Lime Creek

Free Lime Creek by Joe Henry

Book: Lime Creek by Joe Henry Read Free Book Online
Authors: Joe Henry
looks up from the grain and drinks and then goes back to her feed as I begin to brush her down. And I work over her slowly, remembering her through all the years of my life, with the winter hair already on her. And all the while the sound of her eating in the dim emptiness of the barn is a peace to both of us. I rub my free hand over her following my other hand with the brush and then comb her long thick tail and finally her mane too. And for a momentshe stops the grinding in her jaws and turns and just looks at me and then bows her head over the grain once again.
    I run my hand down her leg and kneel beneath her and then lay each leg in turn across my thigh so I can clean her hooves. She hadn’t had shoes on in over a year since we’d stopped working her, and I remember thinking how good her feet looked all trimmed up even and all. My lifting her feet troubled her though for she continued to shift back and forth and from side to side, and so I worked quickly letting her lean her weight against my shoulder.
    There’s a white Y-shaped scar between the second and third knuckles of my left hand that runs into the webbing between those two fingers that reminds me of a day a couple of years ago when we were out looking for strays and somehow ended up all the way over into Whiskey Basin where I’d never been before. We come out of the timber just at dusk and there’s an old settler’s cabin down below and I know we need to be getting back. But instead we keep on across the abandoned pasture that’s all gone to sage and scrub oak and past the corral that’s twisted over and buried in the tall grass beside the fallen-down barn. Until we approach the disused ranchhouse with the evening star, Venus I think itwas, hanging just above the caved-in roof. And with all the windows poked out too like some old veteran of some ancient war still dressed in the tattered faded remnants of his uniform and with his skeleton’s eyesockets staring and lifeless.
    And I knew I should have dismounted and led the mare on foot in case there was wire somewhere that I couldn’t see, but it was late and I told myself she’d be alright. But I knew even before she stepped between two of the old rotted fenceposts that I was wrong. She steps again and begins to lift that hoof out of the dust and the refuse of decayed leaves, and time somehow seems to slow down almost to a standstill. And so her right forefoot begins to come away from the darkening ground, and with it a careless loop of barbed-wire that’s snared about her fetlock. And as that hoof lifts higher than it should for the next step she begins coming back on her hind legs slowly and slowly so the front of her reaches even higher still and paws at the dark sky as if she were trying to touch Venus which by then shines as bright as a miniature moon. And as I’m trying to coax her with infinite care come girl come girl ahead and down with my voice and my spurs, she overpasses her balance and tumbles backward with a shriek of fright as I crash down too. With her on top of me.
    She rolls across me and as my body turns in the dustI sense her arcing high above me shrieking again at Venus and at that dark barbed stubbornness at her foot that still won’t let go. And waiting and waiting but where she finally breaks herself free and falls back to earth. And waiting and waiting but where the steel-shod hoof as final as nightfall comes crashing down on my hand my left hand and the force of it seems to throw me just half again in the red but tasteless dust leaving only an echoing silence that dims to black. Until however later I don’t know when I feel the reins that must have fallen over her head brushing past my face, and then the soft skin of her muzzle and lips as she nibbles at the ground where I lie seeking my touch.
    I’d finished my grooming and she her eating, and unconsciously I glance again at that scar between my fingers as I fasten her halter and then lead her out into the dull morning. We

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