Everything is Medium: Plug Horse

    Since the beginning of 2011, digital photographer Chris Schatz has been hard at work on his ambitious new project, “One Photograph a Day”. From the first day of the year to the last, Chris is going to take one photograph for each of those days and post it on his blog.
    I am excited to announce I will be collaborating with Mr. Schatz on his effort. For one in every five of his daily photographs, I will write a short story inspired by the image. The stories, and the pictures, will be posted on both of our blogs.
    For more of Chris Schatz’ photography, including photos from the project I have not written about, check out his blog.
    I hope you enjoy The Bloggery of Michael J. Coene’s collaborative effort with Christopher Schatz, “Everything is Medium: Literary Interpretations, One Photograph a Day!”


    Baljeet padded about the kitchen, her feet sticking every so often to the area nearest the sink. She was terribly bored, and frustrated that no solution had yet presented itself. One could only pad about for so long.
    She carried a cowgirl in her left hand, made of felt and stuffed with a small handful of cotton. The thing was tiny enough to fit her palm, and it was light. Baljeet had lost the doll on more than one occasion.
    When her family had first moved to Maryland from Punjab, Baljeet’s mother–Anoopbir–made for her and her older brother a cowboy and a cowgirl; respective genders considered upon distribution. Gurpal was dead now–sometimes Baljeet missed her older brother too much.
    Baljeet opened the back door, which connected the kitchen to the outside world. Tiny cowgirl tucked into her chunni, she stepped down the cast-iron stairs, into the small backyard. Her father insisted she still wear traditional garb around the house, even though they were technically “Americans” now. He had shaved his beard, which seemed worse than wearing jeans, but Baljeet knew better than to argue.
    It turned out there wasn’t much to look at in the outside world, really. Just a tree and a bench, and some trash cans modestly tucked away, beneath the stairs. An inflatable ball, the kind that made a hollow plink when bounced on the sidewalk, rested by the base of the tree. It was turquoise and swirling with white, like vapors from an aquamarine factory.
    It was a nice day. The sun was crystalline, high and bright in the center of blue. Defiant, the Maryland breeze writhed and slithered by, staving off humidity, for the time being. Baljeet decided to kick the ball against the bricks for a while, like she used to do with Gurpal. They had invented a game in which one would kick the ball into the wall, to ricochet it into the other, who wasn’t allowed to move or dodge the attack. If the other moved, it meant three laps around the house; if the other got hit, it meant five.
    Gurpal usually won these games, but Baljeet never minded. She just enjoyed playing. Besides, those few times she did win were all the more sweet, being so rare.
    She stopped. The ball bounced off somewhere, near the garage belonging to her neighbors, who made weird art projects Baljeet’s parents often complained about.
    Gurpal, whenever Baljeet won, always called her the strangest name. She had forgotten all about it until just now, as the ball landed against a garden statue of an ant, made from coffee cans and dressed as a 1940’s Baltimore waitress.
    Her brother would point at her, insisting he didn’t care that she had won, and chant, “Plug Horse! Plug Horse! Plug Horse!”
    “Poopie Nose! Poopie Nose! Poopie Nose!” was naturally her response, to which he would laugh as if a ‘kick me’ sign was taped to her back.
    Baljeet, suddenly gripped by an irrational yearning for rotti, tromped up the iron stairs, back into the kitchen. She tucked away all thoughts of Gurpal and the Plug Horse and the teal ball, just like the trash cans hidden beneath her feet. She would continue to think about Gurpal and the ball for years to come–her brother far longer than the toy.
    As for the moniker, Plug Horse, she would not remember it until forty-three years later, upon which the mystery would eat away at her, dominating her thoughts and distracting her from her successful career in marketing communications. This desire to know why would become so pervasive, Baljeet would visit her parents for a week, away from her family. She would have, by then, married a very understanding husband, who also worked in marketing communications and who understood the importance of ‘me time’.
    Without explaining to her father–Anoopbir would have recently passed away–Baljeet would attack the boxes of Gurpal’s things, which were not many and stored in the attic of that same old house in Maryland. She would rummage through like a rabid scavenger in search of just one decayed morsel until, finally, she came upon it.
    The Plug Horse.
    Sitting atop a protruding electrical outlet, perched there as if by interior design, Baljeet would notice a little blue horse, made of felt and stuffed with a small handful of cotton. She would approach it, stunned and crouching to the floor. She would shove some boxes aside. Dust would be ubiquitous. She would sneeze, and cobwebs would be attracted to that.
    So many questions would drift into her mind as a result of that odd moment in the attic. She would never even be sure whether the doll was the Plug Horse to which Gurpal had referred. That same night, regardless, Baljeet would begin the early outlines of a children’s book, about a horse who lived and travelled from house to house through electricity, and she would refuse to call it Plug Horse.

Plug Horse

Published in: on April 9, 2011 at 9:23 pm  Leave a Comment  
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