Word to the wise. If you receive an email, the subject line of which reads with some version of the following: “Finally — there is really something for everybody…” consider yourself warned, and maybe don’t open it. This is not an official Phishing scam warning, here, and bear in mind, by my own logic, I am terribly unwise. But I’m not concerned. It is these very emails that have in the past allowed me to exercise my deepest love, and that is the investigation into the greatest mysteries of the human condition.

The Fence or the Centaur -- Have We Not Crossed Enough Boundaries Here Already?

Now if you know me and or my writing, then you already know I’m interested in WTF moments of nature and culture — the kinds of occurrences that you have to look at and wonder, What in the hell is going on here; that’s a human too? I’ve tackled a few oddities already in a kind of gonzo journalistic cum fiction fashion, so the last time I received an email with the aforementioned subject line, I was actually excited. And what did I find out? The divine world of centaurs is alive and well, perhaps only thriving in an alternate universe much like our own.

Correct. Half-man, half-horse. More than any other half-whatever combination, this particular iteration not only has the fantasy element working for it, but at this point in human evolution, it also has the pre-advanced-technological-mobility nostalgia component working for it as well. These creature fantasies only take into account a human’s ability to walk upright, bipedally, or to mount a horse, and giddy-up on four hooves. No cars, buses, mopeds or anything else featuring motors or wheels. So there’s that, which in my mind makes it a lot like having a fetish for gingham and trying to resurrect Anne of Green Gables times in your own family. But I may be a little bit off in the head. Not sure.

Centauring. That’s correct. I clicked on the link and entered a secret world that combined this half-man half-horse fetish with other seemingly strange body-modification fetishes, which included men with two sets of legs, multiple sets of genitals, etc. Not sure where your mind is supposed to go in order to fill in the “etc.” here. But wherever it wants to go, I suggest you take that ride.

The pictures on the site aren’t so much the interesting part — I mean, clearly they’re Photoshop proof that photo-retouching skills have applications beyond the totally professional ones that might land a person a decent job with the FBI or something. Don’t get me wrong. I dig the photo up there. I mean, it’s a centaur standing next to a fence, rife with interesting analytical possibilities. I went to art school. I was born to deconstruct. Personally, I gravitate to the fence immediately. This is a world being described where there are only a few possibilities. There is the open meadow, “over there.” You can live there by yourself, and not deal with centaurs at all, ever.

Or you can be “over here,” on the “home team,” cajoling and prancing with centaurs, learning from their care-free ways of wisdom, trying to glean exactly how it might feel to exist between natures. And he’s beckoning, slyly, so of course you’re supposed to want to be on that side of the fence.

And there is always a third, perhaps less discrete option. You can go for a ride. You can, in fact, hop on the centaur’s back, after which point, “jumping over the fence” into that meadow “over there” becomes not only an option, but in fact a real serious probability. You’re on a horse. You’re already being transgressive, because you’re holding on to a human torso or else some human hair, not a set of reins. What is being suggested here, not very conspicuously at all, what with the verdant pastures and that fence there, looming in the not too distant background, is to take that ride. Which leads me to think that the centaur fetish has something to do with breaking free, enjoying a third possibility, a liminal state of being wherein one might enjoy not just being themselves, and not just being “other,” but being both at the same time.

And then I read the fiction on the site. My favorite depicts a scene wherein two guys are hanging out doing laundry. Three paragraphs in and I was punching myself in the leg that I had not thought of the scenario before this writer. If I were teaching a class, the prompt to my eager writing students might have sounded like this: “Two men are doing laundry together. They are interested in expediting the chore. Use mythical elements to assist them in completing the task. Now write!”

Apparently the two guys share a secret together — and one that involves body morphing. One guy tells the other the magic word, which he only has to say in order to activate this “other world” where they might perform their household task with that much more efficiency. Blam. He says the word and an extra set of limbs grow. Folding laundry, obviously, is more easily done with four hands. Idiot. But what happens when — Blam! He says the magic word again. And then again. And… again? You bet. Centaurs happen. And the following bit of dialogue, as well:

“‘We can carry some of this laundry on your centaur back,’ I suggested.

‘Why don’t you just ride me and put the laundry between you and me, and I can carry the extra stuff with all of my arms.’

That was just like David; so sensible, even when he was crazy-horny with two erections.”

See what I mean? Maybe you don’t and this is just my odd curiosity misbehaving again. I don’t know. The best part of the story is just how much enjoyment these two guys have doing the most mundane of things. The centaur fantasy isn’t about hanging out playing canasta with unicorns and leprechauns. One doesn’t embark on this journey to get to the other side of some fantastical rainbow. One invites a centaur into their fictional world (or if this was memoir, and not fiction-fantasy, then one invites them into their basement to help them fold clean laundry), to just hang out. To be in the pasture, eating grass and drinking milk together, maybe prepping receipts for tax season or else watching the first episode of this season’s Mad Men.

After laundry, they dance to country music, and it’s wonderful to watch the creature dance in the living room, given the extra feet to look at. Merely sitting down on the couch becomes an act worth marveling at in this world. They climb on kitchen stools and open up beers together. They joke about never being able to lovingly kiss all of the hands present in the room there, on the centaur.

Centaurs... Are... America.

Maybe it’s not such a bad idea after all. I mean, who couldn’t use an extra set of hands, or a few extra sets, around the house. And it might not be so much of a sub-culture either. Roger Daltrey went centaur for an album, you know. So did Pierce Brosnan, and I don’t think a single career move in the last decade has done more for his professional reputation. And what about Mad Men, anyway. Why not have a client come in to the new partners’ office this season, with a brand new product: the Centaur Pants. I could see Don Draper goin’ to town on that one, something like: “It’s not about horses. It’s not about men. It’s about the pasture, and that fence over there. Men sit behind their desk all day, just one magic word away from being half a horse. This is about freedom. Centaurs… are… America.”

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Matty Byloos attended Santa Clara University (BA 1996) and the Art Center College of Design (MFA 2001). His first collection of short stories, Don't Smell the Floss, was published in 2009 by Write Bloody Books; Byloos is an accomplished painter with a history of exhibiting both nationally and internationally. He runs the environmental blog Easy Ways to Go Green. Byloos also contributes to the community lit and humor blog, We Who Are About to Die. Follow him on Twitter here: Matty Byloos Or on his personal site here: Matty Byloos Official Site. Byloos is Editor and Publisher of the literary and culture site, Smalldoggies Magazine.

17 responses to “Where Centaurs Find Themselves in the Whole Love Deal”

  1. Cynthia Hawkins says:

    Welcome Matty! My eye gravitates to the half-dead tree on the left. Okay, he’s not a centaur — he’s a half-faun, half-man — but this reminds me of how my students at an all-girls’ school thought Mr. Tumnus in The Chronicles of Narnia was “like, soooo hot.” Not James McAvoy, but *Mr. Tumnus.*

    • Matty Byloos says:

      Thank you Cynthia! And yes on the sympathetic nature of one, Mr. Tumnus. Glad the students had no problem addressing the line between fiction and reality. Maybe they were promised birthday ponies at some point? And maybe they’d all be great student-candidates for my writing exercise. Feel free to use it if you like.

  2. Joe Daly says:

    Welcome aboard, Matty! This is certainly one of the most unique debuts I’ve seen on here. Who knew the centaur culture could be so engaging? You might have stumbled upon the next emo craze. While vampire fanaticism is inches from tipping into “so five minutes ago,” and “True Blood” prepares its inevitable leap over the shark, you could be tuned into the the next great phenomenon.

    I, for one, will be eager to see how it pans out.

    Great job giving props to Daltrey, btw!

    • Matty Byloos says:

      Thanks Joe Daly. I think you’ve got one of those names that deserves to be pronounced in its entirety. And yes, so engaging and so practical. If centaurs are next, then I’m most worried about what comes after that. Maybe uni-cats.

      And what is up with the Who?! Does any band in the last 60 years have potentially more skeletons in their collective closet? That’s a friggin’ TNB column if ever there was one.

      • Joe Daly says:

        Matty, as someone who has immersed himself in more than one Who biography, I agree that a column on Who decadence would be a lengthy one. Hell, just one about the short life of Keith Moon would require twenty pages of footnotes…

        Yeah, uni-cats can’t be far behind. Which, of course, begs the question- what companies manufacture uni-cat costumes and are those companies publicly traded?

        Cracked up at your use of my full name. Many others insist on doing so as well. It cracks me up. It’s jaunty.

  3. Welcome! Centaurs are pretty great, given a whole new fun factor in the God of War games. The possibilities for Mad Men are wonderful as well. Can you imagine Pete Campbell trying one last time to woo Peggy at the water cooler as a dashing, buff centaur saunters up and steals Peggy away with his manly horse-y-ness? Hot.

    • Matty Byloos says:

      Thanks Justin for the welcome note. I truly wish that centaurs, specifically, not so much fantasy, generally, would make a single episode appearance on Mad Men. And if anyone deserves centaur wooing, it’s Peggy. Fo sho.

  4. dwoz says:

    I have a question.

    Are Centaurs mono-gastric or are they set up like horses, with a cecum and large intestine fermenter?

    The Horse was once described to me as a ruminant designed by a committee, and it would seem that the Centaur is a horse designed by a committee of tween girls. Clearly that committee never considered some of the more important features.

    This may seem like a nit picky point, but it’s really pretty important. Do YOU want to be on the shovel-end of that thing when it’s party time, not really knowing what went in the pretty end?

  5. Simon Smithson says:

    Ha! Oh, how I wish I could see the look on Pete Campbell’s sniveling face as he tried, and failed, to out-masculine a centaur.

    Fuck you, Pete.*

    Welcome aboard, Matty!

    *- aw, Pete. It wasn’t all your fault. Your upbringing set you bad.

    • Matty Byloos says:

      If it were like a prep school / ivy league Centaur and they could challenge each other to like a Polo off or whatever, then I think it might be a good little cat fight. Otherwise, I agree. Ultimate failure.

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