The Orphan: Part Four

Busy times! My sister’s wedding approaches very soon. Then my birthday is coming up. I’m working on the novel edits. And it’s just been all-around busy. I didn’t want to miss bringing the next part of the story to you. I hope you enjoy!

Part Four: The Horse

His skin flinched at each crack of the whip. It made contact only some of the time but there was no pattern to it so he never knew when he would feel the sting against his flesh. If he kept straight, pulled harder, didn’t stumble or trip, maybe the whip wouldn’t crack at all. But that was a foolish fantasy. The next whip crack always came.

The sun tilted to the horizon but the cracking of the whip didn’t stop today. When the sky turned black and the crescent moon appeared. There was anger then, from the other, but he didn’t bother to try to understand. He just kept on beneath the cracking of the whip.

The traces pulled back on his head and he stopped. He turned his head from one side to the other. He wasn’t near the barn. Why stop here? The other made a thud as they landed on the ground behind him. He couldn’t see them there. But he heard the other was walking away. The sound of his feet on the ground made a soft rustle – thump, rustle – thump. Then there was silence.

No, not silence. The crickets sang in the grass. The wind rustled to the tall grasses and the few trees. He let his head droop and nuzzled the ground. But there was no grass her to eat. Oh but there was a bit left behind after the harvesting. But it was hot. Too hot. Was this the right time? No. Yes. Maybe? He didn’t remember.

The harness weighed him down. It wasn’t supposed to be there. He should be in the barn, he thought. The other will return to remove it. To take him to the barn. To water and hay.

The moon climbed. He watched it. The face on its surface looked down. It was indifferent to his plight. And the other didn’t come. His mouth was dry. So dry. He bowed his head again but there was no moisture on the ground. He shook his whole body and  felt the harness slide against his skin. He shook again, harder. It slid. But the straps held. He continued in this way and the harness grew a little looser each time. His mouth was so dry! He kicked his legs out behind and felt his feet connect with the wood of the plow. Again. Again. The shock vibrated through his legs. He kicked out again. Wood splintered.

He darted forward. The harness, now loosed from the plow, dangled and dragged. But he crossed the field to the water trough by the barn. He dropped his head into the water. It washed over his muzzle and filled his mouth. He gulped it down.

The smell of grass filled his nostrils then. He clopped over to the green-smelling ground and waded into the grasses as they tickled his chest and belly. He walked a little while grazing, dragging the harness behind.

An itch. On his back. He lowered his body to the ground, rolled to his side and over to his back. He kicked his legs with the joy of it and rubbed his back. He rolled and wiggled and the straps continued to work their way free until the harness had fallen to pieces on the ground all around him.

Back on his feet, he looked around. There was the woods just past the house where the other had gone. Where the other kept its family. He shook his head and looked up at the stars. He remembered something. But what was it? He had a hard time focusing. Something about the shapes in the sky was familiar. A guidepost, the way to go. He walked slowly past the house and into the trees.

A statue at the Kentucky Horse Park (May 2015)