Me: Should I call you burro? I’ll call you whatever you like if you’ll stop braying. Good god, you sound hysterical, and I don’t mean funny. Maybe tomorrow this will be funny, but it’s definitely too early for mirth. We’re tired and a little wine-sotted, us humans camped in a circle of tents, folding furniture, and shelled pickup trucks. I, personally, am unsure whether you’re real or braying in my dreams. You, on the other hoof, have entered a state of hysteria, and that’s serious business. You’re not ready to turn the other cheek.
Me: Donkey, as you stand there rasping and brassing and aw-ee-awing, I can’t help notice how furry you are. You’ve a light brown body. Black tips your enormous ears sticking straight up from your equine head. White fur juts up kinda punk-like inside your ears, the white fur creating a white inner ring. White rings your eyes, but you’re wearing black eyeliner, too. Your brows overhang those white-ringed, black-lined eyes.
Listen, Horseface, you’ve got a furry forehead, furry like a bunny or a retriever puppy’s belly. You’ve a white nose, from the tip to about seven inches up your muzzle. Your nostrils are lined, dark like your eyes.
I can’t smell you from the bed of my truck, but I imagine your scent a woolly blend of sweat and sage and dusty dung.
Your chest is white, as if milk has dribbled from your chin and pooled on your chest and the inside of your forearms. It’s flowed to your underbelly, the barrel of your body. It’s seeped all the way back to the inside of your hind legs, stopping at your hocks, the large joint on your hind legs, which are actually the hindlimb equivalent to us humans’ ankles.
A tuft of light brown fur grows between your ears, marking the beginning of your mane, the coarse hair growing from the dorsal of your neck. Your mane looks punk, too. Donkey, are you a punk? A burro punk? No, I’d say not. Definitely not in the sense of worthless.
Your expression is both alarmed and alarming, your ears pivoting and collapsing to the side from their erect-when-curious posture. Your nostrils flare, your eyes close. We can see the gleam of your incisors and the pink of your gums. Your tongue curls and pokes past the limits of your lips. From some angles, you could be laughing. Heehaw! From others, you look mad, surprised, miffed, put-out. We are sleeping. Please pass. No?
Let me guess.
A. There are many of us. We are in your way.
B. There are many of us. We are in your way and you must warn your fellow burros.
C. There are many of us. We are in your way and we possess carrots. At least one of our multitude could give you a carrot, yes?
Me: OK, what I imagine hearing in my 2 a.m.-blur … you’re saying, A, B, and C, all of the above. Yes, please. Someone fetch me a carrot. I’ve had them before — from tourists like you. Carrots’re delicious — all sweet and crunchy with a kiss of umami savor. I mean, look at these chompers. They’re made for carrots. So get the funk up and get me a carrot. I know you’ve got them. I can smell ‘em. See these nostrils, AW-ee-Awww! And my ears? I can practically hear those orange tapered veggies strutting their crunchy stuff for …
Wait, I’m also getting a scent of cur, those hair-coated, knee-high creatures created to heel and herd and taunt.
Me: Apologies, Burro. I read somewhere that donkeys and dogs don’t mix, something about dogs’ predatory instincts riling you, putting you on guard.
Me: So, you say they stick so close to us humans and yet manage to get under your hooves as well. Barking at you, jumping back, forward again to bark, showing you their teeth, maybe even nipping at your fetlocks. That’s just asking for a kick to the noggin.
You add that this, by the way, is the route you always take from here to there. Here being your late-evening snack spot. There being a water hole at such and such a canyon. It’s cold out here. Have we noticed? See the fur on my head? -you say. Keeps you warm in these frigid desert nights, when temperatures can drop from this to that in a matter of hours.
Donkey, that’s a lot of information to digest at 2 in the morning from the mouth of a very loud burro, a loud burro who sounds upset, and could kick the wits out of me if it turns out I misunderstood the carrot conversation. I shouldn’t give you anything anyway, and I won’t, not if I want you to remain suspicious and wary of us humans. And well should you be wary. We do nutty things in this desert, and nutty things to you burros in particular. I’m of the opinion that you belong here now, even if humans brought you here in the first place 400 odd years ago. I mean, look at my freckle-skinned, fair-haired, light-eyed self. You think I belong in the desert? Who is to say? Bray on.
Me: No? Now you’re done with us. Ah, well, you are incredibly handsome when you shut your mouth, relax your haunches, and turn 90 degrees to continue on your way, albeit via a different route than you’d planned. Adios, Burro, we’ll see you when we see you. Tomorrow, we’re pulling up stakes and stowing our roll-a-tables. We’ll leave nary a carrot peel behind.