Photo prompt day! Please enjoy some flash fiction from myself and these wonderful ladies:
She use to keep clydesdales here. You know, the really big horses with fuzzy feet. Draft horses built for working and pulling heavy carts of soil and coal, or beer if you believe the commercials. They were always my favorite. Majestic and friendly with velvet noses that bopped up and down when they chewed carrots or the hay I slid through the slots on their stall. I miss those horses. They’ve been gone for years but I still come here looking for them hoping one day I’ll see them milling about in the pasture. The foals balancing on oversized legs and the breeding stallions flicking their tails aggressively in their own fenced in quarters away from the rest.
The horses were always money to her. A financial livelihood and nothing more. She made her income “breeding” them. Creating and selling with some wheeling and dealing and a whole lot of dog hair. So much dog hair. Mary never bred dogs but the woman had so many of them it was a wonder why and how she accumulated such a large herd. On occasion when I would come to see the clydes I would stop in her home to visit. If there was a place to sit on the couch that was dog free, you were guaranteed to be picking dog hair off your ass for the remainder of the day. I don’t know if she let clients in her home or if all business was done elsewhere but I could never help but wonder how odd it was to feel cleaner and more comfortable in the barn with massive horses than in the home with a horde of dogs.
Other than a surplus of animals with an equal amount of animal knowledge, Mary was, as politely as I can put this, very strange. A heavy lisp, greasy hair, and could talk faster than anyone I ever knew. Even when she was flat out wrong about a topic she had a demanding aura that made you listen. Partially because she was covered in dog hair all the time and looked a little homeless or crazy and mostly because you couldn’t really understand what she was saying which added to the intimitation. Was she talking about the atrocity that is whatever-doodle designer dogs or gelding a horse in the back stable? I never really knew and often I was too afraid to ask.
I never considered her my friend but a friend of a friend. She was someone I had met through an acquaintance at a horse show and come to find out, Mary happened to live not far from my own home. Even then, I wasn’t comfortable with the association. It wasn’t because she was odd, dirty, a little crass at times but because of intuition. I loved the clydes and I could sense she didn’t. I was put off by it, from the day I met her, I knew she didn’t really care about them and for some reason I did. I was young and knew very little about horses but there was just something about them that I felt affection for. Almost like receiving a teddy bear as a kid or picking up a stone at the beach. Keeping the stone in your jewelry box for no other reason other than there was just something about it you liked. They weren’t my horses. I never owned one. But I got to know them, made my own nicknames for some of them, and felt like they were my own. When I saw them I believed they were just as happy to see me as I was to see them.
Mary had been told a thousand times to fix the fence. I was there. I knew. Even I mentioned it again and again until her hostility grew and I was afraid to ask anymore. The horses were getting loose and the property owner next door did not like the clydes. They were big and scary. Their hooves were massive and a kick was eye level. If a clyde was spooked, a well placed kick would be deadly. The mustached and severe looking man one house down was very firm, the fence needed to be fixed. I never knew his name but whenever he came around to complain he would look me deep in the eye and give me a look of stern warning. I wished I had asked his name. I wished I could have told him he was right, the fence needed to get fixed but, I didn’t know how to do it myself and it wasn’t my property or place to intervene on the war of wills.
It was only a day or two later a foal was caught in the fence. The sound a horse makes in distress is one that is no one will forget. It hurts your mind. Freezes all your muscles but your heart and makes your skin cold. The mom could easily step over the slacked barrier. The foal, I’m not sure what happened, but he was tangled in the wire, a leg clearly broken. Almost as if he tried to jump and got his leg caught resulting in panic and injury. I had heard the screams, or what you could call the noise, from the barn and ran out to the back fields. The muddy earth making sucking sounds on my boots. This is where I found them, lost and looking for help. I never said a word the entire time I was there. Before I could even turn or call for help Mary was behind me, rifle in hand, expressionless. She handed me a dog hair covered blanket which had been draped over her shoulder.
“Cover the head. Let’s see if we can shake it loose first.”
I did as I was told. Placing the blanket over his eyes, whispering, soothing as best I could. “It” I thought, She just called him “it.” I had a name I called him. One I came up with myself but I could not repeat it now. I don’t think I could ever say his name again.
As soon as she placed her hands on him, he bucked and let out a sound I never knew a horse could make and different from a cry. I soon learned it was a warning cry as I watched his mother who had been standing by run. Run with all her strength. Running from fear.
The bone broke through the skin then. He still cried, bucked, and fought against us both. Later that night I would find fragments of his bone, blood, and tissue in my hair. I remember letting go the foal. Running back toward the barn. Mary fired the rifle immediately after and the world became quiet.
I wish I could say that was the end but it unfortunately wasn’t. She left him there tangled in the fence. His lifeless body covered with a tarp stayed out there for weeks, months, would have been years if the severe mustached neighbor hadn’t complained. At least I assumed it was him because it wasn’t me and I’m not sure who might have known the foal was out there. I should have done something and I didn’t. I was old enough to know but, too young to say anything. It’s a horse, I told myself. She knows more about horses than I ever will. She will bury him soon. I’m sure she will.
The clydes were taken. The dogs too. Once the authorities saw the foal, the condition of the barn, and a few other violations, they did not hesitate to take every last animal from her property. Eventually she left as well and unable to sell her home, the property went into even further decay. Though it’s only been years the property looks like it has been dying for decades. And maybe it has been and I was just too young to notice before. I’m not sure why I still visit. Maybe it’s because I can still smell them. Hear their heavy sighs and remember the feel of their breath on my hand, rooting for treats.
The clydesdales once lived here in this barn. I miss them.
All of them.