“Memories of Mr. Ed,” by Michael Andreoni

Aug 20th, 2013 | By | Category: Fiction, Prose

You might be wondering what became of Mr. Ed, the talking horse from the television series which ran from 1958 to 1966. Few people outside the industry know that Mr. Ed was actually a zebra. The horse originally cast for the role proved uncooperative, and, with production costs mounting, the producers were afraid the show would be dropped from the network schedule. Their inspired solution was a nearby zoo that was willing to lend a zebra. Black and white television of that era rendered the zebra’s stripes invisible to viewers, and the set was reconstructed using forced perspective to make the smaller zebra version of Mr. Ed appear as large as a horse. The popular show became one of the first to be syndicated, with episodes still airing today.

Mr. Ed returned to the zoo in 1966, after the final show was filmed. He lived there until March 23, 1970, when he disappeared from the African Plains exhibit. Local police and the zoo’s own investigation produced no useful leads. To this day no one knows how or why it happened.

In 1971, Mr. Ed came to stay with me in room 209 of The Cloisters, a minimum security residency located near Ann Arbor, Michigan. I returned to my room on the first morning of summer after receiving (but not swallowing) the poison which Dr. Rahjeev, a well-meaning but deluded practitioner, claimed were my daily meds. Mr. Ed was waiting outside my door. He’d done a bit of traveling since leaving the zoo, he offered, making polite conversation while I searched the cupboards for sugar cubes. I was at first skeptical when he claimed to be Mr. Ed, because of the stripes, until he explained. I said his story was believable because I’d noticed that Dr. Rahjeev had orange vertical stripes some days and purple stripes on others. This so tickled Mr. Ed that he licked my face until I was giddy. We quickly became inseparable.

In the T.V. show, only his friend, Wilbur, can hear Mr. Ed speak. Wilbur’s wife and friends think Wilbur is odd, or possibly crazy, because to them Mr. Ed is simply a horse. My relationship with Mr. Ed was similar, another instance of life imitating art, for I too seemed to be the only one who could hear, or even see him. This was by design, he assured me, as I was the only human deemed of sufficient intellectual capacity by his superiors. Yes, Mr. Ed was not alone. He was the representative of a race of intelligent equines, the remnants of an elder civilization gone nearly extinct half a million years before humans evolved.

What fun we had in the boiler room, hiding from Dr. Rajeev. I showed Mr. Ed my trick of crawling underneath the fuel oil tank. We’d crouch down among the cobwebs, giggling when the doctor and his team of nut-cracking nurses and orderlies ran up and down the halls. When they found us Mr. Ed hurled insults in rhymed verse while they fastened the restraints on my arms and legs. I laughed so hard the staff probably thought they were dealing with a crazy person.

Mr. Ed revealed the deepest desire of his race to me while I was lying down, recovering from a forcibly administered injection. The doctor had said I couldn’t be trusted to take my meds. Mr. Ed felt sorry for him—a very limited man, he sniffed, who wouldn’t be able to handle the revelation of an older, smarter, race. The Equines were counting on me to break the news of their existence to mankind.

They were tired of hiding in plain sight. Why should those ersatz magical beings, elves and vampires, receive so much adulation when the real thing was sleeping on straw and cropping dead grass at zoos all over the world? It wasn’t fair, Mr. Ed complained. His race deserved better.

I agreed the Equines deserved a chance to get ahead, but had they considered the competition? Vampires are nearly immortal, and can fly, I reminded him. Could the Equines do any magic besides talking? (And elves, in addition to their magical abilities, are house-broken, I did not mention.) We are masters of the spoken word, Mr. Ed answered. Can a dog ask you to brush his fetlocks in twenty languages? Can a horse communicate a preference for Scotch whiskey over oats? He pranced about the room as though my questions troubled him, and I quickly promised to help. An agitated zebra in a small room is no joke.

I want it known that this incident was not the reason Mr. Ed went away. The responsibility lies entirely on Dr. Rajeev. Despite his bulk, Mr. Ed was a sensitive creature, obviously distressed by the savagery the staff demonstrated in administering my “Medicine”. I felt his deepening concern with each injection, a shrinking away from such barbaric ignorance. On a cold winter morning I pleaded with Dr. Rajeev to stop the injections until Mr. Ed recovered, but was too late. Mr. Ed had already gone when I got back to my room. It was February 22, 1983.

Since then, I’ve tried to keep my promise to Mr. Ed. Dr. Rajeev retired recently, after many years of trying to kill me. Dr. Gondapolly has so far refused my petitions to be released so I can spread the word about the Equines. She changes my medication whenever I bring up the subject. I feel sad for her. Mr. Ed would say she’s limited.


Defenestration-Generic Male 01Michael Andreoni’s stories have appeared in U. of Chicago/Euphony, Pif, Iconoclast, Ducts, Calliope, and other publications. He lives near Ann Arbor, Michigan.

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