Read Finding Somewhere Online

Authors: Joseph Monninger

Finding Somewhere (12 page)

BOOK: Finding Somewhere
12.19Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

“Saturday, I think.”

“I’m eighteen, so someone will sell me a gun. I don’t know if they sell them on Saturdays, though.”

“That’s crazy.”

She shrugged. She moved her feet to get them in the line of the air blower.

“I did this to him,” I said, my eyes getting cloudy again. “To Speed. I should have let him go.”

“Nobody did anything to anybody. He’s just old, Hattie. It’s not like we didn’t know something like this could happen.”

I forced myself to look out at the meadow. Speed still lay where we had left him. The other horses had wandered off a couple hundred yards. I couldn’t stand seeing him all by himself in the snow.

“Why don’t you go and get some food?” I said. “Bring some back. And if you can get a gun, go ahead. Use the money.”

“You’re coming with me,” she said. “We’re not splitting up. That’s the way every horror movie starts. People split up and they get killed off.”

She smiled, trying to joke. I shook my head.

“I can’t leave him like that,” I said, nodding toward the window. “Not all by himself.”

“We don’t have much choice, Hattie. You need to eat and you need to get cleaned up. We’ll get back here as quick as we can. Come on. The longer we sit here, the longer he has to suffer. Maybe we can find a vet. What else can we do?”

I put my head against the window. The coolness felt good on my forehead and spread down to my nose.

“I’m at least going to throw a blanket on him.”

I jumped out and grabbed a blanket from the back. I took my time walking through the gate and then across the meadow. The sun had turned the sky aluminum gray. I clucked my tongue and told Speed where I was. I fluffed the blanket over my forearm to figure out how I could toss it evenly over him. I stood away from his hooves. Then I shot the blanket out in a swirl and tried to settle it on him.

Astonishingly, he lifted. The blanket must have frightened him, or something must have snapped inside him, but he rolled quickly and got his front legs under him. Then his back legs twisted and dug to get under him, and in a big heave he rocked onto his feet. He passed wind in a long, horrible trombone slide, and his feet threatened to glass out from under him. I shouted for Delores but she had already seen. She clambered through the gate and came sliding up on the icy grass.

“Who’s that good-looking boy?” she yelled, her voice
going up and crazy, her steps bringing her close enough to pat him. “Who is he?”

“I can’t believe it,” I said, and I couldn’t.

“He’s the best. He’s the absolute best.”

“He still looks like sin,” I said. “He’s weak.”

“Let’s load him and take him into town. We’ll give him some hay, and maybe we can find some of those alfalfa pellets Julie talked about. Some vitamins or whatever.”

“We need to get him into a barn,” I said.

“Well, we can figure it all out. He’s up, that’s the main thing. He might have just been sleeping. Horses do nutty things.”

I put my arms around Speed’s neck. His head hung low as if he didn’t have the strength to lift it. I kissed him. I kissed him ten times.

“He’s okay, Hattie,” Delores said, running her hand on his back. “He’s as okay as he’s been these last few days.”

“Did you mean what you were saying about a gun?” I asked her. “I need to know.”

“People use a twenty-two,” she said, her voice steady and calm. “I’ve seen it done once. Some people pay for a vet to give them barbiturates, but I’m not sure that’s any easier. A gun is quicker, and a horse won’t know a thing. My uncle
Willy always said it was the best death in the world for a horse. No suffering. Just gone.”

“I’m not ready for that yet,” I said.

“I’m not suggesting it. What I’m saying is his condition probably hasn’t changed all that much. He was just down for the count. He’s been standing a long time on the trip. Maybe he just needed to rest for a while. He came right up when you threw that blanket on him.”

I nodded. He did.

“Where?” I asked.

“Where what?”

“Where does the gun go?”

She looked away.

“You hold it perpendicular to the forehead and you put it in the center of an X that runs from the left ear to the right eye.”

“You looked it up,” I said. “Before we even started, you looked it up.”

She nodded.

“And you figured it might come to that?” I asked.

“That’s not true,” she said. “I saw it done once, like I said. I checked it as a preventive. You know, just in case. I was on Google.”

I kept my arms around Speed. We stood for a little while
without talking. The sun kept building and shoving light into the ice and bringing out colors.

W
E STOPPED AT A PLACE CALLED
P
IGLETS
.

On a big yellow sign with a neon waitress carrying a tray on her shoulder, the restaurant advertised a breakfast for $9.95, all you can eat. We parked close enough so that we could watch Speed in the trailer. He shifted his weight as we stopped. Delores glanced at the mirror once, fluffed her hair, then came around to my side.

“Bring a change of clothes,” she reminded me. “You look like you’ve been made into sausage.”

“Okay,” I said.

“We can get the buffet and eat our brains out.”

I nodded. I turned around and checked on Speed. He looked stable, his long head held in a better position than before. I told him he was a good boy, then grabbed my small bag containing a new T-shirt and my toiletries and followed Delores inside.

A hostess who was about our age had trouble keeping her eyes off my bloody nose. Her name tag said
Florence
. She stood behind a lectern that appeared to be held up by two chubby pigs. The pigs smiled more than she did. She looked
down at a book on her hostess stand when we stood in front of her. Delores told her a table for two. Florence didn’t acknowledge us for a second. Delores cast a quick look around. The restaurant was far from crowded. Delores looked at me and crossed her eyes.

“Two?” Florence asked after an awkward moment.

Delores nodded. I knew if she hadn’t been so hungry she would have told Florence to suck an egg.

I scooted by them both and went to the ladies’ room. It was a big room, fronted with tile. The pig motif danced its way in from the front of the restaurant. Girl pigs in dresses and tutus peeked out from behind the mirrors. They looked coy and silly, like piggy perverts who wanted to cover up their staring by nutty cheeriness. The tile made everything noisy and cold. A hand dryer hummed all by itself on the far wall, as if someone couldn’t stand the racket any longer and ran away. Someone occupied the far stall. Maybe they had turned on the hand dryer for white noise.

I stopped at the first sink and felt a little shock at the condition of my face. Speed had knocked me a good one. Blood had dried along my cheeks and down on my neck. Blood clotted my right nostril. My coat had the worst of it; blood went down next to my zipper in a red band, a tiny river swirling back and forth as it went. I put my bag onto
a small shelf above the sinks just as the woman in the stall stepped out. She flushed and let the door swing back too far. She had a big shape, round and thick, and she wore painter pants and a navy peacoat. She appeared to be midthirties. Her eyes darted at mine, and I saw the blood register. It took me a moment to see it as she must have seen it—a domestic violence thing, a girl quivering in a restroom—and thinking it somehow gave her permission to speak.

“You okay?” she asked, stepping to the sink farthest down the row. “You need any help?”

She waited to turn on her faucets. She held her hands up a little like a TV doctor waiting to scrub up.

“I’m fine,” I said. “An accident.”

“You’re sure?” she asked.

She looked at me.

“A horse,” I said.

She nodded and slowly turned on the faucets. She washed her hands, pumping the soap a couple extra times. Meanwhile, I took off my jacket. I hung it on a stall door, then bent and cleaned my face. The water felt good, but whenever my hands brushed my face, it hurt. I ladled water toward my cheeks and nose for a long time. I felt shaky and tired and hungry. When I looked again at my face, most of the blood had disappeared. The woman, though, still studied me.

“Nobody rides horses this time of year,” she said, hitting the hand dryer with her elbow, then shoving her hands under the air. “At least I don’t think they do.”

“It was a horse,” I said. “I appreciate your concern, but it was a horse.”

She made a little pout with her face, then left. I slipped off my shirt and dug through my bag for something clean to wear. I pulled my SPAM T-shirt over my head and then spent a few minutes cleaning my jeans with rolled-up toilet paper and soap and water. Afterward I stood so the hand dryer could dry my pants. The hot air made me drowsy. An old woman came in, stared at me, shook her head, then ducked into the stall where the other woman had been.

When I found Delores seated in a booth, she already had three plates in front of her. I slid in across from her.

“How’s Speed?” I asked, looking out.

His tail flicked. I watched the trailer shift a little in response to his weight change.

“He’s okay,” she said. “I’ve been watching him. He’s moving around in there, anyway.”

She nodded at me.

“You look better,” she said. “You were gruesome there for a while.”

“I feel better.”

“I couldn’t wait to eat,” she said, her fingers unwrapping a butter pat. “Sorry. But you can get whatever you want. The waitress asked if I wanted coffee, but I said we’d have tea. Is that okay?”

She buttered a piece of raisin toast. The sound of the knife going over the bread reminded me of the sleet the night before, the frozen water hitting the truck roof and the pin oak and the gate.

“I’ll always remember that ride last night,” Delores said. “That was worth the whole trip right there. That’s a good memory.”

“Are we to Blue Earth yet?” I asked.

“No,” she said, taking a big bite of toast. “I don’t think so. What’s your obsession with Blue Earth?”

“It’s where they say the sky opens up like it does out West.”

“Who said?”

“I don’t know,” I said. “People, I guess. I’ve always wanted to see it.”

“I’m the one who told you, you weirdo. Jackie, that hippie girl I used to work with, she told me. She used to come out here all the time.”

“So, mystery solved. You told me. It just feels like maybe it would be a cliff or something, or a place where one kind of
sky gave way to another. I don’t know. It got into my imagination somehow.”

“Let’s try to spend the night in Blue Earth,” she said. “We got a late start anyway now. We could use the rest, and so could Speed. And we can look into getting him some vitamin supplements.”

I nodded. I watched Speed’s tail flick out and over the back gate. Then it pulled back in again. For a minute or two I didn’t move. I felt glassy and quiet and warm sitting in the sunlight that came through the window. I’m not sure why, but an old song came into my head, and it was so clear, it caught my breath. It was called “Stewball,” and my father had taught it to me when I was a little girl. A folk group named Peter, Paul and Mary used to sing it in three-part harmony. Dad played it off a vinyl record player, which he never did except when he felt good and happy and maybe a little drunk. Mom always left the room when he pulled out old records—Cat Stevens and early James Taylor and Judy Collins—because she said it turned him into a sentimental slob and it made him think of earlier days, and she couldn’t stand watching him yearn for a past that wasn’t so great anyway. He knew all the songs, even which groove the stylus needed to hit to play which song, and he drank Pabst Blue Ribbons and sang.

“Stewball” was a ballad about longing and lost lives, about putting your money on the wrong horse, but I loved it because in one verse Stewball, who wasn’t supposed to win but did anyway, “came a-prancing and a-dancing, my noble Stewball.” Dad knew I loved it for the horse stuff and when that bit about Stewball crackled off the vinyl he used to whirr up his arms like horse legs and make a nickering sound. Our secret, Stewball. Our noble, Stewball.

W
E STOPPED FOR THE NIGHT AT AN
E
CONO
L
ODGE OUTSIDE
of Blue Earth, Minnesota. It took us a long time to negotiate a deal with the desk clerk—a thin, coat-hanger woman with gray hair, wearing a Western shirt with white swirls across her collarbones—to let Speed graze on grass behind the buildings. The only reason she agreed, she said, was that the Ak-Sar-Ben’s River City Rodeo was in town, and she had more cowboys and rodeo people around than anyone knew what to do with. It wasn’t the first time people had asked to put a horse onto her grass.

“He pulls loose and gets into traffic, don’t go blaming me,” she said, her eyeglasses glinting in the fluorescent light.

“We won’t,” Delores promised.

“I mean it,” she said. “Not a word.”

With the key in hand, we drove the trailer around back and eased Speed onto a half acre of scrubby brush at the rear of the building. I tethered him out while Delores gave him some hay from the trailer. He shook a little inside his skin and didn’t look completely steady on his legs. Delores chucked his chin up and stood for a while looking him over. Speed smelled good and clean after I brushed out a few flecks of manure from his tail, but he still seemed baggy inside, like something had begun to drain away.

“You’ll be okay here, Speedy,” Delores said. “You just settle down for a while.”

“He’s soft-feeling,” I said. “I don’t like it.”

“What’s that mean, ‘soft-feeling’?” she asked, still inspecting him.

“I don’t know,” I said. “It feels like something is changing in him.”

“You can’t worry about him so much, Hattie,” she said. “He’s come all this way. He’s going to do what he’s going to do. All the worrying in the world won’t change a thing.”

Still, we fussed over him a little longer. The grass around him looked tired of summer. He picked at the hay Delores carried from the trailer. The swish of hay rubbing together
reminded me of barns and late afternoons. If I was honest, though, I couldn’t say he looked much different from how he always looked. He was just an old horse. I stepped back and examined him. Thoughts didn’t stay pinned down long enough for me to make sense of them. Looking at Speed was like looking at fresh paint on a wall. For a second you thought he looked one way. Then the light changed, or the paint sank deeper into the drywall, and something different caught your eye.

BOOK: Finding Somewhere
12.19Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

Other books

Tell Me I'm Dreamin' by Eboni Snoe
Sookie 08 From Dead To Worse by Charlaine Harris
Hamilton, Donald - Novel 02 by The Steel Mirror (v2.1)
Sorceress (Book 2) by Jim Bernheimer
The Corporal Works of Murder by Carol Anne O'Marie
London Urban Legends by Scott Wood
Demon Seed by Dean Koontz