Outside the living room window, an ashen sky momentarily holds the rain in check. I scamper to the kitchen and out the back door where a chill envelops me. Undeterred, I make my way down the steps, towards a sodden lawn in need of a mowing, all the while mentally jostling anticipation with a surfacing disappointment. With sisters at school and a little brother asleep, I'm alone. Things are never very exciting when I'm forced to fend for myself and up until this moment the concept of solitary play has eluded me.
Standing here, I exhale a sigh of resolve and scan the periphery. Movement. Behind the fence. As curiosity propels me, I ignore the icy seepage caused by inadequate sneakers and trudge ahead for a closer look. Nearing the fence, I'm reminded of the carpet of mud that abuts our yard. Sadly, it has completely replaced all traces green that typically surround the homes of the neighborhood.
|Wolfgang Staudt photo
From a smallish opening in an ailing fence, I'm fixated on the continuing movement coming from the arching blackberry brambles. A telltale snort follows, removing all doubt as to its source--the neighbor's horse. He seems equally curious about my movements and lumbers through the mud to get a closer look at me. Just on the other side of the fence, stands a once-white, towering creature wearing his pathetic surroundings, a brown camouflage of animal neglect.
Thoughts of a sister and her ease with all things equine come to mind. And because I live to emulate her in every way conceivable, my impetuous plot is quickly formed and executed. Grasped within my five year old's palm is a wrinkly mess of iris blossoms that I've just snatched from the weedy bed next to the fence. I hold it up for a yellowed arc of teeth and the creature hungrily grabs and chews. Feeling rather smug, I reach for another blossom, unaware that the horse has stepped back, raised his head and is now caterwauling what I assume is his displeasure with iris, with me.
A wave of terror sends me running back towards safety, up the steps and into the confines of the house.