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Printed from https://www.Writing.Com/view/659112
by Shaara
Rated: E · Short Story · Animal · #659112
Dealing with the death of a loved one has many avenues -- some involve animals...

Dealing with the death of a loved one has many avenues -- some involve animals...

A Writer's Cramp prompt (24 hours/1,000 words or less)


Winter Fog

         I was searching, as I always do, for unmanageable horses. It’s the career I’ve chosen
-- how I make a difference. I give back to horses the confidence that man took away from them. I show them love, restore their trust, and find them a good home.

         But when I drove to McGray’s Arabian ranch on that Tuesday morning, I never knew I’d find a horse so special I’d decide to keep him as my own. That's what I love about horses. I teach them, and they teach me.

         In the arena that day was the most magnificent satin-silk, grayish-white Arabian I’d ever seen. His mane, a mane that flowed long and free, was tossed about like a flamingo dancer waves the hem of her dark, ruby-red dress. The horse's tail arched like a fountain of water, spraying into the breeze. His neck curved, his legs danced the ballet á quatre. My dream horse. I suddenly wanted him more than I’d wanted anything since Tom died last year.

         But when I asked about him, Mr. McGray, the owner, shook his head. “You’d not be want’n that horse, my lass. He’s a crazy one.”

         I refused to listen. All the tales Mr. McGray told me about the gelding’s prior mistreatment, didn't change my mind. In fact, they made me desire the horse even more. I knew I could help him, was certain we were meant for each other.

         The vet arrived shortly after that. I couldn’t believe when I finally understood what the two men were telling me. The vet had come for the purpose of putting the gelding down.

         I trembled at the nearness of such a disaster. A flat tire, another appointment elsewhere, visiting one of the other ranches on my list first – that was all it would have taken to end the magnificent Arab's life.

         I argued for an hour -- until I finally wore both men down. Money traded hands -- not much, since Mr. McGray mainly wanted to get rid of him. At last, Winter Fog was mine.

         The vet tranquilized the poor gelding in order to get him into my trailer. I didn't like to do that, but I lived twenty miles from Mr. McGray’s ranch. I needed to get him to my house. At least, the ride was quick. We were home before Gray Fog awoke from his daze.

         I honked the horn as I drove into my gravel driveway. That summoned my brother. He came out to join me with his usual broad-mouthed grin. He shot a glance into the trailer. “Hey, Sis. You found a new horse to love, huh?”

         “Wait ‘til you see him,” I said. I slid down out of the Chevy and walked back to the trailer.

         The sound of my voice set Winter Fog to banging his hooves against the metal trailer’s walls. He bugled his anger.

         My brother whistled a note of respect as he approached the rear of the trailer. Winter Fog kicked hard. Steve lowered the gate with a watchful eye for the horse's heels.

         “He’s a fire bomb, Steve," I whispered. "The previous owner whipped the poor animal whenever he shied on the trail. That jerk turned the horse into a man hater. Mr. McGray, the owner of the farm down there about twenty miles, the other side of Pete's, says he worked with Winter Fog for weeks and got absolutely nowhere.

          I can believe that," Steve said, watching the horse put another dent into the side of the trailer.

          "Can you believe they were going to put him down? A full-blooded Arab. You've got to see him, Steve. He's so beautiful it hurts."

         “It's not worth risking your life, Carrie, just to save a horse...” Steve’s eyes darkened with concern, but he knew I was a good trainer. He should know I wouldn't take risks.

         “Stop it. You know me better than that. But do you think I could deal with Tom’s loss without horses like these? They’re all that keeps me sane. I need them as much as they need me.”

         That ended the conversation. Steve would never push past my husband’s death. I’d taken an unfair advantage, but I needed full concentration to deal with Winter Fog. Besides, nothing I’d said was false. I meant every word.

         I backed the gelding down. His ears went flat. It looked like someone had ironed them. He was that angry.

          Who ever named him Winter Fog was nuts. The horse wasn’t cool and calm like fog. He was fiery hot. The gelding exploded the moment his hooves hit the ground. He fought me, burned my hands with the ropeburn from his rearing, twisting about, dancing sideways.

         It took both Steve and me to get Winter Fog into the paddock. We let him loose there. His nostrils flared pink as he tested the air. He reared, sent a karate kick out to the side, galloped full force for the fence. His sliding stop sent clods of dirt up into the air.

         Then he turned his rear to the fence and glared at us. He snorted, pawed the ground, tossed his head around in a semi-circle, and bugled another challenge.

          I stood behind the fence, my brother beside me. Neither of us moved. Steve was silent, just watched, but I talked steadily. I told Winter Fog how he didn't have to be afraid anymore. I explained to him that he was safe.

         The horse's body quivered. He began to shake, but he still glared at me, studied me, breathed in my scent. He knew I was the one responsible for his imprisonment. He didn't trust my words one bit.

         He whirled about, kicked at me, although I was a good ten feet away. He galloped around the padock. His tail lifted, but his ears still lay flat, horizontal with anger. Then he stopped and whinnied. Several horses answered. He froze and listened.

         He turned again, stared at me. His huge brown orbs dared me. His front right hoof pawed the earth. The spark of fire where his metal shoe met rock drew my eye. As he continued, a miniature gully appeared in the hard-packed soil.

         Bob, our friendly outdoor cat, chose to ignore the paddock fireworks. He walked towards me, meowed for attention, brushed his head against my legs. I reached down and petted him.

         “Look, I’ve got work to do,” Steve interjected. “Remember the story for the magazine, the one due next week? I can’t get it off the computer disk you gave me. Can you give me a hand?”

         I sighed. “Why can’t you learn to deal with the computer?” I realized after I'd said it, I'd made the words sharper than intended. I started to apologize, but Steve beat me to it. He laughed and shrugged.

          “What are big sisters for?” he asked, then chuckled.

         I followed Steve into the house, left Winter Fog alone so he could get used to the smells and sounds of our stable. I knew he'd do better without me standing there.

         I fixed Steve’s computer disk, or rather, I attempted to teach him one more time how to pull up a file from a disk. Then I copied the story for him onto his hard drive and left Steve to finish his work.

          I paused, poured myself a cup of coffee, then walked through the kitchen out into the yard. I itched to check on Winter Fog.

         No need for worry. You won't believe what I found! The cat had made friends with the gelding. Bob was lying right on top of the horse’s back, as comfortable as you please, and Winter Fog -- instead of bucking him off – which is what most horses would have done, looked relaxed.

         The horse and cat spent most of the day like that. Bob deserted his post a couple of hours later to nibble his kibble, but he didn’t go far. He seemed to like Winter Fog as much as the horse liked him. Nose touching, tongue licking, heavy purring – it was beyond belief.

         Because of Bob, Winter Fog turned out to be one of the easiest horses I've ever worked with. All the others, I sold when they were well-adjusted and calm, but I kept my special gelding.

         Winter Fog is everything I ever wanted. And now as the autumn winds begin to blow, and the leaves take on shades of ruby and tangerine, Winter Fog and I ride out through the woods. Sometimes dear old Bob comes with us, perched happily on the rear.



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Printed from https://www.Writing.Com/view/659112