the black cocaine

In the Shadow of the Centaur (with Robert Downey, Jr.)

July 2nd, 2010

robo downo junio

this is a lunatic.

Traditionally, Sunday mornings are known in the Christian world as the Lord’s day, and as such, in absence of war or famine, should be enjoyed as days of no more than the most pleasant of toils in the eastern countryside of Ireland. Sundays are one of the grateful facilities awarded to those who do good work, and one with which, regrettably, my counterpart, Robert Downey, Jr., is not familiar. Such were my thoughts as I was rousted from a wonderful dream of bathing in a geyser of warm goat’s milk with four beautiful nymphs. I was cranky and did not enjoy being parted from my soft sheepswool blankets in the first light of morning; but there I was, as always, at the service of my friend. “What hour is it,” I asked in a groggy frog’s voice, “and why, by God, are you waking me up?”

“Chuck,” said Robert, “come on, we haven’t a moment to lose. All the unwashed masses in County Carlow are abuzz about it. They’ve found one! They’ve finally found one, I’ve waited all my life for this!” I could vaguely see his soot-smeared grin in the slanted light of morning. A cool tongue of breeze licked my neck, a soothing mingle of sensation against the burn of the sun, and reminded me that I could have been in bed, back in the milk geyser with the nymphs. “Found what?” I grumbled. “Oh, but that is the surprise, Chuck. I cannot tell you yet. Not even the mob outside know yet the wonders they will behold. Come quick, to Ballymoon castle!”

In 1341, the castle Ballymoon in County Carlow was a more impressive sight than it is today. Glimmering portcullis adorned in polished ash and ebony, stables housing beautiful Irish Draught Stallions curtained its flanks, and even a barbican of expertly-hewn stone and a gatehouse stood out front. It was the sort of morning where you have just begun to feel the cool air of the coming autumn and the countryside, though still lit like the summer day, has begun to smell of lavender and smoke, and sends one’s mind wandering back to the droll parties of the harvest. It was only this which prevented me from slapping Robert on the face, spitting upon the dewy grass and tramping angrily back to my cottage. In fact, my mood had picked up considerably and I was almost happily pulled along to the castle. “Robert,” I said, “if you won’t tell me what it is we’re going to see, I’ll turn around right now.” I wasn’t serious, but my curiosity was beginning to win over my freshly stirred mind.

He stopped with a deliberate step and whirled around to face me. “My God, Chuck, it’s true what they say about you.” “What do they say about me?” I asked, with a tone accusing him of being about to invent some hogwash to infuriate my sensibilities. It was a skill he had learned well over the years, and one which I had lately been able to begin seeing through, although he didn’t know that. I played along for the sport. “They say,” he said, “that you’d no more take an interest in the curios of the world around you than you would in the bare walls of your own sleeping chamber. Your sense of adventure is wilting, and everyone can sense it. If you’d rather lie in your squalid little cottage and dream about eating plain bread, you’re no use to me and you can begone right now. I’ve got a discovery to make!”

“Compose yourself, Robert,” I refuted, “of course I will follow you into adventure any day. It is my curiosity which hornswoggles you! What you say is quite the opposite- I would rather die than be bored in this world, but I was so excited to know what this walk will bring that I simply could not wait to know. If you insist, Robert, I will follow!” With that, his face cinched into a knowing smirk and he wheeled back around, hastening his already brisk pace on the path to Ballymoon as my quick feet sent up clouds of orange earth behind us.

As we approached the fortifications of the castle I could see that a crowd had gathered out front, as Robert had said. Not a huge crowd, as not only was County Carlow sparse in numbers back then, but communication was quite slow. In this countryside it could be days even before anyone in the entire county would hear if the crown had changed heads. But there was a good mob of villagers here, I estimated them to be three score and ten, give or take a farmer. The pair of us made way for the portcullis, which was raised into its groove. If Robert was to be no help, then, I decided to inquire of the villagers. “What is the commotion,” I asked a muddy maiden in burlap summer gowns. “Did not ye hear?” she shrilled back to me, “they ‘ave ’em a real loife centaur, up in the belfry, and no mistakin’ this toim! ‘Es a real one, I seen ‘er! All tits ‘n ‘ooves!” “A centaur, you say,” I replied, my brows furrowed. “Robert!” I yelled into the swollen crowd ahead, “surely you don’t believe in this nonsense! A centaur? A fairy-tale animal?” I was accosted by a farmer in his thirties. “Aye, an if ye dun believe, ye can git ye a glimpse shortly, me lad! They’re aboot ta crack ‘er outta the tower, jost ye wait!” Disgusted by his breath, I coughed into the crook of my elbow and tried to keep up with Robert.

The throng was unruly and foul, but by hanging on to Robert’s hand, I was led by the sheer force of his will through the crowd and right up into the bell tower, where a small cavalry of uniformed men stood about, holding everyone back. “Have ya got her out yet?” screamed Robert over the noise. “Not yet, mister Downey Junior, sir, but they’re aboot ta loosen th’ stone right now!” It would appear that two carpenter men on wooden ladders were prying at the stone ceiling of the tower with iron hooks, sending chips of grout to sprinkle over the hay floor.

“You see, Chuck,” Robert said to me as he stared up at the ceiling, “the poor thing got spooked a few days ago by a couple of drunk teenagers over at McAllister’s, who chased her all the way here, to Ballymoon castle. She was so full of the fear of God that she managed to gallop right up into the top of the bell tower and crash through the scotspine drainage gate. But the drain port on the side of the tower is too small for even a badger to squeeze through, so she’s been stuck in there since. The night watchmen were alerted to her presence by the incessant scratching of hooves and cries for help. At first, their bosses shrugged it off as a ghost tale, but after the teenagers at McAllister’s came forward, there was no doubt about it- a centaur was caught in the Ballymoon belfry! So you see, Chuck, we had to be here.”
With that, a deafening crack was heard overhead, as the two men with hooks bent over double on their ladders and shielded their eyes from the sudden shower of grout and stone chips. Following the crack was a heavy, bowel-shaking groan, and I could see the huge stone ceiling of the bell tower rock in place as one end, then the other, came falling right through thin air, and a pregnant second later hit the floor with a quaking thud that sent us all scrabbling for a wall or a peasant to grab ahold of. As the dust cleared, there appeared in the center of the stone a large figure, human but not so. From her waist up she was a woman; that much was obvious. But the lower part of her was certainly equine, covered in a thin layer of brown fur, her four muscular legs ending in dusty, scratched hooves.

I gaped in awe. I could hardly believe what I was seeing. Was it true? Was the mythical creature of children’s tales really laying here before me? But there could be no mistake.

Before I was able to fully register what I was seeing, Robert bounded forward, past the shouting guards and kneeled right beside the creature. He bowed over her like a lover discovering his deceased spouse, sliding his hand to the back of her head under her hair, and caressing her cheek with his thumb. Everyone paused and watched, as we were now sure there must be something more to the story, some connection between Robert and the beautiful beast. Not a breath was drawn as he put his face close to hers. Suddenly, he looked up at us. “Still warm!” he yelled. And with that, stood up and untied the rope holding up his trousers, which dropped into the settled dust, revealing his prominent wangsausage. “I’ve been waiting for this my whole life!”

And to our horror, the substance fiend known as Robert Downey, Jr., fell to his knees behind the creature and befouled her most aggresively, pumping her like a mad hare, as though nobody were watching. The crowd reflexively shrank back, and Robert grabbed the centaur’s hair as he sped up his ritual. And then, as if noticing the crowd, his head turned to us, and without missing a stroke, he yelled, “CAN I GET A LITTLE PRIVACY, HERE?”

Of course, Robert, you wonderful creature. Godspeed.

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