23 November, 2012

A Christmas Angel

If only I had a horse...

How many times had I said this to myself? If only I had a horse, I would be so happy. If only I had a horse, my life would be so much better. If only, if only, if only...I was getting desperate...and older. I was starting to believe that owning a horse would never happen for me. I was losing hope and I was afraid of the consequences on my psyche.

HOPE

The thermometer registered 15 degrees Fahrenheit. It was a bitter cold December morning. My hands ached. I drove them deeper into the pockets of my coat, searching for any warmth I could find in them. The snow crunched under my boots, as I walked carefully on the sidewalk, towards the building where I worked.  It was Christmas time and festive lights twinkled all over town and yet, I felt really down. I had been working harder than I have ever worked before and the results? I was earning less  than the year before. How did that happen? How could I even think about horses? I thought of all the bills that I needed to pay by month's end and my stomach started churning. A horse, really? Well, that was the least of my worries now. My boss had been riding me pretty hard, as my sales were falling short of my budget.

"Your sales are really, really bad and your pipeline is weak. Unless you do something about it, and do it fast, we are going to be having a different kind of conversation." he said.
"Pressure, pushing down on me, Pressing down on you,  no man ask for, Under pressure, that burns a building down, Splits a family in two, Puts people on streets"-from the song, Under Pressure written by David Bowie and Queen
My head was spinning. "Doesn't he understand the state of the economy and the effect it is having on everything, including my sales?" The fact was that my sales were a little less than 90% to budget; a worthy accomplishment on its own, in terms of the new growth which cushioned the impact of cautious customers buying significantly less than in previous years. It had been a long, challenging year and frankly, I just wanted to get past Christmas and into a new and more prosperous year.

I heard him before I could see him. "C'mon Angel baby....let's go!" he shouted at her. He slapped the reins hard against her back and she sprang forward, digging her hooves into the asphalt, every muscle in her powerful body straining, until finally, the carriage started moving. She was a dark bay colored mare, about 16 hands tall, with powerful shoulders and a well-muscled hindquarter.  She really didn't look like a carriage horse. I thought she looked more like one of the scopey Warmblood horses advertised in the English riding magazines. She was beautiful and her body just screamed to be ridden. I picked up the pace and soon, I had caught up with the carriage. Now that I was closer, I could see that the mare looked tired, cold and hungry. "yup, she's no carriage horse." I thought.

The carriage driver was an older man, about 60-something, maybe a little older. "Hey mister, how much for a ride?" I asked.

He turned to face me. "Where you headed?" I noticed the twinkle in his eye and a faint smile of recognition spreading across his face.

"500 Market Street, right at the corner of Broad." I told him.

He looked at me intently, as if he was studying every feature on my face. "10 bucks, not a penny less." he said.

I dove deep into my pockets and pulled out a ten dollar bill and gave it to him. He nodded at me, tipped his top hat and then, he patted the empty seat next to him. "C'mon up and sit here next to me kid. I want to talk with you. You remind me of my nephew." he said.

I jumped up into the carriage and sat down next to him. "You on your way to work, kid?" he asked me. I nodded and added, "unfortunately."

"I know how you feel kid, I know how you feel. This cold weather...it's not for me. I am tired of it. I'm cold all the time. No matter what I do, I'm just cold. I want something warmer. Today, I am dreaming about Florida. You know, my sister has been trying for years to get me to retire down there. She's got a cute little place in Cocoa Beach.  You know about it?" I shook my head. "Well, it's all about palm trees, flowers, blue sunny skies and no worries. I think she's onto something. Yup, I really think it's time." he said and then he asked me, "so, what time is it for you? Looks like you are about ready for a change too." The mare turned her head around to look at me and then,  I noticed the shape of  the star on her forehead. It looked like a "thumbs-up". I couldn't believe it and I laughed. "You think it's funny to move to Florida?" he asked.

"No sir, I just noticed the shape of your mare's marking, on her forehead. It looks like..."

"a thumbs up" he interrupted, finishing my sentence.With a sweet face, begging me to help her, she nickered to me and SUDDENLY, what I had been thinking, illuminated into an idea and from there, a plan.

"Hey kid, I think she likes you. That's my Angel, always flirting with the boys." he chuckled to himself.

I looked at my watch...quarter past seven. Time was running out and I needed to be in the office in a little more than an hour.

"Hey mister, it sounds like you are ready to make a change in your life and well, meeting you this morning is proving that I need to do something different too. So how 'bout it, are you up for Florida and a change?" I asked him, summoning up every bit of courage I could and hoping that this quickly concocted plan would work..

"Many dollars later, a first class ticket to Florida and a newly emptied savings account; I was the proud owner of Angel, a Percheron-Thoroughbred cross mare with a "thumbs-up" mark on her forehead. When the driver had pulled the harness off of her, it was hard not to miss the loud sigh of relief that came from a place deep down inside of her. Her head rubbed my chest, her warm breath finding every cold spot on my person and making me feel warm and wonderful. I rubbed her forehead and whispered, "Merry Christmas, my sweet Angel."
"Angels and archangels may have gathered there, cherubim and seraphim thronged the air; but his mother only, in her maiden bliss, worshiped the beloved with a kiss." -from the song, In the Bleak Midwinter written by Christina G. Rossetti and music by Gustav Holst
"If only..." had finally arrived, SUDDENLY and unexpectedly, in the form of a carriage horse named Angel, who was now on a horse trailer, headed west to begin a new chapter in her life and mine. It was not exactly how I expected horse ownership to happen for me. "Gosh, what a morning this has been. It's like a miracle." I thought and then,

STOP

I suddenly felt hot and a bit weak, like I was going to faint. "Hey wait a minute." I shouted in my mind as the realization of something really profound hit me, like a block of concrete.

"Just who is the real angel in all of this?" 

as the image of the carriage driver's face popped into my head.. "I thought there was something really familiar about the guy. And it wasn't because he looked like Peter Falk either." I laughed at the thought, as I saw the private detective, Columbo, in his trademark trench coat  in my mind. My heart, which had been so weighed down with discouragement only a few moments before, became happy and light.. "Could it have been a little miracle, could that driver have been an angel in disguise, sent down from heaven to help me this morning?" I asked myself. I shook my head, trying to shake off such crazy thoughts. "Gosh, I am starting to sound like I have been watching one too many Lifetime channel movies.but...it's pretty hard to dismiss that I was stressing like no tomorrow, before I met this guy and now, I have the one thing I have always desired, since I was a little kid. That's another thing too..he kept calling me kid." I smiled, after all, it was Christmas and I really felt it now, both inside and out. I felt like singing at the top of my lungs, for all the world to hear...HARK THE HERALD ANGELS SING.....I got a horse for Christmas...my very own Christmas Angel!

HAPPY HOLIDAYS,
Ralph

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