The White Horse by Lillian Tsay

The White Horse

In the middle of the cane field stood the statue of the General and a white horse next to him. Hui walked past them every day to school, and he always used the statues to calculate how far he had walked through the endless road where the buildings on the west side all looked the same. He remembered the story his father had told him when they used to work together in the fields, that there used to be two horses serving as the guardians of the General. Every night, one of the horses would slip to the fields and devour the canes. Finally, the farmer could not stand the horse eating his crops and awaited at night with his sickle. When the white horse jumped into the field from its podium, the farmer attacked the horse. The horse shrieked but it luckily escaped. It was never found or seen again. That was why there was only one horse next to the General instead of two.

At school, the teachers talked about the General all the time. He was a bald man, but also a heroic fighter. Hui saw his picture all over the place, but the great General was never accompanied by horses in the portraits or on the television. Hui became curious why there had been the statues of the white horses in the first place, and why only one of them was left.

“Why did the farmer beat the horse?” Hui asked his mother once.

“Because it shouldn’t be eating the cane,” his mother replied.

Hui continued asking, “Where did the horse escape to? Why did the other horse remain there with the General?” His mother did not reply. The last time she did not answer a question was when Hui asked where his father had gone. Hui did not want to let her down again, so he stopped asking questions about the horse.

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On one afternoon, when Hui was sitting as usual in the middle of the cane field, he noticed that he was not alone. Besides the frogs’ croaks, there was something among the tall canes shivering. The wind was howling, but Hui had trained his ears to distinguish the slightest move in the fields. With the sun falling, a shadow was approaching his hideout.

It was a white horse. Almost like the twin of the statue of the white horse. A handsome horse like the ones they described in fairytales. He could almost imagine how glorious the General might look riding on it, like a Prince Charming would not be a Prince Charming without his white horse.

“I’m lost! Can you help me find my home?” the white horse whispered to him. Hui nodded in excitement. Together, they crept through the cane field as Hui led their way towards the General’s statue.

Upon their arrival, Hui looked at the General’s statue from below. From this angle, the General looked like a completely different person. The white horse said to him sadly, “No, this is not my home.” Hui did not understand, but when he was going to ask the white horse where its home was, someone called out to him behind his back. It was a tall, solemn man dressed in blue, standing in the field like a scarecrow. Hui recognized he was a police officer, the respectable person responsible for catching criminals. As Hui was about to explain that he was not stealing the cane, the man spoke first.

“Boy, did you see a suspicious man around?” the man asked. Hui saw no one around, so he shook his head. The man stared at him for a moment and said, “Someone just escaped from the prison. It is dangerous to wander out here, you should go home.”

After the tall man left, Hui turned to look for the white horse, but it was already gone.

When Hui arrived home, the tall man was at his house, but he did not recognize Hui. He was asking Hui’s mother some questions. Hui listened to their conversation behind the door, but he could not catch everything. His mother said no one came, and the man said that he needed to inspect the house.

After the man finally left, Hui’s mother called out to him. “Let me tell you the actual story of the white horse,” she said in a somber voice. Her face remained expressionless although she was certainly hiding something. “It was not the farmer who beat the horse away.” She then whispered to tell him who it was, and where the white horse had gone. She made a pinky promise to him, “This is our little secret.”

The next evening, Hui went back to the General’s statue again. He caressed the remaining white horse and spoke to it, “Come, I will bring you back to your home.”

No record was made of when the remaining white horse next to the General’s statue disappeared. It was the good old times, when everything was too good to be remembered.

Lillian Tsay is currently writing a dissertation on East Asian food history at Brown University. She speaks multiple languages and has previously published creative non-fiction and short stories in Chinese.

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Next: Measure of Mountains by Jeremy Pak Nelson

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