1419 c/o Rebecca Perry

When You Are Preceded by Phillip the Bold

I am fine on a horse. On a horse there is no stopping me. For my last birthday King Sigismund sent me a stallion the colour of coal. The saddle was purple, and soft like a horse’s nose; it had sans peur in gold letters on one side and a lightning bolt on the other. They say that there is no one faster than me, which is very possibly true. When I’m on a horse I feel like I’m riding on the back of a whale, skimming towards the sun, which is an open mouth, which will swallow me whole and let me live inside its hot gold belly. I am fine on a horse. They say that I am fearless and on a horse that is true. I like horse’s hind legs; they are terrifying in a good way.

I am not fine off a horse. I am terrified my legs will buckle if I break into a run. My wife says my thighs are princely, she says they are princely and she grabs one with her whole hand. I am terrified when there are red or brown flecks in my apples. I am terrified my ankles will crack. I am terrified when my wife checks my testicles. I am terrified of taking the last barley sugar from the pack. I am terrified of cheese mould. I am terrified of fire, water and big trees. My wife likes to dance, she holds out her hand to me and looks at me and I have to dance with her. I am terrified of what my knees will do. I am terrified when I hold my breath in the bath and I hear my own heartbeat slowing in my ear drums. I am terrified of pronouncing words wrong in public. I am terrified of coins in Christmas puddings.

Sometimes at night I fold back my half of the sheet and lay it over my wife. I am sweating because I have dreamt about something terrifying like my ears, which never stop growing, getting bigger than the length of my face, or eating a nut I have never eaten before and being allergic, horribly allergic. So I go out to the kitchen and find a carrot or a salt block and I go the back way round to the stables. Usually I go to Mahog, he lives in the back corner, he smells like tree bark, he is the colour of conkers. I sit on his back in my night robe and I feel calmer than when I am in a chair by the fire. He shifts from hoof to hoof, he paws the sawdust patiently, he puffs. I look through the holes in the stable wall grain and, if the moon is out, I imagine I am heading there on horseback, climbing hill after hill, slowly, swaying; and when I get there I will look down at earth and realise there is nothing to be terrified of at all in all that green and blue. I will laugh at myself and do a somersault.