Mr. Bilge stood in his kitchen, baking a cake. Oliver kept him company, ruining the kitchen floor as he poked around for food. Although miniature in size, a horse is still a horse with hooves and excretions that ruin all styles of flooring.
Mr. Bilge was hoping the cake would soothe whatever nerve of Babette’s he sensed he had frazzled. Oliver kept trying to lick the spoon and while Mr. Bilge could not fault him for that he certainly could not condone it. He did, however, allow Oliver to lick the bowl.
Mr. Bilge scampered upstairs to his bathroom. He had called for Babette that morning. When he returned home after she refused Olive the prior evening, he slowly realized her decision was not temporary rejection. Mr. Bilge sank beneath a murky mire of depression.
He couldn’t eat a single bite the rest of the night. Not a morsel snuck between his lips except for a light hors d'oeuvre, a heavy dinner and a midnight snack. He didn’t sleep a wink other than the twelve-hour doze into which he briefly fell after throwing himself into bed and sobbing in ragged jags for about ten minutes. In his slumber he fell more in love with Babette than ever. For when Mr. Bilge slept he possessed Babette entirely. Every date was open to Mr. Bilge and no other clients clouded the sunny skies of their days. But this, alas, was but a flower of a dream that Mr. Bilge could never grow or hope to pluck from the grounds of the real world. The last image that floated by as his eyes fluttered to wakefulness was his hairy hand delicately shoving a white and fluffy piece of wedding cake between Babette’s red and open lips.
Oliver was chewing on his hair. As he did, Mr. Bilge told him of the wedding that had just passed and became increasingly excited and love struck as he convinced himself this was a vision of the future.
“Oh my god, Oliver,” he gasped, throwing a heavy arm around the miniature horse. “I see it all so clearly now. She’s been upset with me because she thinks I’m not devoted! Don’t you see?! That’s what a man is to do when he snares the one he loves. I’m to be suspicious and insulting – not the simpering accepting poltroon I am. I should be demanding Babette retire! I should be threatening her other clients! I should be looming over her every minute! I’ve been a fool, Oliver. A great fool. No wonder she refused you. I wouldn’t accept a miniature horse from anyone but my true love. Miniature horses are forever! Or at least a few years of a commitment.”
He leapt out of bed like a joyous gazelle, leaving Oliver to wrestle with his newfound realization of mortality. A few years? Only a few years? He hadn’t realized all this could end some day. He was already small, but now he was also fleeting! He vowed to live every day as though someone was about to slaughter him. So it was that Oliver became tremendously vivacious yet paranoid, trusting just Mr. Bilge and those who Mr. Bilge considered friends. He took what he pleased and didn’t apologize. But Oliver only took what others offered and always thanked them for it.
Mr. Bilge resolved to propose to Babette the next time he saw her. So he rung her immediately and booked her first availability.
“The quickest way to a woman’s heart is through your wallet!” Babette would always kid Mr. Bilge. Mr. Bilge knew Babette’s heart was located in some region most accessible through other channels. One was the thoughtful conversations that they shared, in which Babette endearingly asked him the same things each time she saw him, which she said was so she could tell all her friends all the witty things he said verbatim. Another was escorting her to theatrical shows she would sweetly close her eyes throughout, which Babette explained was so she could mull over the writer’s text without distraction. He adored her snores of appreciation, because that’s when he knew she was truly absorbed in the play, lost to the world around her. Lastly, were the homemade trinkets he made her that never found their way onto her mantelpiece because, as Babette explained, they were stored affectionately in a trunk with all her most prized possessions.
Mr. Bilge didn’t seem to notice that his wallet did seem to make the journey to Babette’s heart much more swift.
But when Mr. Bilge bounded out of bed that morning he realized that the only clear and true way of shackling his heart to Babette’s was with an engagement ring. He decided to hide the ring in the cake he had dreamt up only a few minutes ago.
And so he had baked it. He had groomed himself and now was trying to ease his nerves before Babette was due to arrive. He had put Oliver in the backyard. He seemed to upset her. But she would learn to love him.
He sat in the living room as night fell. Or he tried to since he kept jumping up every few minutes to straighten the knickknacks on his bookshelves or to fuss with his hair in the mirror. He watched the hands of the clock tick off the seconds more slowly than ever. He sighed, rose to his feet, paced about the room and sat down again. He began wringing his hands as the clock told him the time would never come for Babette’s arrival. Mr. Bilge’s fury with the timepiece was building into a towering inferno and he was about to explode when he heard the sound of a car crackling over his gravel driveway.
He squealed with girlish delight at the shock, falling off the couch at the same time. As a loud pounding echoed from behind the front door, Mr. Bilge was launched to his feet.
“Dearest! Finally!” Mr. Bilge’s voice shook with delight. He wrenched open the door and saw the moon was full and sky was bursting with brilliant pinpoints of light. He heard those pinpoints were sometimes referred to as stars. But at this moment, he didn't care a fig for what you wanted to call them. Babette had arrived.
to be continued...