65° - 01.09.1967, Blaðsíða 28

65° - 01.09.1967, Blaðsíða 28
THE GIFT HORSE by alan boucher It began when Jon took the family to the races on Whit Monday. Jon was not what anyone would call a horsey kind of man. He had been born and bred in the country, and looked with ill-concealed contempt at what he referred to as the ‘weekend cavaliers’ — those fellow-citizens who sought physical exer- cise and social status, as he would say, in Sunday excursions on horseback. “Amateurs!” he would exclaim, when he drove past a cavalcade on his way out of town. And the traditional Icelandic connexion between the saddle and the bottle was often the occasion of harsh comments on the injustice of a law that made drivers of motor vehicles who had a couple of drinks liable to severe penalties, while turning a blind eye to the state of some riders, who had only the sagacity of their animals to thank for a safe homecoming. “It’s all a form of reaction,” he would explain wisely. “The reversion to the primitive of an urbanised society.” When he talked like this, his wife, Sigga, would usually tell him not to be an ass, and would add, “It wouldn’t do you any harm to do a bit of riding, Nonni minn; it might take a few centi- metres off your waist, anyway.’ He had tried dieting, swimming and steam- baths, and there had been a tentative move to- wards getting him to play golf. But, as I was saying, the turning point really came when Jon took the family to the race course. They were selling sweepstake tickets on the course — in aid of the Riding Club — and absent- mindedly, out of habit, he bought a handful. The only occasion on which he had ever won a prize in a sweepstake had been at a club Christmas party; and then it had been a pair of nylon stockings! “First prize, a trip for two to the Canary Islands. Alan Boucher, PhD. in Icelandic literature and language, has been an organizer and producer with BBC for the last 13 years. Author of many childrens books, he now resides in Iceland and teaches at the University. I wouldn’t say no to that,” he remarked. “Some hope, though! ” He looked up ot the sky, thinking wistfully of sunshine and blue seas, and wonder- ing whether it was going to rain before the races were over. It did, and they all got soaked, with the result that Jon caught cold and had to spend several days in bed. The doctor told him that he was run down and needed a holiday in the sun, and this made him think of the Canary Islands and the sweepstake tickets he had bought. One never knew ... Because he was bored and had nothing better to do, he began to search the daily papers for an announcement about the winning number -— not very hopeful, it’s true, but still, there was always the chance ... He found it at last at the bottom of a column among articles for sale and help wanted: “The Riding Club Sweepstake, the following numbers have been drawn. First prize ...” “Sigga!” he shouted, “where are those tickets I bought at the race course? I left them in the pocket of my coat.” The tickets where found and the numbers com- pared. Alas, no holiday in the sun for them! No television set, either. But what was this? Feverish- ly he checked and re-checked the numbers: Yes, there seemed to be no doubt about it; unless the paper had made a mistake, he had won the third prize — a riding-horse with complete harness! His yell brought Sigga running to his bedside, pale and fearing the worst. “My God,” she cried, “what is it, my love? Shall I get the doctor.” “Damn the doctor!” he exclaimed, “ring this number and find out if they’ve got it right. I believe we’ve won a prize in the sweep!” She snatched the paper from him, and then the ticket ... and then looked at the paper again, and then said, weakly, “Oh no, not a horse!” “And why not?” “Because ... because ... Well, who’s going to look after it, I’d like to know.” “We’ll keep it on a farm,” he replied. “And we can drive out at weekends and have a ride. Think of the children,” he added. “What an opportunity for them. After all, it is a gift horse, and you 26 65



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