Summary

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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 691

“A White Horse” follows an amnesiac who calls himself “Ad Magic” as he slowly regains his memory within a phantasmagoric landscape of beachfront Bombay, India. The story begins when the tour bus in which Ad Magic is riding crashes into a truck. Ad Magic has had a premonition of the accident, but that does not stop him from hurtling down the center aisle of the bus. A candy on which he was sucking becomes trapped in his throat, and he is saved by the Bahraini tourists with whom he has been traveling. The event is another source of humor to the other tourists, who have been laughing at him all day. Earlier, at a cave containing a statue of Buddha, they had managed to scare a huge group of bats into flight, sending them swooping toward Ad Magic and causing him to fall into an inch-deep layer of bat guano.

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Ad Magic leaves the bus and heads toward the beach. He meets a young boy who carries a monkey dressed in a red uniform. Ad Magic gives the boy an expensive sweater and so much money that his tour guide insults him. He begins walking away from the tour, past advertisements, a drainage ditch, and a shantytown.

He spies a white horse, which appears about to die. At that moment, he realizes he has once again stopped taking his medications, which has led him to wander away from his daily life, this time to India. He has no idea what his real name is, only that his nickname is Ad Magic. His pockets contain a huge roll of money and a hotel room key. He knows he can determine his identity back in that room, but he does not yet want to know.

As Ad Magic sits with the boy and his monkey, bits of his memory return. He recalls a doctor telling him that he has epilepsy and that it periodically causes him to forget his identity, disappear, and rush about the world, much like a character in a soap opera. Ad Magic knows he has periods of deep depression, in which he feels hatred for everything and everyone, but at this moment, his concern is for the white horse and its suffering.

He determines that the horse used to work for the circus that once occupied the area into which he has wandered. He calls for a doctor and returns to the remains of a Ferris wheel that might have once been turned by the horse. The sight brings back another memory, this time of a childhood visit to a fair, where he had climbed out of a bumper car, fallen, and then been rescued, perhaps by his father.

A doctor arrives, and Ad Magic offers him five hundred dollars, then a thousand, to save the horse. The doctor begins to examine the horse and Ad Magic as well. Ad Magic discovers he has a terrible black eye, and the doctor gives him some pills that make him sleep while the doctor’s boxer dog watches over him.

When Ad Magic awakens, the horse is beginning to look better. The doctor has removed some abscessed teeth and cleaned up its sores. He goes for a swim with the boxer dog and begins to feel a moment of happiness. When he and the dog return, Ad Magic hugs the horse, and the doctor asks what “Ad Magic” means. Ad Magic explains that he writes advertisements and that he sometimes feels he connects with magic, with inspiration. He quickly offers up a few possible ads and says that his ability to create ads is connected to the white horse. He offers the doctor six hundred dollars a month if he will take care of the horse, and more money to watch after the boy.

Ad Magic returns to his hotel room. He looks in his wallet, at a photo of his family, and his identity returns to him. Immediately he begins pouring ideas onto a pad of paper and soon has enough ad ideas for a year. He spends the night writing, and the story ends with him calling his wife.

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Themes