by Michael Bard
part 7
 2 3 4
5 6 7
8 9

  Based upon requests of various interested persons, I've started a diary of my experiences after the EVENT. Hopefully they will help other centaurs with problems. And, of course, any others who have other problems that need solutions or have alternate suggestions should feel free to contact me at mwbard@sympatico.ca.
  And, since I at least try to write, I've tried to keep true to my experiences, and make it at least a little enjoyable to read.
  Oh, and (of course) names and places of others have been changed to protect the innocent and all that.

#7 -- it all falls apart

  Jan 27, 1:30pm
  Finally, regretfully although I was fully refreshed, I woke up. It seemed that my modifications last night (well, early this morning) had their desired affect.
  Of course, with no door buzzer, and the phone unplugged, nobody could reach me at all, but I figured it was better to lose the information than try to survive the very high noise to information ratio. I stumbled to my four hooves, my rubber shoes providing a much better grip, stretched so that my tail was over my eyes, walked over and turned the computer on, and then backed and rotated and went through the washroom necessities and cleanup, shrugged on a sweater, and put on my glasses. Once that was done I squeezed my way back, logged in, stepped back and moved the cushions back in front of the computer, walked to the fridge to get the two-litre bottle of water, and made it back to the computer in time to connect to Sympatico.
  As it connected, I collapsed down and then waited until it was ready, closed Explorer, and started Outlook, and waited while the messages downloaded.
  Now, having a high-speed connection, text messages download almost instantaneously. Sometimes, if I've been away for a weekend or something, it might take twenty or thirty seconds to go through the 200-400 messages generated from various mailing lists (I'd pruned that down long ago, so a weekend now only caused a backlog of between 100 and 200 messages). If there is a large attachment then it takes longer (and of course I open them if and only if they are expected and from someone I know). Sometimes there are delays, but it's never taken over a minute.
  A minute had now passed and I brought the status bar to the top.
  Over 400 messages had already been downloaded, and the status bar was barely visible.
  What the hell?
  It seems that my remaining means of communication was also being overloaded. As I'd decided already to not touch the phone any more unless I needed to call out, I tried going to my home page where my stories are archived for general interest -- I wondered if people had been going there and upping the counter noticeably.
  I couldn't load the page because I'd exceeded my transfer allowance for January.
  Oh oh. I knew it wasn't going to cause me difficulties, but it was a bad sign.
  The message count was at 800 and the status bar was about 10 percent through.
  Good god. Thank god I had a ten MB limit for e-mail and that text was cheap, although I was starting to wonder if I'd reached the limit.
  Well, since it was going to take a while, I stumbled back up and made some breakfast. Usually I have a pair of English muffins, or a bowl of porridge (I actually like porridge) and decided that porridge was the way to go today. Or at least I did until I remembered that I couldn't eat anything until after the tests.
  My stomach was not impressed.
  Squeezing out into the living room I checked -- the computer was still going.
  Ok. On to plan B. I'd put together a fair list of shopping needs (food, foam mats, reflector) and decided to go and take care of the tests, and then take care of my shopping errands. Thus I turned the monitor off but left the computer on (thank god for freeware home use firewalls), put on my coat, grabbed my shoulder bag, squeezed out, locked the door, and made my way down and out to the subway.
  As it was a Saturday, there was not quite as much vehicle traffic, but much more pedestrian traffic, so I walked slower than I would have liked.
  Fortunately, or unfortunately depending on how you look at it, I was given lots of room.
  At the corner of Lawrence I stopped to wait for the light and a couple of teenagers started poking fun at me, but I just ignored them. That had worked all the way through public and senior public (and a bit of high school) so I saw no need to change my tactics now. At least I wasn't worried anymore about physical threats, as I could either just stand there immovably, or flee much faster than anybody could follow. As I was waiting, somebody in a car driving along Lawrence stopped and snapped a couple of pictures.
  Damn flash.
  Oh well, I could live with pictures.
  Finally the light changed and I made my way down into the station. I only had to go to Davisville, but decided to keep my hoof in the door so to speak. The more I used the TTC, the harder it would be for them to change their bylaws, or re-interpret them, to keep me off. I got on without trouble and made my way two stops south to Davisville. Some people had actually made it a point to sit near the end I was standing in -- most of them looked like university students -- but a few people had immediately gotten up and walked to the far end as I'd entered.
  One even glared at me and then walked out just before the doors closed.
  Finally I arrived and left, and made my way up the stairs, through the lobby above the tracks, back downstairs, and then out through the exit. I'd just closed the gate behind me when somebody in a TTC uniform walked up.
  Let me just insert some background here so the next bit makes sense. Davisville station also contains the head offices of the TTC. Back to the diary.
  "Mr. Bard?"
  "Is there a problem?"
  "Would you come with me please?"
  I looked at him and then asked, "Why?"
  "Somebody would like to speak with you."
  "I'd prefer to speak with him here." I hoped that I would still have public support in another debate.
  "I'm sorry, but the CEO would like to see you in his office."
  I glanced around. There were people standing, but I didn't see anybody I knew, and nobody really looked like a university student. Maybe speaking to him alone would be better after all. "Ok."
  He turned and I followed him back to an elevator which we took up to the third floor. There he led me into a lounge and asked me to wait. The lounge was plain, although there were a few wooden chairs and I'd have preferred to sit to look relaxed but there was no way I could do that. I also didn't want to lay down, as the wooden floor didn't look particularly comfortable. So I walked over to a table beside one of the chairs and browsed through the pamphlets, and finally picked one up that discussed the Sheppard extension.
  There's actually a bit of amusement about that. About five years ago, the Ontario government decided to fund both a Sheppard extension and an Eglinton extension. Two more lines. But then, about a year later and after construction had started, it was decided to terminate the Eglinton extension due to a lack of money (the Sheppard survived because the mayor or North York supported it). Don't worry, the humourous bit is still coming. After another a year it was decided to pay the penalties and cancel the Sheppard line, but the motion actually voted in didn't specify that building the tunnels would be cancelled. Thus, construction of stations was officially cancelled, but not of the tunnel and dutifully construction on the tunnel, and only the tunnel, continued. At this point, the pro-subway proponents pointed out that a subway tunnel with no stations wasn't very useful and was a waste of money, so why don't we decide to build stations! Thus, at least as of January 2001, the line was still under construction.
  Anyway, it probably didn't take as long as it took you to read my digression before the CEO came. "It's nice to meet you Mr. Bard. Would you like to sit down?"
  I tried to smile. "Unfortunately, I don't sit anymore." And unfortunately, my voice didn't sound exactly happy, and my smile looked forced -- likely because it was.
  "Standing's fine too. Anyway, you're probably wondering why I asked to see you when you conveniently dropped by."
  "Why would you like to see me then?"
  "Straight to the point. Good. It's simple actually. On Thursday we had our first meeting of the year, and you were brought up."
  "Well, we didn't reach a decision. It seems that there is a strong disagreement as to what we should do. That's why I'm in today -- we came to a decision last night and I've been trying to reach you.'
  "Unfortunately, you and way too many others."
  "I figured that when you phone message box was full, and my e-mail bounced back as undeliverable because your mailbox was full."
  So it had reached the limit. Oh, good. "Well, now I'm here."
  "I need to ask you, how much do you plan to use the TTC?"
  At least I'd already figured that out. "I do need it for convenience and travel, but I do understand that I am a bit of a special case."
  "You do know that we do not discriminate based on race, but..."
  Good. That argument had been accepted. "I understand that, thus I have no plans to ever use the buses or streetcars -- I don't think I could get on board -- and I am going to try and stay off the busy lines during rush hour."
  "We were hoping you would voluntarily stay off entirely during rush hour."
  "Unfortunately I have to work too. Centaurs do have to pay bills."
  "Of course."
  "But I will go the other direction during rush hour, since I'm going that direction anyway and I do understand your problems."
  "Could you expand on that a bit please?"
  "It's simple. In the morning I need to go north on the Yonge line. The vast majority go south."
  He nodded.
  "And, of course, the opposite in the evening."
  "And what about the Bloor/Danforth line?"
  "Well, unfortunately the times I do need it, the directions coincide with the rush hour crowd. Thus I've been avoiding it completely during rush hour."
  "Good. I'm impressed at how understanding you are, I was afraid..."
  "I'm a very reasonable person, and I am willing to make reasonable compromises."
  "Good then. But may I make a couple of more points."
  I nodded.
  "Can you avoid Union station entirely during rush hour, along with the SRT?"
  "I can see your point about Union, and that won't be a problem. I hadn't really thought about the SRT as I rarely need it, but I don't think I could really fit in it anyway. So I'll voluntarily stay off it."
  "Good, then I think we have a plan that we both can live with. I, and the TTC, thank you."
  "You're welcome. I couldn't live without it."
  He shook my hand and led me towards the door, but then I had a thought. "Could I ask a favour of you?"
  "Come spring, could you put a good word in with the ferry commission? I wouldn't mind taking a walk around the islands occasionally."
  Just so you the reader know, Toronto harbour is shielded by a group of islands called, naturally enough, the Toronto Islands. The city runs a ferry system to carry tourists back and forth to and from the various parks and attractions thereon.
  "I'll see what I can do. It's been a pleasure meeting you, Mr. Bard."
  "And the same to you."
  And then the person who'd invited me in led me out. Good, that was one problem more or less solved. On to the doctor!
  It was fairly crowded at the corner of Yonge and Davisville, but once again I had room, although not as much. I did feel people bump and shove against me, but that was normal. Although I tried to keep my tail flat against my, you know, halfway across somebody yanked it and I had to yank it back. Twisting around showed nobody grasping it -- they'd probably let go and hid in the crowd.
  Something I could never do again.
  Finally though I made it into the medical building and waited at the elevator to go down to the labs.
  "This isn't a stables."
  I twisted around.
  "This is a human building."
  "No. This is a person's building. My doctor person is here, and the lab test that I need as a person are also..." DING. The elevator arrived and the door slid open and I shuffled over to let the others out while continuing, "... done here."
  "They shouldn't let your kind here?"
  "My kind?" Calm. Relax. I walked towards the elevator.
  And then he kicked me in the hock of my left hind foot. Automatically, maybe instinctively, I kicked out. I managed to keep my full strength out of the kick so he just stumbled and then fell forward. I managed to rotate and twist enough to grasp his shoulders and help him to his feet.
  "Are you all right?"
  "Get away from me, you animal!"
  I let my hands fall to my side, and then watched as he turned and limped out. A few people were watching, but they remained silent and looked at me for a second before turning away.
  Behind me the elevator doors closed.
  I wasn't sure what to do. I couldn't believe somebody could be like that, but there he was.
  I started to lift a hoof to follow him, to apologize for whatever I'd done, but then I forced myself to lower my hoof back to the floor.
  What he'd done was his choice. I didn't think it was right, but it was his choice.
  But it was I...
  No. He kicked and I tried my hardest to stop my reaction. I had.
  Finally, after about a minute I just sighed through my breathing slits and rotated back around and again pressed the button for the elevator. Nobody else bothered me until it came and then I went in and down. The lab technicians there had been expecting me and, although there were some questions and jokes about where to stick things (to which I always replied that they should just ignore my bottom half and treat my top half as they would anybody's), it went not too badly. The only embarrassing part was the urine sample. Embarrassing not because I couldn't create any, but because I had to convince someone else to hold the container for me. But it was done.
  After the tests were done, I left and made my way up Yonge to a Pizza Pizza. Not the best pizza, but they were close and I was starving. First I ordered a couple of slices of vegetarian, and then I ordered two large vegetarian pizzas while I was eating the slices. It all went down well.
  The rest of the day was spent going downtown and wandering through various stores. First I went to various 'outdoor adventurer' supply stores (there's a whole bunch of them down on King and Queen) and picked up useful things. First, and the hardest to find, was a pack for a mule or horse -- I finally found one in the back of an army surplus place. The person there was even kind enough to help me get it on, although I made sure that I could do it myself. Next I found three separate roll-up foam mats that I packed away. Finally, I found various types of well insulated sweaters and bought three of them. I needed to arrange to get my shirts tailored, and I made a mental note to do that next week some time. Next was a place to sleep. I went through four futon stores before I finally found a futon mattress that was the right size for me to sleep on. The final thing I picked up was a reflective vest from a bicycle store. As all that was enough to load me up, I then made my way over to Spadina and Chinatown and picked up a huge bag of rice and grabbed some supper. There's a really nice place at Spadina and Dundas which is a Chinese food court. You buy food from any of the food places, and then pick up your chopsticks from a central dispenser. Then it was home -- first north to the Bloor line and east to Yonge, and then north up the Yonge line. I did pick up a Globe and Mail on my way to read, and the 'interview' from yesterday was in the first section, as was a growing selection of letters to the editor and other comments. There was support, hatred, and neutrality, along with speculation as to the cause, and what should be done. All the writers sounded civil enough, but the letters were, of course, selected.
  Unfortunately the day wasn't free of distractions. Whilst downtown I overheard a number of comments, and had my tail yanked so many times that I lost count. Fortunately, most of the times it was by curious children and in those cases I would stop and let them examine me as long as the parent allowed. Sometimes they wouldn't at all, but a couple of times I walked with the parent a short distance and talked about my experiences. Chinatown was even nicer as there was none of the comments (unless they were in Chinese). At one point I heard a car stop and saw heard somebody call out "Look, it's the Canadian centaur."
  I shook my head as that couple took pictures.
  I finally made it home at about seven and, after unpacking and using the washroom, I set about taking apart the frame of my old bed and getting it out of the way. My plan had been to set up the futon mattress where my bed had been and to start sleeping there, but at the last minute remembered that I needed the end of the couch to lean against. I'd have to try and find something else. Because of that I left the futon mattress on the couch (after putting the original cushions back) and moved the computer chair and the living room chair into a back corner of the sun room. Probably I'd eventually get rid of the couch and keep the living room chair, but for now moving the couch would be too much hassle. Then I got to the computer and turned the monitor on.
  There were over 1200 messages.
  Well. First I sorted them by sender, pulled out those from people I knew and dropped them into a folder I created for that purpose. Then I tossed the remaining (almost all) into another new folder. There, I searched for all items that contained the word "hate" and deleted them. That took care of almost three quarters of them. Yes, I know that I may have deleted e-mail with phrases such as 'don't hate', but I had no other way to easily prune the messages to something manageable. The remaining 200 or so I skimmed. Most were postings of support which game me some comfort, but there were still some threats. Eventually I saved the support letters and dumped the rest.
  Then it was the real e-mail. That from friends I replied to as appropriate. One was from the farrier and stated that she had placed some pictures of me on the web page for her stables. I clicked the link and looked, and indeed there were a whole bunch. She'd also added the caption "The choice of centaurs" to all the pages.
  I shook my head.
  There was also an e-mail from Thomas Extansor which basically asked how I was doing. I sent back that I was managing. After all, if I could survive years of being the class nerd, I could survive this. I also told him that I'd read the latest article he'd written, and thanked him for his job.
  Finally it was on to TSA talk. Again it was quiet, although there were a few notes from newcomers. Nobody I knew of had posted anything. Then I checked some of the news sites. I found another mention of the dragon mascot and I honestly hoped he would do well. Unfortunately I feared that as he lived and grew, and time passed and people around him aged and grew old, those same people would start to take steps -- eventually unpleasant steps from the dragon's point of view -- so that they wouldn't keep aging.
  By then it was just before nine, so I fiddled with my antenna and watched Andromeda (a repeat, but not a bad one) and then I finally went to bed at 10. It had been a long day.
  Jan 28, 12:40pm
  On Sunday I decided to just take the day off. I cooked up rice and spaghetti for lunch, and latter supper, and spent most of the day finishing off the ISC campaign for the Kzinti (er, Mirak) in Star Fleet Command. I tried writing in the evening, and then, suddenly, decided that I should write down my experiences.
  If I was going to be a movement leader, than anything I wrote could become an important document -- and that had possibilities.
  Most important things that I'd read were always boring, factual. Always full of themselves and full of, The Cause. Well, now I had a chance to change that. So I started writing what you're reading now. The title, as you've probably figured out, I took from the one question on Thursday about being a centaur in a human's world.
  By late Sunday night, I'd finally finished the first day and put it up on my web site, and sent it to TSA-talk. Oh well, I'd catch up. Really I would -- and this time I meant it.
  I finished off the two-litre bottle of water, refilled it and put it in the fridge, and went to bed.
  Jan 29, 7:00am
  Oh God, Monday.
  I staggered up and made my way into the bedroom and hit the snooze button on the clock. Then I clomped back and collapsed down and napped for seven more minutes.
  Up again, yawn, stretch, walk over, switch the alarm off.

  Note: Last Wednesday I did not really smash the alarm clock into tiny bits. I think I tried to, but I'm not that strong. It did add to the humour of the situation though, didn't it? Anyway, back to the diary.

  Then it was washroom, sweater, a big bowl of porridge for breakfast (like I said, I do like porridge, and although I normally use just one of the instant pouches, this time I used six). Then everything I needed went into my shoulder bag (including a scrunched down spare mat), on went the coat, the reflective vest over the coat, the bicycle helmet, and then I grabbed the dirty sweaters out of the hamper and placed them over my arm, and finally out the door.
  To find out that it was raining.
  Now, one of the e-mails that I had read late Sunday night after posting the beginning of my diary, wondered what would happen with my breathing slits, which pointed up, when it was raining. Fortunately I'd imagined them perversely as tubes that stretched out, not too long, and hence tubes they were which could stretch. As the rain hit them I felt them pulled downwards so that they kinked and were facing backwards. I could still breathe through them, just not as well.
  And, somehow, I also knew that I could pinch them shut like the nostril of a dolphin, or the nostrils of a seal.
  Well, that took care of that. Whoever or whatever had done this had certainly worked out solutions to some interesting problems that I'd never thought of.
  Then it was a short trip down the street in quiet -- I think people were more worried about the cold rain than about me -- and then a drop in to the drycleaner to drop of the sweaters, and then a quick pause to grab a Metro from a box, and then into the Lawrence station. I walked down the stairs and across the upper lobby without difficulty, showed my pass, walked through and down to the bus lobby. Now, I used to take the 52 bus over to Lawrence West, and then the Subway north from there, but now I planned to simply go north to Finch and hoof it.
  As I passed the bus lobby and continued downward, a TTC security officer walked over and followed me. Once I reached the bottom I took a few steps to make room and then twisted and looked at him.
  "Good morning," he said. "I'm here to keep an eye on you in case you need help."
  And probably to make sure I don't go where I said I wouldn't. I shrugged my shoulders and walked about a third of the way along the platform and then stopped and waited. I could hear the man following me.
  And I decided to ignore him.
  If the TTC didn't trust me, then that was their business. But, unfortunately, given the way things were developing, it probably was wise to keep someone nearby in case trouble occurred because of my presence.
  I opened the Metro I'd grabbed and started to read while I waited. Yup, more about me. Letters, pictures...
  How the hell?!
  There it was, a black and white picture of me kicking the man Saturday.
  But I hadn't heard or seen a camera.
  Then I sighed. If there hadn't been a flash, and it had been one of the digital ones that used flash memory, then I probably wouldn't have noticed anything.
  Of course, then I heard the train coming. Folding the paper I waited, the doors opened (DING), and I walked aboard. As usual it wasn't very busy and I walked over to one side and then went back to my reading. The security man followed and sat down nearby. And, nicely, nobody got up and left. DING DANG DONG.
  Then I went back to the paper. Well, below the picture was an article that discussed the situation and went through the man's complaint. According to him, he'd just been walking by when I had walked into him, and then kicked him to get him out of the way. Fortunately a witness described something closer to the truth, and did mention that the man had kicked me first.
  There were letters that believed both stories. Great.
  Other than that, there wasn't much other than the usual. There was a little something about a raccoon in the US that was trying to get at his bank account that he had had when he'd been a human eye doctor, but it was just a little note put in for human interest. I was able to skim the rest of the paper before the train reached Finch.
  Oh yes, Finch station. Unfortunately the TTC has had to add elevators as a later enhancement to their stations, and thus many of them are not well configured due to architectural limitations. Finch is the worst. You can take one elevator from the subway level to the next level. You then have to walk about 40 feet to take another elevator from that level up to the next level. You then have to walk yet another 60 feet or so, partially through narrow winding hallways, and take yet another elevator up to the street. I knew this because I ran my bike through this maze once.
  I stuck with the stairs, stuffing the paper into one of the recycle bins as I passed.
  Another problem with Finch is that because it is the end of the line, and also includes a GO (Government of Ontario inter-city transit) station, it is much busier than the somewhat empty subway would suggest. Mostly it's used by university students on their way to York. This meant that for the first time I was in a literal sea of people. There was not room for people to avoid me, and all I could do was move along with them. Fortunately because most of them were university students, there were no problems other than the occasional bump and excuse me, and thus I reached the street level and exited without a problem.
  Then, ignoring the cold rain as best I could, I made my way through the people on the sidewalk to Finch, crossed Yonge, and than began trotting down the north sidewalk of Finch. There weren't many people, except in clumps in front of the schools, and in those cases I simply slowed down and detoured around. The trip was reasonably peaceful, except for the rain, and I made it to work in good time. There I hurried to the washroom, cursed as I realized that I'd forgotten to bring a towel, did the best I could with paper towels, and then went to my office, unrolled the mat, and went to work.
  Yes, there was a back log of critical things that had to be done right now. Thus it wasn't until almost 7 that I was able to go home. The trot to Finch station was reasonably trouble free as the rain had stopped. Or at least it was until Bathurst.
  I came to a stop and twisted around. It was an egg on the sidewalk.
  I looked up and saw a car slowly driving by and somebody leaning out with another egg.
  Shit! I took off as best I could, but I couldn't accelerate fast enough and I felt something splat into my side and then start to drip down.
  Then I stopped my panic and slowed back down to a trot.
  I wouldn't give them any excitement. I would just trot along and ignore them.
  I refused to give them any satisfaction.
  Another egg.
  I'd forgotten how hard it was to do nothing.
  By the end of it I got hit with two more eggs, both on my chest before, they drove off, laughing.
  And that was it for the rest of the way to the subway. There I ignored the glances and simply answered, "Somebody threw these at me," when a lady asked what had happened. When somebody saw my side and laughed I almost lost it, but I managed to keep the tears from showing and made my way home in some form of dignity.
  Once home I just clomped into the washroom, grabbed the bowl I had started keeping there, filled it with warm water, and then just dumped it over my side. Then I filled it and dumped it again. And again and again until the eggs were gone.
  Yes, the water went all over the floor, but I didn't care.
  I didn't care as I backed out, dried off my hooves and hide, and then grabbed a mop and mopped up the water. Instead I just remembered the joy of galloping, and kept that joy firm in my mind.
  It wasn't enough. My memory just wasn't enough.
  So, sighing, I took my glasses off, put my coat back on, and made my way back outside. It was about 8:30. Trotting, I made my way north on Yonge and then west on Lawrence almost all of the way to Avenue Road (you've got to admire that name) where there was a high school and its track.
  Then I turned and for an hour galloped around and around the track I could barely see in the snow and partially frozen slush.
  Once I'd swam when I was depressed, enjoying the sensation of flying through the water. Now I couldn't do that. Yes, I could probably swim. And yes, I could probably get into a pool.
  But how the hell would I get back out?
  But now I'd found a substitute. Galloping was almost the same. With swimming I would drift through the water, free to move and turn wherever I wanted. While galloping I kept leaping through the air, spending more time free of the earth than touching it. But even the little touch was too much and I galloped harder and harder, faster and faster, until I finally skidded off when I tried to turn, but managed to keep my legs safe as I fell to my side and slid to a stop, gasping for breath.
  Still, dirty, cold, and wet, it had been worth it. I felt much better.
  Then I went home and spent a good hour drying and brushing myself. I wrote some more of the diary, posted it, and went to bed.
  Jan 30, 7:00am
  Once again the alarm went off, and I went through the morning ritual. This time, I tried a couple of hot toasted English muffins drenched in molten margarine to go with slightly less porridge, and it worked quite well with apple juice and a pair of apples. Then it was packing things up, and this time remembered a towel, and then I left.
  It was raining again.
  Well, back into the rain, down the street, grab a Metro, and then into Lawrence Station. Another security officer greeted me and I just nodded as I made my way to the subway level and opened the paper.
  There I was in all my glory, with egg splattered on my side.
  I almost lost the paper in shock, as the wind pushed in front of the train as it came into the station tried to yank the paper away. I would have missed the train entirely if the security officer hadn't tapped me on my flank and reminded me.
  I hurried in and almost got my tail caught by the door.
  Here was a difference. In public school my humiliation hadn't been plastered in glorious technicolour for the entire city, and probably the entire bloody planet, to see.
  "You should read it," whispered the security officer.
  Fine. Let's read it and get the whole humiliation and hatred into my skull. Maybe then I'd learn to hide in my shell like I was supposed to.
  But the article wasn't like that. Sure, I'd looked silly, but then wouldn't anybody else who had eggs thrown at them? And then it went into a discussion of what was a proper response.
  I was almost happy until I reached the letters page which had been expanded from three letters to three pages.
  I skimmed one, hate, than another, hate, and then another, hate, and then glanced from heading to heading (from hate to hate) as the scale of it sank into my brain. Then I just threw the paper on the seat and walked up to the next door.
  Now, you have to understand something. I always recycle the paper properly. Always. Always had until that day.
  I remained silent and ignored the world until Finch. Then I got out and made my way up the stairs. I think I was a bit pushy, I remember some annoyed comments, but I wasn't really thinking about what I was doing. Then it was up to the street and then down Finch to work.
  Interestingly, the trotting helped. In fact, it helped so much that I switched to a canter after I passed Bathurst and kept it up all the way to work. My breathing was hard because of the rain, but it helped me relax. There would eventually be some good from the event. People would see the eggs and eventually think about the eggs on them.
  But did I want pity?
  I didn't know.
  I still didn't know by the time I made it to work.
  Then I sat down, booted up the computer, and started finishing up the last of the backlog of my work.
  "Mr. Bard."
  It was my manager.
  I stood up and rotated around until I faced her. "Good morning. What report do they want this time?" The last was said in fun. Half of my job is taking the critical and ultimate priority requests by the investors for economic reports. Every day, almost, they want a new report, or a report reformatted, or whatever.
  She sighed. "Nothing like that for a change." She didn't sound like herself. "It's, well, something else."
  "Well, I'm almost caught up, so what is it, and how fast do you need it."
  She swallowed and then sat down on the extra chair I'd left behind for visitors. She spoke quickly: "We'd like you to work from home for the next while."
  "From home?"
  "Ok, I'll bite. Why?"
  "A couple of clients have threatened to leave us if we keep you on."
  I was speechless.
  "I'm being fired??"
  "Err, not exactly. We would still like to keep you on, just not so, well, publicly."
  "I've been told to say that we will keep you on."
  My voice turned dry. "For now." I could see what was going to happen. I'd be away and out of sight. They'd need some administration for the database to be done here, even though I could do some remotely from home. And then the reports would not be done as fast, and then...
  "I've been told to ask you to leave as soon as you can."
  I swallowed. "I need to get some things zipped to e-mail to myself..."
  Her voice became a whisper, "No, we'll take care of that later."
  Then I knew. "It won't happen, will it."
  She didn't say a word.
  "And this is just because of a couple of clients?"
  "No." Her voice was almost too low to hear. "The investors in Boston have requested us to get you to leave."
  "The investors... Why?"
  "They didn't say."
  I sighed. "You know that I'm going to have to take legal action over this. It is illegal to fire me because of my race."
  "I know, and we're all going to be behind you. But, for now I have no choice."
  "I wish I didn't have to take it to the courts, but I must." I must, to force the fact that I was a person under the law into the light and rub everybody's noses in it.
  "We know." Then she turned and left.
  Numbly I stumbled upward, and then reached down and rolled up the mat and squeezed it into my shoulder bag. Dutifully I logged off the computer and shut it down once NT had finished closing. Carefully I removed the various keys for the office from my ring. Slowly I walked out, turning off the light and closing the door behind me.
  Yes, it was going to be hard.
  Then I left and went home. I didn't take the TTC as I really needed to walk. It was about 10am and I didn't run into anybody, or at least I don't remember doing so. Instead I slowly wound my way south through the side streets, gradually making my way back to my apartment by just after noon. Once there I dutifully put my bag down, dutifully took off my poppers and cleaned and dried my hooves, and dutifully went to my computer and started it up and attempted to connect to the database server at work.
  Yes, my passwords had been cancelled. I wasn't surprised.
  A part of me remembered reading that being fired was one of the most traumatic things that could happen.
  I connected my phone and listened to the warning that stated that my mailbox was full and then listened to the messages. Hate. Hate. Hate. Bill. Hate. Hate...
  The voices all ran together. Maybe they were the same person. I didn't know.
  Then I dutifully went and checked the e-mail and watched as the download started. And then I skimmed the mail as more was still coming in. Hate. Hate. Hate. A note from the farrier that she was taking my pictures from her web page as it apparently wasn't working out. Hate. Hate. Hate.
  Of course, most of the mail had likely been spawned by the same few people using software to flood my box.
  I checked the diary I'd posted. Well, at least Bell had been nice and reset my transfer allowance. Of course the page had been hacked and replaced with more hate.
  I carefully reached up and turned off the monitor. Then I picked up the phone, carefully unplugged it, and threw it against the wall.
  It was about 2 in the afternoon.
  I carefully stood up and took off my glasses and carefully put them down by the VCR. Then I got on my coat, put on my vest, put on my helmet, put my wallet in the coat's pocket, and went out. I have no idea if I locked the door or not. Then it was downstairs and outside, north on Yonge and west on Lawrence to the highschool and the track. It had stopped raining again, and it was getting colder. I didn't care.
  All I cared about, all I needed, was to run. So I did. I realized that I hadn't put on my poppers, and distantly I realized that I couldn't remember if I'd even brought them home. But, gradually, I felt better as I leapt from step to step, my hooves pounding on the snow and slush.
  Maybe it was good that this was coming to a head.
  PoundPound Pound Pound
  Let's get it out into the open and clarify everything. Get my employment compensation for an unwarranted termination.
  PoundPound Pound Pound
  Then try and live off my settlement and look for another job. Oh fun, happy happy joy joy.
  PoundPound Pound Pound
  Slowing down, I twisted around and saw a bunch of kids with eggs.
  SPLAT on my side.
  SPLAT on my lower tail.
  SPLAT on my left fore leg.
  I needed to just ignore them.
  I couldn't do it.
  I turned and fled their eggs and their laughter and went south and west to wander.
  I made my way out of the highschool and through the grounds of the senior public school just south of it. And then I was on the back streets. I kept to a quick trot as I wound my way among them, heading south and west.
  All I could think about was the e-mail, the web page, the eggs, the laughter.
  Why couldn't they let me be!
  This wasn't a Blind Pig story. There wasn't the prejudice, the fear of infection...
  But there was.
  And this time there was not going to be a happy ending. This was reality, not a parable of caring and hope.
  I crossed Avenue Road and kept winding south and west. Some cars honked and I knew the eggs would come next so I accelerated to a gallop and lost myself in the side streets.
  I slowed down again to a trot as I reached Eglinton and then galloped across the yellow light, ignoring the honking of horns.
  After all, they all had eggs.
  It was getting dark and the street lights came on, but I just kept trotting.
  What was I going to do? I couldn't do this.
  The eggs had dried on my hide.
  I kept remembering the hate, the laughter. The kicks, the prejudice.
  It wasn't fair!
  I reached Dufferin and had at least enough mind left to wait until the light changed to cross.
  Then I turned west and made my way down Rogers Rd.
  No, it wasn't fair.
  It wasn't fair, but it was all I had.
  I could either deal with it, or quit.
  Could I actually quit? Actually kill myself?
  That's it. I'd kill myself and become a martyr, give my life to help the others.
  I stopped.
  What the hell was I thinking?! I didn't want to die.
  Didn't I?
  Tears started to flow.
  The transformation had started as the answer to a dream. Sure it'd been tough, but the speed, the power, the joy of my body working as it was designed, my belief in hope, all had made up for it.
  I screamed it over and over again as my voice echoed off the buildings.
  Was it a gift or a curse?
  I didn't know, but I needed to deal with it. It was all that I had.
  I could kill myself. End it. Take the coward's way out.
  That's right, the coward's way.
  I wouldn't.
  I would take it one step at a time.
  First I had to get clean. I could shower at the University of Toronto. I still had an athletic membership there. I could use the showers in the changeroom. Lots of room for a change.
  I started trotting westward.
  Lots of room and maybe a little respect.
  I reached Caledonia and crossed to the west side and turned south.
  I accelerated to a canter. I needed to feel better, I really did.
  Maybe my running was a drug. But could a natural thing be a drug?
  I didn't know.
  I sped the canter up.
  Behind me I heard a car coming towards me, heading south.
  How fast could I run? The general speed limit is about thirty miles an hour. Could I do that?
  I accelerated to a gallop as the car approached.
  Let's see what I had.
  I'd been gifted, or cursed, but by God I was going to get what enjoyment I could.
  The car was still closing so I sped up.
  My breath was now coming fast, the bones in my legs helping my blood pump. The muscles as I galloped helping my lungs breathe. My breathing slits helping the whole thing work together and make something wonderful.
  The car was still closing so I strained myself a little more. I was starting to feel the beginnings of exhaustion, of oxygen debt, in my system.
  Ahead I could see a crosswalk and I saw the crossing sign flash.
  Ah well. I started to slow down. I felt much better.
  The car started to slip pass me.
  I pushed myself back into a fast gallop and began to close the distance.
  Why wasn't the car slowing? Didn't the driver see the crosswalk?
  I was beginning to have to force my muscles to work.
  Why wasn't the driver slowing?
  I strained my eyes to look forward.
  There was a girl, maybe eight, crossing the street. Her mother was looking on.
  The driver would see her. The driver had to. The driver would slow down.
  Glancing behind I could see that the driver was a he, and he wasn't.
  What was he doing?!
  I couldn't see clearly but it looked like he was holding a cell phone.
  A cell phone?!
  I wanted to scream, but now I was deep into oxygen debt and couldn't spare the breath to speak. The crosswalk was maybe a hundred feet away.
  Somehow I galloped faster.
  I heard the mother starting to scream and saw the girl start to turn.
  Still no squealing of brakes.
  He had to see her.
  He had to.
  I couldn't glance to check, and I hadn't heard any sounds of a car braking.
  I was almost at the crosswalk. The girl had stopped and was turning to face her mother. The crossing sign was still flashing.
  I turned a little to cut in front of the car. I could see that he hadn't slowed down.
  Ahead of me was a pile of snow, maybe four feet high.
  Not stopping, I leapt.
  The car didn't stop.
  My lungs struggled to breathe, no longer being aided by the muscles in my legs.
  My heart pumped harder, no longer aided by the pounding of my hooves.
  The mother started falling to her knees.
  The girl took a step forward.
  My fore hooves hit the pavement.
  The car started to brake.
  I exhaled as my legs moving together compressed my lungs.
  The car started to skid.
  I leaned down and grabbed the girl and started to leap forward in the next step of my gallop.
  The car slammed into my side and I went flying.
  I clasped the girl tight to my upper chest and squeezed my legs against my body.
  My right hind leg wouldn't bend.
  I could feel pain starting.
  My legs hit the pavement and I fell onto my side, sliding across the surface.
  I felt my skin being torn off as I slid to a stop.
  I heard the car's brakes squealing.
  Pain. Lots and lots of pain. Burning, agonizing, screaming pain. Some amused part of me remembered the scene from Devil in the Dark, when Spock first mind melds with the Horta and all he can say is PAIN.
  I forced my arms to open and let the girl go.
  Standing up she ran towards her mother.
  And then everything went black.

part 7
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