My mother promised that someday we’d gather up all the unwanted horses in the world, and we’d build a home for them. Each horse would have a bronze nameplate on their own stall, each horse would have its own name again.
“How many unwanted horses can there be?” I asked. Every girl in Ms. Cleveland’s class wanted a horse, and one boy too. We had started a club.
Mom went to the closet and brought out a bottle of glue.
“Your father purchased this,” she said. “It’s made from hooves. Ground up, boiled down.”
She screwed off the orange top and held it over the sink. The glue came out slow, like molasses. We had learned about the Great Boston Molasses Flood of 1919 in school. How could that have killed anyone? I wondered as the white ooze dribbled. Mom shook the bottle. Our textbook said that the flood had drowned horses too, that the molasses held them like black flies to sticky paper. Our whole class had cried about that line, even those who weren’t in the horse club.
“Let me see the ingredients,” I demanded.
“They aren’t on here,” Mom said. “Ingredients are only for food.”
The Horsey Club of the Third Grade was up in arms by Wednesday. We met by the birch trees in the far corner of the playground. We wrote letters. We taped our envelopes closed, in case that glue was contaminated.
Do you grind up dogs too? Samuel, our lone boy member, wrote in our best letter. Does your mother know?
The factory wrote us back within a month. Your information is outdated. No animal products are used in our glue, they wrote. It’s polyvinyl acetate emulsions.
“They mean rubber,” Ms. Cleveland explained.
The company also sent a box of glue sticks to the school, addressed to The Horsey Club. The secretary was confused, but Ms. Cleveland signed for it. We took the glue out to the cluster of birch trees. We stuck pictures of horses to the thin white trees, photos we’d cut from Out of the Saddle magazine.
“There is more to be done here,” I declared, waving a fallen branch in the air.
In the coming weeks, we wrote to the Kentucky Derby, to pet food companies. We wrote to other glue factories inquiring about whether their product was rubber-based or horse-based. Ms. Cleveland helped us find the address of the US Embassy in France, where horsemeat is served in restaurants, smoked and salted. Viande de cheval, we wrote, Bonjour. We swore we’d never go to Paris, not even on family vacation.
Again, Samuel proved to be our best letter writer: If children were unwanted, would you grind us up? Ask my father. My skin is fish food, my ears are rawhide, my bones a big puddle of hoof glue.
Ms. Cleveland photocopied Samuel’s letter, and the class signed each copy in the cursive lettering we’d been practicing. We asked Ms. Cleveland to lick all the postage stamps.