by Justin Teerlinck
There once was a centaur called Dorpin Dipsaloo. He lived in a centaur village with his parents and two brothers, Gronk and Skippi. Gronk looked most like their mother. Skippi looked most like their father. Dorpin looked most like…nobody. Gronk had handsome, flowing forelocks, so lots of romance novel artists painted him on their book covers, paying him a royalty each time. Skippi had very flexible legs and prehensile hooves, so he won golden oats as a gymnast at the centaur olympics. Dorpin had a strange, purplish bump on his forehead that seemed to be growing every day. He was saving up money so that he could replace his man head with a horse head, thinking maybe he’d get along better with horses than centaurs.
All three foals became teenagers when their mother and father died in a skiing accident. The Village Law Person called the three centaurs before her to discuss their inheritance. Their family owned the best hay fields in the village and grew nothing but primo organic grain from ancient family secret seeds. All their riches were said to be worth 100 sticks (trees were very rare in this part of the Centaur Dominion). With but 15 sticks, a centaur could afford moldy grain for a half a lifetime. With 50 sticks, a centaur could live modestly but well in a smallish barn for a full lifetime. With 100 sticks, a centaur could eat prime rib and aged cheese, and live in a house made of many stones and glass, and a self-cleaning trough like those featured in Tables & Stables Magazine. Dorpin said, “I think we should each have a share of the sticks, since there are three of us, and many sticks.”
“What do you think about that?” asked the Village Law Person.
“I want all 100 sticks,” said Gronk. “I have handsome, flowing forelocks. I look most like my mother, which proves my breeding and gives me the right to the entire inheritance.”
“I want all 100 sticks,” said Skippi. “I have sexy legs and prehensile hooves and took three golden oats at the Olympian Centaur Games. I look like my father, which proves my breeding and gives me the right to all of the sticks.”
The Village Law Person looked from right to left, shuffled her hooves and smiled awkwardly. “Well,” she said. “There are but 100 sticks. I cannot give Gronk 100 sticks and Skippi 100 sticks because that would make 200 sticks, and there are only 100 sticks. Besides, Dorpin wants some of the sticks too.”
“Look at the purple bump on Dorpin’s head,” said Skippi. “Look at how deformed his cranium is. He looks more like a human than a centaur. He’s a monster and should consider himself lucky he didn’t get aborted. He can’t even ski.”
Gronk leaned forward and whispered in The Law Person’s ear. “Listen, if you give me the 100 sticks, I’ll give you one tenth of the sticks, which is ten sticks. That’s one tenth of all the sticks. I know, because I learned how to do fractions. Plus, I’ll let you run your fingers through my forelocks for 10 turnings of the hourglass.”
The Village Law Person pushed Gronk aside and looked disdainfully at the brothers. “I have heard your case,” she said. “I have listened to your foolish talk and tricksome words. The sacred scrolls say nothing about sexy legs and nice forelocks and golden oats. Those who are most like their parents get to have the sticks. It is written that in cases where there is disagreement, only the D-NA can decide.”
“The DeeNAH?” the brothers asked.
“Yes,” said the Law Person. “Only the D-NA can see the truth that lives inside the tiny circles with squiggly bits. Even I cannot see that…If you do not consent to speak to D-NA, all the sticks will become village sticks, and will be used to buy a perpetual chocolate fountain and other public works we have no money for. Do you consent?” The brothers all agreed, so the Law Keeper gave them some forms to sign. “The Hooded One shall now take your samples,” she said. “Then, we will send them in to a company we use called Chromo-pony. When the results come back, we will let you know. If you want to, we can do the whole thing live on TV for Real Stories of Village Centaur Law.”
A centaur wearing monk’s robes and a hood appeared. He gave each brother a long strand of hay and told them to put it in their mouths and then take it out and give it back to him. After they did this, the Hooded One placed the hay in separate glasses.
Three days later, the brothers were called back to the Law Place. The Hooded One unfurled the scroll that told D-NA’s tale of their tiny circles. He handed it to the Village Law Person.
“Bow your heads and hearken,” she said. “D-NA has seen the truth! It is written: Gronk and Skippi each have mostly the same tiny circles as your parents. All the circles come from pure centaur blood. Dorpin…your lineage is strange and most perplexing to D-NA. Your tiny circles are like oatmeal mixed with wheat mixed with…I don’t know what, eggs of the tree or something? It’s totally weird. It says that you are 70% gnome, 15% human, 5% unicorn, and only 5% centaur. D-NA is mysterious indeed. Maybe that explains the purple bump on your head, too? I don’t know. Gronk and Skippi, you have behaved shamefully and with avarice…but the sacred scrolls are clear. Gronk will take 50 sticks, Skippi will take 50 sticks, and Dorpin will take no sticks. D-NA has spoken!”
“Unicorn and gnome!?!” said Gronk and Skippi, laughing out loud. “Dorpin is a freak! Let us tell the whole village so we can stone him!”
With that, Gronk and Skippi took their sticks and shunned their brother Dorpin. The village did stone Dorpin, but only because it was his job to have stones thrown at him at a Carnival of the Low (a cheap vaudeville show in the red hoof district), while he stood in a tiny glass house. One of the stones hit his bump, making it pulse and grow larger. The other stones broke the glass house, which was expensive, so the freak master fired him, kicking his bump on the way out. Gronk and Skippi paid for lip injections so they could have duck lips, and threw enormous pool parties with hired frog musicians, cats in onesies, and diaper-clad pomeranians to entertain their guests. They carted in mares of ill repute who danced and offered to copulate with Gronk and Skippi and their lame friends. Dorpin showed up at one of the parties and asked if he could borrow half a stick to pay the village shaman to cast a spell that would remove the purple bump from his head. The bodyguard at the gate turned him away, saying that the party was for V.I.P.’s only—very important ponies.
Dorpin’s bump hurt more and more and kept on growing. He was worried it might be a tumor. Since everyone had been mean to him, and even the freak master didn’t want him at the Carnival of the Low, he decided he must walk the Realm of Dot in search of a cure for his head bump and ask D-NA what the real truth was. He carried with him the sacred scroll that explained his lineage, since it was of no use to the Village Law Person anymore. And walk the Realm he did, and soon he became sweaty, for little did he know that the Realm of Dot was a much longer place than the village, or the Centaur Dominion, or all the other dominions.
In the young centaur’s travels, he crossed many lands. He crossed the forest of the elves, and they didn’t stone him, but neither did they help him. He crossed the plain of the trolls and goblins, and they hissed at him, made obscene gestures, but did not waylay him, because truth be told, he scared the crap out of them with his bump.
Eventually, he crossed Bunnypillar Meadow, and the bunnypillars came out of their little mossy burrows and dens and nuzzled him and squeaked in a friendly way, because they were just cool like that. They knew they were freaks too, being half bunny and half caterpillar, and had already figured out how to be zen and in harmony with everything, and not mean jerks. Bunnypillar Meadow seemed like a really nice place. The grass was soft, and pretty giggling, anthropomorphic flowers with faces and speckled mushrooms grew everywhere, and there were happy little ponds and streams and things. Unfortunately,
Dorpin still felt lost and in great pain. The bunnypillars purred over him at night like otherworldly kitty cats, but the bump kept growing. Dorpin felt sure it was killing him. He needed to speak to someone about it, and the bunnypillars weren’t very keen on intellectual conversation. Secretly, Dorpin hoped it would grow into a unicorn horn, because at least then he would be something. Now, he was nobody. But although the bump was growing, it was not growing like a horn. It started out the size of a walnut and was now like a conk that infects an oak tree, large, gnarled, misshapen, and covering half of his face. It even covered his left eye and ear, spreading tendril-like roots across his skull. At night he felt it squeezing his brain and imagined he could hear it cracking under the strain. With a sad heart, Dorpin left Bunnypillar Meadow, but not before everyone there made him a cute little card with hearts and rainbows all over it and gave him a wicker basket filled with fresh hay for the road. Even the flowers signed it with their leaves.
On and on the lonesome centaur walked. He crossed Forbidden Swamp, became lost in the Desert of Many Types of Salt, swam through the Sea of Scaly Bitey Things. He even climbed Double High Mountain and crossed paths with Urath, the Winged Dealer of Dread. Urath did not even bother to kill him. He just laughed condescendingly, rolled his eyes and went back inside his forlorn, wind-swept cave. Finally, Dorpin descended from the mountains into a vale ringed by tall pines and dotted with hillocks. Smoke emanated from the tops of the mounds. As he came closer, Dorpin saw that there were chimneys sticking out of the tops of the mounds, and in the sides were round little doors. He knew from myth and legend—and a large neon sign—that he was now in the homeland of the gnomes, or Gnomeland as it is called. Soon he heard nasally voices raised in song. The songs were kind of goofy.
Woo loo loo loo
We walk in bark shoes
Tra la la la lar
We don’t walk very far
Woo loo loo loo
We do nothing new
Whoa lo lo lo
We’re centuries old
Dorpin paused and looked about. He procured a looking glass from his waistcoat and peered down the valley. There he saw about a dozen gnomes shuffling to and fro, red cheeked, white-bearded and jolly. They all wore conical red caps, green trousers and wooden clogs. He felt nervous. He hadn’t seen himself since he saw his reflection staring back at him from a muddy pond in the Forbidden Swamp. It was enough to drive one mad. How much had he changed since then? How long had it been since his left eye could see, since his left ear could hear—since it was even visible? The bunnypillars had accepted him, but he was a frightening sight. He brought his hand to his face and felt mounds, valleys, lumps within bumps, papules oozing and pulsing with pain. He took the shabby, threadbare blanket he carried and cut a square out of it, sewing it into a dirty sack as best his limited skills and thread allowed. He took his dull, rusty dagger and cut a slit for his one good eye. Thinking that the sack needed some sort of flourish before it could properly be called a hat, he rolled up a soiled pair of tube socks and affixed them to the top of the sack. He dusted off his trousers, fixed the bag on his head, adjusted the sock pom-poms and sallied forth past the sign that read Gnomeland Welcomes You! Come for a Short Visit, Then Go Away.
Join us next time for part 2. Meantime, head over to Radio Dash Fire Podcast to hear a dramatic reading of...The Bumpy Centaur and the Beardless Gnome!