A Horse Named Sorrow
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Award-winning novelist Trebor Healey depicts San Francisco in the 1980s and '90s in poetic prose that is both ribald and poignant, and a crossing into the American West that is dreamy, mythic, and visionary.
When troubled twenty-one-year-old Seamus Blake meets the strong and self-possessed Jimmy (just arrived in San Francisco by bicycle from his hometown in Buffalo, New York), he feels his life may finally be taking a turn for the better. But the ensuing romance proves short-lived as Jimmy dies of an AIDS-related illness. The grieving Seamus is obliged to keep a promise to Jimmy: "Take me back the way I came."
And so Seamus sets out by bicycle on a picaresque journey with the ashes, hoping to bring them back to Buffalo. He meets truck drivers, waitresses, college kids, farmers, ranchers, Marines, and other travelers--each one giving him a new perspective on his own life and on Jimmy's death. When he meets and becomes involved with a young Native American man whose mother has recently died, Seamus's grief and his story become universal and redemptive.
“No, up this way—wait!” And like little mice they ran up and down the stairs, under the mattress and in between us, laughing, shouting, and throttling each other. “Hey, you guys aren’t helping,” Jimmy gruffly announced. “Besides, it’s a mattress; it doesn’t matter if it hits the walls!” “Let’s drop it on them, Jimmy,” I threatened playfully. They howled then, and went careening out the door and into the street. When we finally achieved the threshold and got the mattress in the door, we went
couldn’t have said goodbye anyway. And what’s goodbye besides? Jimmy never said it either. Goodbye’s just a bag of dust. 31 I had to call the morgue and his family both. The Government Pages, I guess? Sure enough. I took a deep breath. “City Morgue, County of San Francisco. May I help you?” “Hi, uh, my boyfriend died . . . and uh, . . . I don’t know what to do about it.” “Are you his power of attorney?” “No . . . I don’t think so.” “Who is?” “I don’t know about that stuff.” “Hmm, I
wring it out. Thought of him sitting at that table, looking at Woody’s crystals with his big brown eyes, his brow furrowed with interest. I hung the shirt over the back of a chair and took my sleeping bag back into the church and spread it out on the altar again and crawled in. And I wished I could hold him; I wished he had a body still. My hands grasped longingly at the velvet bag. And I thought suddenly how morbid it was to be arriving in all these places where Jimmy’d been—with him but not
bluntly, with an expressionless demeanor. “I met Eugene in Eugene,” I answered, aware as I said it of how stupid it sounded. “Good place for it,” he said with a clipped smile. I wanted to add that Eugene and I had fucked each other silly in a frat house, and that I couldn’t get him out of my mind—and that I was awfully sorry for history, and all that— “And what are you doing out here?” he interrupted my racing thoughts. “On my way to Buffalo.” “Ha, ha, ha.” He laughed heartily. “You and me
really doing was telling him my story; we were sharing our lost fathers—our mothers too, I suppose. We did “Bobby McGee” and “Do You Know the Way to San Jose” and “Quinn the Eskimo” and “Hurdy Gurdy Man” and “Heart of Gold.” And then he hummed some newer ones back at me: Tracy Chapman’s “Fast Car,” which made us kiss long and hard because I was on a bike and he was in a blue truck. And then “Don’t Worry, Be Happy,” which made us both laugh and whistle along. I kept winning at cards. Then we