"Wait, Mommy!" She shouted even though she'd knocked me to the floor and her mouth was an inch from my ear. "You can't go yet. I have to give you something"
She wrapped one arm around my leg to keep me disabled; stretched her body as long as it would go without compromising her grip on my ankle; and plunged her free arm into a ratty basket full of toys that shouldn't have been on the floor in my bedroom -- that's another story -- and pulled out a tiny, brown horse.
"Darla will go to work with you today," Lily said placing the horse gently in my hand. "She's a good horse. She will take care of you and keep you from getting lonely at work."
I grabbed Lily's face and kissed her nose and forehead.
"OH MY GOSH -- I love you SO MUCH!"
I felt a little crazy taking a horse to work -- even a tiny horse. What if someone in the office had an allergy? What if someone complained to human resources that my work area smelled like poop?
"Her poops smell like rainbows, Mommy."
I tucked Darla carefully in my purse -- compared to the wreck of a bucket she'd been in, my Coach handbag should have been like Heaven to her, but she wanted nothing to do with it. She kicked and screamed for several minutes -- it could have been the leather. Perhaps a long-lost friend or family member provided the hide for my purse -- poor Darla.
She rode the rest of the way in my hand -- which reminds me: Darla's poops don't smell like rainbows. I thought about taking her home, but the traffic was terrible. I pondered briefly: How much trouble can a tiny quarter horse get into?
My grandfather, The Lawyer, taught me a couple things.
No. 1: "Even a fish would stay out of trouble if it kept it's mouth shut."
No. 2: "Don't ask a question unless you're prepared for the answer."
Darla caused a lot of trouble, and while I accept partial responsibility for the damages, I did not paricipate in or condone her shenanigans AT ALL.
I'm a web analyst on the Special Queries Team for a major search engine which means my coworkers and I get the unique privilege of examining and labeling the icky stuff -- porn, STDs, bodily functions and tattooed rectums -- people look for when they think they're alone.
I should have known that Darla, whose life consisted of little girls' tea parties, Barbie, Hello Kitty and the color pink, would be changed by the Internets. It's just -- she's a horse.
I never dreamed she'd be interested in my work or even understand it. But I know now -- magical plastic farm animals are just like people. They talk like people. They think like people. They plot like people.
I returned from a bathroom break and found Darla logged onto my computer. She'd been researching porn giant Ron Jeremy -- she visited his Wikipedia page and his official fan site. I couldn't believe it. Darla was looking at porn on the Internet.
She printed inappropriate pictures under my alias and taped them to my coworkers' desks. She stole someone's cigarettes and disappeared for an hour.
I only found her because a couple of ladies on the elevator were convinced their waiter at lunch put hallucinogenic drugs in their salads.
"You saw it too?"
"It must have been a joke, but I swear that horse moved."
"It was smoking a cigarette."
"I think we should go to the emergency room."
I pretended not to hear them, but I felt terrible and amused all at once. Those poor women were about to call their husbands -- "We've been roofied!"
The building was buzzing with stories of a 2-inch tall horse -- a drunk horse obsessed with pornography; a naughty horse with a mouth like a sailor; a rock-star horse singing loudly about vaginas.
"It's something in the food ... in the air ... We're all hallucinating ..."
I followed the hysteria to a conference room on the fifth floor where I found Darla propped against an empty bottle of whiskey. She'd finished off Grandma Dorey's Black Velvet. I was keeping it in my cabinet at work for after-hours pickle backs -- "WTF, Darla?"
I shoved her in my pants' pocket and returned to my office.
Darla chewed a hole in my pocket and escaped without my noticing. She visited all 26 floors of the building and returned with several bags of rubber bands strapped to her back. I ignored her hoping the lack of attention would dissuade her from causing any more trouble.
It did not.
Darla catapulted herself onto my coworker's desk where she cracked open a travel-sized tequila that didn't belong to her and shot rubberbands at everyone in the room.
We don't have a lot of rules in the confines of our computer bay. We keep things light and adventurous most days, but Darla was pushing it. She was messing with Captain Kirk's stuff -- Captain Kirk isn't his real name, I don't know his real name. He's just a guy who looks like Captain Kirk, and he's very protective of his stuff -- his emergency tequila in particular.
The Captain is generally pleasant and sporadically funny, but he's incredibly anal about the order of his desk accessories.
Darla was crapping all over his keyboard, spilling alcohol on his post-its and disturbing the line that the chords from his earbuds make across his desk.
"Dammit, Dar ..."
It was too late to stop her or fix what she did. The Captain had returned from lunch, and Darla welcomed him with a barrage of rubber bands. One of them pierced the skin under his eye.
He wiped the blood with his finger and examined the mess on his desk.
It occurred to me then how ridiculous I sounded -- that I couldn't stop a 2-inch tall plastic horse from wreaking havoc on a 26-story fortress of glass and steel and concrete and security-guarded doorways.
"She belongs to my daughter. I'm sorry."
The Captain picked Darla up by her nose and flicked her into the air like a paper football.
Darla crash landed in a cup of water on my desk.
I thought she was dead at first. She didn't move or make any noises -- I felt relieved for a moment then panicked. How would I explain to Lily that I let her horse die?
I pushed the cup to other end of my desk and pretended not to care that I let Darla drink herself to death and watch pornography on the Internet.
That's when the wretching started.
I peered into the cup and saw Darla attempting to stand. Her legs wobbled once, twice, three times, and she fell -- over and over again she tried to stay on her feet and crashed. It amused me for a while, but the sound of her throwing up and falling all over herself was distracting and tiresome.
I scraped her off the bottom of the cup and walked across the plaza to the transit center where I tossed Darla in an open bus window.
"She'll find her way home," I whispered. "I'm not lucky enough to lose her."