• Vol. 09
  • Chapter 02
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The Triggering of a Horse Head

As I passed the entranceway to the Museum of Modern Art’s current exhibition of animal likenesses, I caught sight of a lifelike horse head sculpture in the corner of the room. At first, I was unnerved by its brown eyes casting downward until I flashed back to a series of memories that I had of my family in the early seventies.

Uncle Jeff had just come home from opening night of Francis Ford Coppola’s Godfather that played in the Savoy, where I saw the Willie Wonka movie with my father the previous year and stuck a piece of chewed gum underneath the seat for kicks without him knowing. A fan of Hammer horror movies, Uncle Jeff delighted in telling me some of its most gruesome scenes, especially the part where Jack Woltz wakes up in bed to a lot of blood and a decapitated horse head. After Uncle Jack was finished with the spoilers, I caught my father in the kitchen as he finished the last amount of coffee in his Father’s Day mug, the one I made for him in shop class. I asked him to see the movie as my birthday gift since I would be turning fifteen the following Saturday. He nodded his head, then smiled at me.

Hours before that Saturday’s evening movie, my father walked through the door, his left hand gripped his chest while he complained about a loss of feeling in his right arm. I even remembered his exact words. His last words to me. “Son, let me lie down for a bit. We’ll see the movie, I promise.” Mother came home and asked me to unload the groceries from the car. When I came back with the bags, mother was sobbing in father’s favorite chair.


The Triggering of a Horse Head

One viewing and funeral later, I had seen more horror in real life than on the big screen. I never wanted to see the Godfather after that, and until I walked through the entranceway, I couldn’t remember why. The horse head sculpture gave me an unhappy reminder.