We arrived at the country store with only three minutes to closing time so our chances of scoring horse wormer were not good. ‘Leave it to me. Don’t you dare say a word,’ I told the builder boyfriend, who has form in this particular shop, where he is wanted for crimes against worming bureaucracy.
I should explain, for those who don’t own horses: buying a horse wormer is more difficult than scoring crack. I don’t know about crack, of course, but I’m assuming it’s not straightforward. In any case, buying a wormer has to be more complicated because I get the impression people buy crack all the time whereas for everyone I know in the horse world it’s murder buying wormers.
You can buy them on the internet no problem, but if you are old fashioned enough to try to buy one in person, then you are in for a baffling process of interrogation. You must prove to the lady behind the counter that the horse you are buying the wormer for is not drastically sick, underweight, overweight, carrying a very heavy worm burden or a very light worm burden. In fact, it’s hard to get the worm burden right for the purposes of being allowed to buy a tube of wormer.
I always humour the lady and tell her what she wants to hear. But the last time we went into this shop the builder b wanted wormers for his cobs, and he was a little less than persuasive in his application.
‘Hello, I’d like two Equest Pramox please,’ said he like a grinning fool, as the lady behind the counter stood unflinching before him, scowl implacable, arms folded.
‘Hmm,’ she said. And she reached beneath the counter and brought out the hallowed book of worming. The bible. The ledger into which everything worm–orientated is faithfully inscribed. ‘When were they last wormed?’ And she began lovingly fingering the pages, replete with dense, ornate script.
‘Er, not recently,’ he said, like a cretin.
‘Not recently?’ she said, looking as if she wanted to throw him into worming jail right there and then. ‘Are you aware of the dangers of under-worming?’
‘Yes,’ he said, ‘that’s why I’m here to buy wormer.’
‘I cannot find your entry,’ she said, having taken his surname and address. ‘Can you give me a rough idea?’
You see, at this point I would have said ‘I might not be in the book because I bought the last one somewhere else’. But the BB got belligerent. He tried sarcasm. And the lady behind the worming counter doesn’t do sarcasm. ‘They probably haven’t been done since 1975,’ he said, poker-faced.
At which point she started lecturing him about the dangers of over-worming. There is a logic to this. The horse who has never been wormed should not be wormed too aggressively the first time. But of course the BB had been worming, he just wasn’t playing the game. So he went from sarcastic to downright rude: ‘Listen, I can get a bag of cocaine and an automatic gun on the streets of south London quicker than this,’ he said.
‘Over-worming horses, sir, is no joke,’ she said, with a face as if she was sucking lemons.
‘How can I be over-worming them! I can’t get you to sell me wormer!’ he shouted. She stared back murderously, then began a lengthy speech about the difference between encysted and non-encysted worms.
‘They can burrow into the gut wall,’ she said, pouting. ‘I know they can,’ he said. ‘That’s why I’m trying to buy wormers.’ He leaned in. ‘Look. Just give me the wormers.’ And this was said very much in the tone one might use to hold up a bank.
Suffice to say, as we stood there at 5.27 p.m., if the usual wormer lady had been on guard our chances would have been nil, but she wasn’t.
‘Can I have an Equimax please?’ I said, trying to look normal as I addressed another lady behind the counter. She blinked hard and looked terrified. After a long pause, she whispered: ‘I’m afraid she’s not here. I’ll have to phone the manager for authorisation.’ ‘Fine,’ I said, and as she dialled the number I whistled casually. A few seconds later she passed me a phone and a man with a West Country accent said: ‘Er, um… when was it… er…’
‘Last wormed?’ ‘Yes! That’s it!’ ‘It’s here in my diary that she told me to come back on this date and buy Equimax.’ He exhaled with relief. ‘Oh that’s fine then.’ I passed the phone back. ‘He says it’s fine.’ She sighed with relief too, and slid an Equimax over the counter. I felt a surge of euphoria.
‘I don’t suppose…’ Go on, I told myself. Go on. ‘I don’t suppose I could buy one of those packs of dog flea pipettes?’
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