by Daniel McKay
Her head was in a different place, the medical report said. I could believe it. Standing in her galoshes, she had the numbed look of someone who’d felt more fists on her skin than raindrops in Autumn.
Ah, you’re hiding over there, are you?
Inside the stalls, she soon began placing herself between the horse and anyone entering. Her hands pressed against the animal’s ears, stroked where its muscles shivered, checked the coat for hair loss.
Good. Sick to death of you getting in the way, I am.
Please don’t hurt the horse, she said, her words tissue-thin. She doesn’t mean it.
Doesn’t mean what?
To be late. She’s always late from work.
Stupid bitch, I told you before. Don’t play games with me.
It’s time for her morning trot.
Half an hour, maximum.
She could use a change of hay as well. Think you can manage that?
Her eyes stayed on me as the horse pulled-and-munched, the wellspring of her anxiety tapped yet holding steady.
Against this, I am a picture of nonchalance: my back on a bale of hay, feet propped up, a trade journal open in front of me. Nothing to worry about. You just get on with things.
After a while, we felt the walkways beckoning to us with their cushioning insistence. What else, then, but to go for a walk, the horse unmounted between us? There you go, easy does it.
I allowed no purpose to these wanderings. Except, of course, the most important one.
So. Where would it be, that lost part of hers?
Under a rock?
Inside the hollow of tree?
There have been occasions with other patients, I’ll admit, who have anesthetized their minds so thoroughly that their lost selves may remain forever so. But those are rarer than you’d think.
A crooked tree, rotten apples underneath.
The excitement behind her eyes did away with any hesitation. In short order: a scamper, a grabbing, eyes darting around for the better ones. The collecting had begun. But did she know what they were, those squashy windfalls?
May I feed her too? My hand, outstretched.
She passes me a couple and, at the same time, I catch the look: a smile that comes and goes, comes and goes yet again, then begins to hold.
Perhaps she does know.
Walking back, each of us carries something precious. No need to point it out, in time she’ll discover it for herself. As I lead the horse into the barn, she glances back the way we’ve come. Tomorrow, she’ll go there alone.
About the author
Daniel McKay is no good at writing catchy bios, preferring instead to horse around and watch the world go by. He neighs objectionably when politicians make asses of themselves, but, against the odds, does not believe the world is going to hell in a haybasket. He has had work published in Every Day Fiction, Literally Stories, The Junction and Tiny Seed Journal