A Letter To the Secretary of Donkeys Incorporated
Hello from the open road. My name is Treasa O'Leary, a traveler along the Soulfood Silk Road...but then...you might already know that. I wouldn't be a wee bit surprised if you did, the way this fantastic adventure is constantly keeping me in a state of surrealness. I never know what expect next!
*shakes head in amazement* Certainly not a talking donkey! Jack has made the trip quite...interesting and humorous thus far--we've only been on the road two days. He's been helpful at times as well. And that's why I'm writing you, to tell you what an amazing trip this is going to be with him as a mount and to thank you.
I don't know how you choose which mount for which traveler, but, in my case, you hit gold. You see, I've never ridden a donkey before in my life; only horses a handful of times and not since my childhood at that. The longest I've ever ridden one has been two or three hours and afterwards I was saddle-sore for two days!
*as if the mere mention of it is their cue, all my various aches and throbbing pains intensify and I shift stiffly, trying to find a more comfortable position on my sleeping bag, unable to hold back a low moan*
*silent wry laugh as I resume writing in the combined light of flickering fire and flashlight* I'm in much the same position as I was then. Saddle-sore. But Jack is being an awfully good sport about it, thank goodnees. Right from the start it was painfully obvious to both of us and to my silent guide (whose name I've since learned is Ophelia) that I'm no natural horsewoman--or donkey rider. Jack's gentle swaying gait is as smooth and fluid as any donkey's could be. But until today, for the life of me, I couldn't establish a reasonably good rhythm that allowed me to move as one with him. My butt kept bouncing, up and down, up and down, hard on the saddle until my poor abused tailbone made its first throbbing protests. I felt like a Mexican jumping bean. *rolls eyes and shakes head in embarrassment*
Ah well. At least no one has laughed at this bobbing Irish lass yet--well, not very much and not because of my poor riding skills. For that, I have to give thanks. Jack has been really sweet and has been trying to give me pointers.
"Consider this a crash course in riding," he said after Ophelia helped pull me from the ground at his hooves that first day. We hadn't gone 20 feet down the road from the Enchantress' cave before I was bested by a low-hanging branch that caught me in the chest and knocked me from his saddle. "Rule Number 1: Relax! Your fear and uncertainty transmits to your fine noble steed, letting me--I mean, him--know he's the boss. Rule Number 2: Match your body's rhythm to your donkey's gait. The ride will be smoother and easier this way--for both of us. And Rule Number 3: You've got to be smarter than the average tree. Be aware of your surroundings too."
In my defense, I have to say I was in a state of shock when those leaves smacked me in the face and that branch connected with my breastbone! Jack had started talking--without warning--about the journey and introducing himself and Ophelia and her horse Nightshade. Who wouldn't be floored by a talking donkey when, where I come from, they don't speak?! Well, except for the ones in the Bible and Arabian Tales, but the one was from a parable I believe, the other from a fairy tale.
I gaped at his big gray-brown donkey face, blinking stupidly into his velvety brown eyes once I was back on my feet, repeating over and over, "He talks! He talks! My donkey talks!!"
Ophelia nodded, an amused look on her face. She went to Nightshade, who stood five feet up ahead, with his ebony neck craned right in our direction and dug through his saddlebags. On her way to the stallion she gave Jack an admonishing look. Pulling out medical supplies from one of the bags, she walked back toward me and doctored the few cuts and scrapes I'd sustained from the encounter with the olive tree. (I thought olive branches were supposed to be peaceful?) Once she was satisfied I was ok and taken care of, Ophelia nodded to herself decisively, gathered the box of bandages and ointment and rejoined Nightshade. Putting the things away she mounted the black stallion and motioned with her arm I should do the same.
"Yes, I talk," Jack said, gazing at me with what passes, I suppose, for patience in a donkey. "And you're quite the observer. We have a lot of miles to cover before we reach the Valley of the Temples, where we will be camping over the next few days before reaching the Gypsy Camp. Are you brave enough to try again?"
Dumbly I nodded, reaching behind me to check and make sure everything in my backpack was ok after having landed on the bag in my fall. I mounted and we were off again--albeit at a slower pace--the guide and her black stallion, Jack the donkey and me, the Irish Mexican jumping bean.
As I said, Jack has been sweet and pretty understanding, only making fun of me once in awhile, laughing his braying laugh as he watches me move stiffly about the campsite or if I do some clumsy thing like trip over an exposed tree root. "It was right in front of you, in plain view! You shouldn't read that book of Roman myths as you walk." He admonished just today as we took our lunch break.
I have to thank you. Despite moments like those, I'm sure you're well aware he can be quite amusing. I also have no doubt you already know he can hold entire coversations with himself, for Jack can talk and talk. And talk. I can't help but laugh when he gets going. By no means would this journey be dull or ordinary without him; he just adds to the the wonder and joy of it. So, with all my gratitude, thank you. He is a wonderful companion and mount, and I will take good care of him for as long as he is with me.
Treasa O'Leary, Awed, Amazed and Humble Explorer
*folds the letter written on the lavender stationery from the cave room and seals it in the matching envelope; writes the address on the front and hands it to a waiting raven who accepts it with its beak and a nod; spreading its dark wings it takes off and I shut the flashlight off, sliding and settling into my sleeping bag by the fire*