anniversary silver in the sunlight. Much unlike any of the second place silvers of the old men at the pub on Fridays.
I had to bow my head slightly and squint in the bright sunshine to see what he was doing. Just then, the bicycle fell to the road and he hastily stood and turned to face me in one swift movement. His eyes were sunken, but my eyes abruptly popped out to compensate. An intrusive glare, right at me, then movement. I have never met the queen, but the way he walked seemed too calm and dignified for a man of his apparent social status. Perhaps he walked like the queen, or Prince Charles maybe; a royal hobble.
Then, there I was. Face to face with living flesh; totally himself and totally the living embodiment of all the stories I had heard, staring through my window.
… I’d been told he did magic tricks for bicycle parts…
Oddly and swiftly, as if to reveal a dove, or a furry rabbit, he reached deep into his jacket pocket. With great passion he withdrew a squirming baby salmon covered in bread-crumbs. A sudden look of revelation and bliss unfolded on his face upon divulging the fish. He bowed slightly and ceremoniously presented to me the fish, dressed in its bread-crumbs, through the window. With both hands cupped, I received the offering with a stunned and nervous sound I do not wish to describe. It looked at me, opening and closing its mouth as if to talk, but nothing came out. I think it must have been mimicking me.
For a reason that is probably not as strange as what I saw, I was not surprised to look up and see him pissing on my front wheel. Too awestruck by the whole situation, and seated too rigidly in the seat of my car, I kept my mouth shut and a hand on my salmon. After finishing and crudely packing his genitals back into his slacks he strolled back to his bicycle and draped the possum over his handlebars. He then mounted, and cycled airily over the rise and out of sight.
Nothing seemed real or made sense. Then I noticed my front tyre was deflating. I narrowed it down to the fact that his urine was likely to be extremely acidic and therefore weakened the rubber, allowing the carefully compressed air to escape from my bargain re-tread tyres. It made me imagine the stomach aches he must get.
Once I came to my senses and changed the tyre, one quick blow with the spanner mutilated the small salmon’s head. It was the humane thing to do. Who knows what unspeakables the poor fish had encountered in that pocket of mystery and miracle and breadcrumbs?
When I got home I buried the fish with my hands in a small hole in the back yard, and put a little cross made of toothpicks on top.
My brother got home later that day and I told him the whole story.
It’s all true, now.


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