Steven, a father-to-son unicorn breeder for 18 generations, was upset. The breeding season was not looking good, but then not good at all.
Already, Lucette had started making milk way too soon—all that wasted colostrum was frustrating. And then, for a few months, they had all had aberrant requirements for their end of gestation. Strawberries in the middle of winter, a great classic, it was just the warm-up; afterwards, we had moved on to a cup of eternal snow sprinkled with Aji Charapita peppers picked on a full moon night, or three grams of cerberus skin diluted in original fruit compote, these kinds of little cravings that are easy to satisfy.
Steven had been limping since his encounter with the Cerberus in question, he had been bitten by a snake and was still nursing his chilblains; frankly, he was sick of it. On the verge of dropping everything to convert to a quieter job, Steven. Anything would do, horn polisher for Minotaurs or toilet paper keeper in a supermarket, anything. He sighed. He needed air, that’s all.
— Steven, have you finished changing my litter?
— No, Leontine, not yet.
— So, what are you doing daydreaming on your pitchfork? These edelweiss are not going to distribute themselves!
— Yes, Leontine.
Nah, frankly, there was no worse job than raising unicorns. Especially since they had unionized. In Grandpa Robert’s time, they would never have dared to ask for anything other than straw in their unicorn boxes. Edelweiss, frankly! The price per kilo was staggering, and it didn’t absorb anything, either! Steven suspected them of testing his resilience. Or his bank account.
And then what an idea, frankly, to breed creatures whose gestation time is twenty-two years. Twenty-two years ! We had time to clean out the boxes before having the privilege of seeing a unicorn!
Fortunately, unicorn hair sold very well on the black market. As long as they didn’t find out, he could easily avoid bankruptcy.
— Steven, tell me, with the friends we would have liked to try…
Steven, sweating from the effort of stirring the edelweiss, painfully sat up and barked:
— What now ?
— Still ? How so again? We didn’t ask you today!
Steven opened his mouth to deliver a scathing repartee, then snapped it dryly. Appealing to Lorette’s intellect was a bad idea; it had been fallow for a good two centuries already, apparently. Arguing with her was like playing chess with a pigeon; no matter your level, the pigeon will just knock over all the pieces, shit on the board and proudly strut around like it’s won.
Steven sighed; Lorette pinched her nostrils and continued, stubbornly:
— With the friends, we would like to test the Kangoo Jump.
— The what?
— The Kangoo Jump, you know, the springs you put under your feet? We saw that on TV.
Ah, yes, TV. Installing the small screen for them in the stables was not the idea of the century, it was confirmed day after day. Fearing the worst, he followed the matriarch to the TV, then waited for the commercial to agree to reappear. Between two day creams with Aloe Vera, he finally discovered the machine, terrified.
— But… it’s for humans!
— You’ll manage to adapt that to our clogs.
— And have you seen the price? You need four of them!
— Yeah, oh, it’s not that bad. We will each do it in turn.
— And you’re sure it’s a great idea, at the end of gestation, like that? Aren’t you supposed to preserve yourselves, be reasonable?
Lucette contented herself with staring at him in silence. All the air from the Himalayas circulated between his two ears, without encountering the slightest neural obstacle. Steven lost himself in the visualization of a snow-white pigeon, decked out in a golden horn, trying to move a chess pawn. He snorted to come back to reality, ran a sweaty hand over his face and capitulated:
— Pink or blue, the Kangoo Jump?
— Hiiiii look, Steven, they are there!
— Yeah, great, wow…
Insensitive to the overflowing enthusiasm of their breeder, the unicorns jostled around the box just placed in front of the stables. The air sparkled, filled with the sequins they let loose in their glee.
— Go Steven, opeeeeeeeen!
Obviously, it was up to him to do all the work, since they were incapable of holding scissors, these devils. He tore open the tape and pulled the coveted items out of their cases, like Arthur pulling Excalibur from the rock. A ray of sunlight illuminated the pearly purple of the shoes. The unicorns sighed together, conquered.
— Well, you have drawn lots who will start?
The tension rose suddenly. Steven realized that several unicorns bore traces of hoof kicks, even bite marks. His instinct for survival screamed death; he raised his arms and bellowed, just in time to avoid the carnage:
— OKEYYYYYYYYYY, calm down, it’s up to me! And the first that jostles me will go last!
— Splash, splash, you’ll be the one to start, one, two, thriiiiiiiii… Lisa-Rose!
— And all those who discuss will be deprived of compote tonight!
Thirty-four adult unicorns sulked, while young Lisa-Rose waddled contentedly. Steven stuffed the toes of the shoes with cotton, then equipped the unicorn with the Kangoo Jump.
— Above all, be careful, huh?
— Yes yes…
— Don’t go too fast or too far… watch out for the lake…
— But yes…
— And if anything happens, you come get me, huh?
She rushed forward without deigning to answer, dropping sequins and rainbows, hopping even more as she passed in front of her upset comrades.
— That’s awesome!
Steven, reassured by his apparent balance, went back to shoveling his edelweiss. It was Loralie who came to alert him, about twenty minutes later.
— Steven? Lisa-Rose still hasn’t come back, and yet it’s our turn! She cheats!
— Let’s not be too quick to judge. Where did she go?
— In the forest ! To hide and go on all afternoon, I’m sure! She cheeps!
Leaving Loralie to her pigeonish hysteria, Steven went in search of the big offender.
— Lisa-Roooooose! Youhou, Lisa-Roooooose!
After a few minutes of fruitless searching, he twisted slightly and put his hand over his mouth to change the sound of his voice:
— The stupid-unicorn is called to the reception, I repeat, the stupid-unicorn is called to the reception!
Her hysterical laughter made all the birds in the area fly away.
— Hey, Steven, it’s not very nice to call me that…
— Lisa-Rose? But where are you ? I do not see you !
— Look higher.
Steven looked up and launched into a very interesting part of “Where’s Wally.” Searching for a white animal in a birch forest, frankly… A burst of purple color caught his eye on the only ash tree in the corner. Lisa-Rose hung from a branch, her legs dangling, her horn deeply planted in the gnarled wood.
— Steven…Steven! Can you stop laughing for five minutes, please?
The rancher wiped away his tears and stood up. Unable to keep his seriousness, he fell back into laughter.
— Yes, yes Lisa-Rose, sorry.
— You come look for me ?
His voice broken by his efforts, he shook his head no, then explained to her:
— First I’m going to need to go back to the stables for a ladder and a saw. I’m coming back, above all, don’t move!
He gave her a bright smile and walked back to the building. Before getting her out of there, he had one urgent thing to do: order two pairs of Kangoo Jump for each unicorn present at the breeding, as well as a camera.
The week was going to be fun, after all.