My short story I’m Here will be appearing in the Spring issue of Prairie Schooner. I’m Here is about a lot of things–race, body politics, sexual fantasy, horses, internet predators–but mostly it’s about being cold and alone. Read the first page here:
The horse leans into the shed wall like a drunk, fettled skull lowered, ears flat, eyes rolled deep and black in pained reverie. They seem turned inward to some hidden place where Edison was denied access. He strokes its flank and tells it sweet words and when those run out, curse words spoken sweetly, because his fingers are getting cold.
He tells himself that work is a solace. He needs to tell himself this, he decides, because there is so much of it: two cords of wood to split and stack, a roof needing shoveling, water to be hauled, and the shed would need mending too–the horse’s sleek weight had cracked the two-by-fours in the floor and south wall. He stares the task down from a distance, like a sailor falling in love with the sea. He’s not ready to throw himself into the midst of it.
He concedes this: the pulling of the wire brush down the horse’s neck to its finely muscled shoulder. It’s not dying, of course, but it’s in a world of hurt. Its hooves have softened and crumbled, first in a simple, almost graceful cleave, and then into a tree of puzzle shapes, spongy to the touch. When he tried touching one in October, when he first noticed, it splashed hot breath in his face, and by mid-November it wouldn’t let him touch them at all. The goats come close to the shed and it warns them off with a low, bullish grunt.
He isn’t sorry though. It had not even seemed like a choice so much as an instinct, some nerve twitch that had a flavor of self-preservation to it. He would not have been able to live with himself otherwise. The musher, she had stroked its muzzle and said she was going to buy it for dog food and it took Edison a moment to realize she wasn’t joking. The next thing he knew he was doing the math in his head, adding up the money in his savings account, his checking account, in the cigar box on the top shelf in the pantry. The musher begged off, told him he wanted it that way then fine, she wasn’t going to stand in the way of love at first sight. “But that horse isn’t worth anything living,” she said, as it took the apple core from her open palm.