Friday, September 3

five hundred words

It’s something you have to think about without thinking about it.

Heels down. Head up. Shoulders back. Elbows bent. Straight line from mouth to reins to hands, whose thumbs are on top with fingers loose but confining.

The animal beneath you: 1000 pounds of flesh and bone and muscle, an animal that could kill you with one blow or buck or bite. She has big brown eyes and small perfect triangle ears that are flickering here and there. Always returning to you.

You think without thinking the command. Click. Heel scraping along her right side. Leaning forward, ready for it. It takes her a moment and then the rush. One leaping bound and she’s quicker than the truck you’ve got parked in the driveway, indefinitely if you could ride her to the store and the doctor and into the sunset.

The wind in your face. You aren’t thinking about your weight in your heels or your arms pushing forward and back again with the movement of her head. She’s so fast and not even straining. It’s only been ten seconds and you’re almost at the fenceline at the other side of the field.

Entwine your fingers in her mane, which is part blonde and part brunette and rough with knots. When you get to the fence she will spin on a dime with nothing but your voice as encouragement. She does. You stick with her like the two of you are one being (you are). On the way back you lean into her neck, which is damp with sweat. She changes leads.

This is the point in the race where the crowd goes wild. She’s in fifth gear overdrive, running like she’s winning the Kentucky Derby or saving you from outlaws.

This time you stop her at the end. It takes nothing but sitting deep in the saddle. Saying, Whoa. Whoa, baby. She slows, reluctantly. To a trot and a walk and finally a stop. The both of you puffing.

You ride back to the barn with your feet dangling. You were too busy flying to realize your legs hurt. When you slide off, you have to lean against her. Your calves, inside of your thighs, are shaking that badly. She turns her head and whuffs your back.

What you want more than anything in the world is to sit down and drink a big glass of water, but she comes first. Bridle slides over her ears. Halter on. Saddle, girth loosened and then pulled off her sweaty back. Drop it on the ground; worry about it later. She follows you back to the pasture and after a carrot she’s gone, whinnying to her friends.

Monday morning at school they ask you why you weren’t at the party. You say, “I was with my family.”

And you were.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

God, i love you...

September 4, 2004 at 12:07 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


GA - Keith

September 5, 2004 at 2:52 AM  

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