The Ride

Why would I leave? At three I’m sunk in the couch with Sci-Fi, an hour later I’m with Kate at the stables, the wind fierce off the ocean. I close the gate behind us and we wade through the muck, scouting the brown boys for the Junkie. Pairs of heads raise from the troughs and tails twich, deep soft eyes consider us for a moment. I watch them, aware of their sudden strength. But I watch them like I watch dogs; expecting a wagging tail or some other welcome.

Kate hands me a set of brushes and I sweep No-Name Girl’s soft hair clean of hay and salt. She tolerates my hesitation. I want her to like me. I run my hand over her flanks, down her long nose, searching for the spots she’ll lean into. Not the side of her face, but underneath her chin, a hollow where I scratch and her eyes close briefly.

I try swinging into the saddle quickly as Kate holds the reins, wanting to look self-assured. No-Name Girl steps off towards the pen, yearning for lunch, but I’m able to coax her into following Kate and the Junkie as they set off for the beach. The crest of the hill beckons, the wind nearly blasts me off the saddle, and I grip the reins tightly as she steps, then trots down the steep hill. I’m glad I’m behind Kate so she can’t see my white knuckles. No-Name Girl follows the Junkie closely as we descend, picking over the sandy trail through the trees and the brush. Rubbery plants brush the soles of my boots.

Kate and the Junkie rock slowly ahead; beyond them the sun-warmed cliffs, the sea mist hanging in the air. The beach stretches out, empty, and we kick up sand as we trot, No-Name Girl following the Junkie’s lead. A fine layer of sand skims quickly in the wind across the beach, and I’ve never gone this fast on a living creature; her rhythym sets and I’m at her mercy as we fly. Kate can’t see me clutching the reins; wildness and terror flashing through me.

Is this who I’m going to be now? Everything’s opening up, taking me in strange directions. After a Sunday morning downpour I’m on a horse on the beach. She startles at the bits of seafoam blown free and shooting across the sand. She tries to scale a cliff and I’m going to fall. But I ask her to turn and follow Kate and she does, enduring my weight and fear.

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