Zest Lit Issue 2, October 2013 - Page 52

Black Horse | Bill Vernon

John insisted on riding him barebacked because I thought Gene and Tom had made it look too easy. I told him, ‘Don't do it. They own horses. They ride them all the time.’

John wouldn't listen. Not that he was too lazy to think. I could see that he thought about what I'd said, but my words seemed to make his desire more urgent. Gene and Tom steadied the horse while he climbed on from the top of a wire fence. He straddled the unsaddled brawn without fear, as if he knew what he was doing. He draped his legs around muscles he didn't and perhaps couldn't comprehend, and seated himself freely upon them. Yet I knew he'd never ridden anything bigger than a pony before.

When Gene and Tom gave him the reins, I grabbed them, intending to lead him around. He jerked them away to free himself from me. ‘Let go. I want to ride alone.’

‘Okay then.’ I raised my hands and stood clear, gave up my older-brother duty because I was frustrated. The only way this dumbass would learn was the hard way.

For a few seconds the gelding remained still, muscles twitching so his skin jumped. He stepped onto the worn tractor path and looked around as if saying, ‘Hey, what gives?’ Then feeling the play in his reins, he leaped beyond our reach.

I yelled a warning that might have startled him. He seemed to speed up.

John with a pure, terrified animal scream was carried forward