Wednesday, October 04, 2006

A Little Fiction

Tomorrow, after work, Peter and I are off for a much needed long weekend in County Wexford. I wanted some place that was a bit remote/rugged, on the sea, and within a three hours' drive. the Hook Penninsula seems to fit the bill. With running around trying to get ready for this trip, I haven't had time to blog. So it's time to reach back into the files and give you a little something from the Reject pile.

This is a short-short story (under 1,000 words) that I wrote, initially for myself, and then I entered in a couple of contests. It's called "The Dance". Enjoy!

He entered the paddock with a bucket of grain in front of him, a halter behind his back, and the intention to catch the paint mare. The sooner he had her tucked away in the barn, the sooner he could sit barefoot on the back porch with an icy beer. The summer sun was directly in his eyes as he approached the mare.

She was on the edge of the herd, grazing lazily with her broad rear to the sun. She looked like a white horse that’d been the victim of a prank involving a door and a bucket of deep brown paint. The rich brown color started in the middle of her back, oozed unevenly down her sides, and seeped down her legs. Her head was nearly evenly divided between brown and white.

He approached her steadily, shaking the grain bucket and making kissing noises. The other horses expressed some interest, but he warned them off with sharp looks. His gift was only for the queen. He placed the bucket two feet in front of her and waited, both hands behind his back.

She ignored him at first, preferring the sweet summer grass to whatever might be in the bucket. After a couple of minutes, the aroma of oats enticed her to step warily up to the bucket. As she was stretching down to the oats, the man swiftly brought out the halter and stepped in on her left side.

Startled by the movement and annoyed by the cheap trap, the horse snorted and danced away. She took a couple of skipping steps to the side before swinging her body around so she could face her new nemesis. The man cursed under his breath and moved in on her. She stood her ground, ears flattened and tail snapping, daring the man to take another step.

The man paused to evaluate his options. The grain bucket, courteously emptied by another member of the herd, sat on its side. Trickery and bribery were no longer in his arsenal. Even if the lead rope was long enough to lasso her neck, he knew his limitations. He was not a cowboy, although he wished he’d learned a few roping moves. His hastily formulated a Plan B: to trap her in the corner and get the halter on using any force necessary.

The sun’s disappearance was complete and the final curtain of night was not long off. The mosquitoes were now out in force, taunting him with their buzzing, insulting him with their bites. He had the halter in his left hand and the lead rope in his right hand. He stretched out his arms as he moved in on the horse. He stepped up to her fast, yelling for good measure. His angle of approach made flight directly back her best option. She took the bait, trotting quickly to the back corner of the paddock.
As she trotted, he sprinted several yards, his long legs quickly closing the gap.

When she turned around, he was in front of her, his outstretched arms making escape seem impossible. His lips turned up in a half-smile and he could nearly taste his victory beer. As he stepped forward to halter the horse, she reared up, her hooves suddenly dangling before his eyes. The man jumped back, overbalanced on the slick grass and landed on his ass with a heavy thump. The horse darted away, joining the herd in the middle of the paddock.

His tailbone and pride both smarted and he vividly described what was going to happen if he ever got his hands on that horse. He staggered to his feet and squinted into the darkness. The light in the barn was a dim glow and the half-moon gave him shadowy images. From where he stood, the herd looked like a many-headed beast with a thick torso.

He steamed up to the herd, waving his arms and aiming for the middle. He was the bowling ball and they were the pins. He didn’t want a strike — he wanted a paint horse spare. It took two passes to separate the horse he needed. Breathing hard, his sweat cooled in the night breeze. He approached the horse steadily, the dangling lead rope nearly scraping the ground. He circled his right wrist, causing the lead rope to trace vertical circles. The motion transfixed the horse like a watch in a hypnotist’s hand.

The man stopped about four feet in front of the horse. He swung the lead rope a few more times and then let it drop. He stood still, taking deep breaths. He reviewed what had gotten him this far and decided he had nothing to lose by taking a quick break. The horse took a step forward. Surprised, he took a step back.

The horse reached down for a mouthful of grass and then took another step forward. He took a step back, which the horse matched with another step forward. They two-stepped across the paddock until the man felt the rails of the fence at his back. The man held up his right hand, lead rope pinched between his thumb and first finger, and stretched his arm out to the horse’s neck. He gave her a good scratch, hitting an itchy spot just at her mane.

She stretched out her neck and her lips wobbled as she luxuriated in his scratch. He gently slid the lead rope over her neck and then resumed scratching, moving his hand along the line of her mane, pausing every time her lips wobbled. He slowly inched next to her as she dropped her head.

He lowered the halter, letting her poke her nose into the opening before he slipped it onto her head and secured its clasp. He held the lead rope loosely in his hands and started out toward the gate, his willing dance partner trailing behind him.


At 5 October 2006 at 08:52, Blogger Fence said...

Really liked the little details in this, like the mare's lip wobbling :) Hosses are so cute that way

At 7 October 2006 at 02:30, Blogger Career Guy said...

Very nice--I'll have to watch for wobbly lips next time. Think it works on dogs?

At 8 October 2006 at 18:48, Blogger Terri said...

Aw nice. A happy ending for both :)

At 10 October 2006 at 15:39, Blogger Jack's Shack said...

That was nice.

At 14 October 2006 at 03:34, Anonymous Anonymous said...

As someone who's involved with dance I appreciated the story but:

Where have you gone?

Please don't tell me you're leaving too!


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