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Today's Story by Eugene H. Bales

A fake unicorn can get a better job than a small horse.

The 1400 Pound Counselor

I soloed on the Sophra Morris TV talk show.  The Unctionville School Board initiated a lawsuit against me for fraud and found I didn’t exist or that I couldn’t be sued.  Nah, nah, nah, nah, nah nahh.

They treated me right on the Sophra show, fed me the sweet grain mix of oats, barley and corn mixed with molasses that I like plus the Horse Treats that look like a big dog biscuit, but have a yummy apple and carrot flavor.  They set up a fake pasture with synthetic grass that felt like a welcome mat when I brushed it with my muzzle.  I stood there with my head over a white board fence and answered the questions Sophra put to me.

I’m sure human eyes saw blue-eyed, auburn-haired Sophra as pretty.   Her green knit dress accentuated her eyes and hair.

She stood by me on the other side of the fence, as if she were about to offer me an apple or a Horse Treat.  She promised me her questions would be as easy and gentle as hay with no weeds in it.

Sophra:  What moved you to seek a position as a school counselor?

I (Branson):  As a Halflinger horse, I worked in logging.  I’m small enough to maneuver in the forest but sturdy enough to do the work.  I was stuck in an unhealthy work environment, trapped there by human speciesists.  I might as well have been playing football in the NFL where they pay you millions to destroy your body.

Sophra:  But you’re a talking Halflinger horse—was there no lumberjack you had rapport with—one who would champion your concerns?

I:  None of them would ever help me.  They were so pleased to have a horse who understood oral directions and who could acknowledge them orally.

Sophra:  What were your feelings when you felt you had no options?

I:  Hopelessness, despair, thoughts of suicide.

Sophra:  What saved you?

I:  A lumberjack’s child, Johnny, befriended me—said he wished I were his school counselor.  His real one was a malicious gossip who used what kids told him to hold the floor in the teachers’ lounge.

Sophra:  How did you get your degree in counseling?

I:  On the internet, the great leveler.  Johnny entered my work.  I could have been a black widow spider.

Sophra:  How did you feel when you finally got that counseling degree?

I:  Like Citation when he won the Triple Crown.

Sophra: What made you decide to fake being a unicorn?

I:  I knew that as a middle-aged Halflinger horse—I’m twelve years old, you see—I’d get nowhere.  I knew I had to tap educators’ love affair with fantasy, myth and romance.

Sophra:  How far did you take your deception?

I:  About three inches.  I admitted up front to Principal Gretchen Foster-Dockery that I was a mythical beast, but she was so enthused about having a blond sorrel unicorn for a counselor she failed to process my words.

Sophra: (She laughed.) Yes, unicorns are pure white.  Tell us about what you did as a counselor that made you feel good about yourself.

I:  I helped a child drop ownership of her mother’s five divorces.  I coaxed the immature mother to pick up that responsibility and stop haranguing her child.  I’ve facilitated the breaking down of people’s prejudice about having animals on staff and mythical beasts as well.  In so doing, nosing over that first domino, I’ve listened to the clicking and watched the fall of intolerance.  I talked an eighth grade boy with a derringer out of shooting his teacher and a bully.

Sophra:  What happened to crash your soaring feelings?

I:  Principal Foster-Dockery’s a neatnik—can’t stand beards on any creature—insisted I shave my goat’s beard which was an expensive hair implant.  I told her I’d lose my unicornness and suffer a loss of self-esteem.

Sophra:  (She stroked my beard)  Were you able to resolve this difference?

I:  No, she pressured me on a daily basis.

Sophra:  How did you feel?

I:  Like I was back in the woods—the sensitive Halflinger horse dealing with macho lumberjacks.

Sophra:  Is there more you’d like to share?

I:  I became the champion of the ordinary child, the one so often victimized by the bright youngster if only by his proximity to said youngster and the inherent unfairness in such associations.  I told slow kids that S-M-A-R-T stood for So Many Are Rather Tedious.  The principal spewed expletives—she was a bright school administrator, one of the few who could brag about her scores on the G-R-E—the graduate record exam.

Sophra:  Were you treated unfairly?

I:  The principal encouraged the nurse to take some personal days off.  She pressed me into service checking kids for lice.  I used my horn in place of the tiny dowel sticks the nurse used to search for lice and those grayish-pearly nits.

Sophra:  How did you feel about this assignment?

I:  Terrible at first—demeaned, degraded.  I knew I’d been set up for failure.  The principal hoped I’d have awkward minimal control of my horn, that I’d poke

a kid and draw blood.   However, in the fullness of time, I was praised for my lice work—after all, I’ve done physical work most of my life—I saw a lot of lice and that’s unusual—they move fast and shy away from light.  Veteran school nurses haven’t seen as many in their careers as I saw in a few days.  I was incapable, of course, of nit-picking and one must pick off those parasites-in-waiting literally glued to hairs.

Sophra:  So the administrator wanted to see you fail, but you turned out to be a great lice detective.  What happened next?

I:  The event that precipitated the threat of a lawsuit against me for fraud.

Same deal as with the school nurse—the principal had the custodian take a few days off and ordered me to pick up trash on school grounds, and, I swear, it was as if every teenager in town came the night before to dump his fast-food wrappers.  Principal Foster-Docery said to me, ‘Your horn is a natural trash-collection tool.’  She sent an honor student out with me to pick the trash off my horn.  On the third hornful, I had impaled a kid’s joy-meal box when I lost my balance putting a lot of weight on my horn which snapped off flush with my forehead, revealing the screw plate Dr. Jerald Howard, cosmetic veterinary surgeon, had implanted.

Principal Foster-D tried to act angry but she was overjoyed—that’s what her face and body language said.  She threatened me with a lawsuit for fraud.  I looked under attorneys in the Yellow Pages.

I showed Scott Baker, my lawyer, my teacher contract ‘by and between Branson, a mythical beast, and the Board of Education of the Unctionville School District’.  Scott’s an animal liberationist.  He knows there’s a close historical connection between speciesism, racism and sexism.  Biological differences fail to meet the standard of moral relevance—hence racism and sexism are morally indefensible.  We can apply the same thinking to species differences.

Say aliens came to Unctionville, looked much different than humans—bug eyes, eleven toes each on three feet—your basic kid drawing—unable to communicate with humans, but more intelligent and better athletes than humans.  Let’s call them Toe Jammers.  Do Toe Jammers have the right to force humans to inspect their heads for whatever they have comparable to lice plus pick up their trash?

Scott said, ‘They have no case against you.  Matter of fact it’s a laugher.  You can’t serve papers on a mythical beast.  They don’t exist.  Further, you can’t sue an animal.  At English common law animals are free commoners.  Free commoner status means a being who exists and may travel freely but has no other legal status and cannot be sued.’

Sophra:  (She rubbed my cheek.)  It’s been great having you on our show, Branson.  Because you had the courage to bare your soul, our viewers have had an insight into the devastating effects of speciesism.

I:  Scott’s been so helpful to me in that area.   Sometimes the law’s an ass, but other times it’ll save yours.  For that reason, I refrain from telling jokes at lawyers’ expense.

Sophra:  Please share with us a quick summary of the most important lesson you learned.

I:  Never sign a contract with a talking horse.  Just kidding.   Seriously, a fake unicorn can get a better job than a small horse.  Protect your horn—refuse to pick up trash or any other job that puts your horn at risk.

The studio audience applauded as they rose to their feet.


Eugene H. Bales has published fifty-nine stories including a volume of humor and satire by Washburn University’s Press.


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