Night And Bray

By Beth Burube



brayingI first saw them ten months ago. If not for the trickle of light spilling from a waning moon, they would have escaped my notice altogether. Their bodies were ghostly silhouettes, but I could see his lips resting on her neck and they had no regard of my presence as I passed.

That evening their lively serenades deprived the sleepy town of Barra de Navidad of its slumber. His croon was not a lilting warble. Indeed, it was an explosive death rattle as loud as a lawnmower.

Eeyore, eeyore.

I wrapped the pillow around my ears in an attempt to muffle punch- drunk- donkey- lust braying.

Yikes, had I remembered to fill my Ambian prescription?

The next morning I discovered them kanoodling under a palm tree at the edge of town. I paused, resting my hands on a broken down fencepost.

She was the smaller of the two and looked quite young; I guessed maybe sixteen or so in human years. Judging from the tuft of grey fur at his jaw line, he must be older. Yes, considerably so…she was hardly old enough to have experienced the cruel sting of rejection.

I decided to name them.

“Hmm,” I pointed to the jenny. I shall call you Eliza Doolittle and your inamorata shall be Professor Henry Higgins.”

In the film My Fair Lady, Eliza and Professor Higgins never shagged. In fact, they didn’t even kiss, but at the end of the movie when she hunched over and tenderly placed a slipper on his foot while staring lovingly into his eyes, you knew they would be getting it on before the credits finished rolling. And like my new friends, theirs was a May- December romance.

“He may be attentive to you now, little sister,” I admonished. “But let’s see where your precious Don Juankey is ten months from now.”

She cast an indifferent glance my way from under her woolly eyebrows and flicked her tail dismissively as if to say, “What do you know about love anyway?”

Their dalliances continued for the next few days. I would catch a glimpse of them here and there and sometimes I could hear the clatter of eight hooves clip clopping down a cobblestone street.

Then one day they were gone. For many days, the only animals I saw behind our house were a herd of goats.

Two months shy of a year I saw Eliza again. It was Christmas Eve and she approached my bay window where I had placed a nativity scene. Her belly was heavy with life. She bore a yoke of sadness that made her seem tired and despondent. Professor Higgins was nowhere to be seen. I wondered, had he promised her a life full of adventure and then galloped out of town like he was fleeing a barn fire when he figured out she was in a family way?

Her silky muzzle rapped against the window as if she were knocking to be let in. Had she seen the Baby Jesus and prayed there might be a place for a knocked-up burro next to the manger? She sighed, turned and walked away.

A few months later, I saw a familiar looking donkey grazing in a nearby field. Her figure was as trim as when we first met. A rambunctious filly scampered near her feet and then dashed away to play tag with the goats.

“Hola, Eliza.” I exclaimed with hearty enthusiasm.

I offered her my apple.

“It appears you found yourself a new family, even if they are a different species. If I could speak Donkey, do you know what I would tell you mi amiga?”

She shifted her weight from one foot to the other, her body language telling me unsolicited nuggets of knowledge would be unwelcome. Nevertheless, I continued.

“Love is more powerful than a moment of passion, Eliza. Successful relationships are like a mirror. If a horny old jackass looks in, you can’t expect a noble white stallion to look out.”

She seemed to understand. Her kayak shaped ears perked up and she tossed her head forward. I prided myself that the wisdom of my words had restored in her the heady confidence she would need to rebuild her life.

I heard a raspy bray, at first faint and then building to lawnmower crescendo.

Eeyore, eeyore.

A dun colored burro trotted towards the fence.

“Professor Higgins” I trilled. “You’ve come back!”

Yikes, had I remembered to fill my Ambian prescription?

“I guessed I misjudged your character, you old coot. I’m sorry I called you a jackass.”

I ran my fingers through his mane and sang him my version of the show tune’s chorus.

Someone’s chin restin’ on her knee

Warm and tender as he can be

You’ve come back for your sweet donkey

Oh, wouldn’t it be loverly

Eliza hunched over and tenderly placed a bit of apple on Henry’s hoof.   She looked up lovingly and stared into his eyes. 

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