His absence was a heavy blanket over the ranch.
Elliot removed Bullet’s saddle and said, “I know it’s been a while since you’ve ridden. You did well today. Your uncle would’ve liked to see you and Bullet together again.”
I looked at the horse standing a few feet away, twitching its ears at me. “Bullet is getting old. You plan to retire him soon?” I asked.
“Yeah, Deke and I chatted about that before…well, not too long ago.” He glanced at me, pained.
“Just more unfinished business.” I half-smiled and patted Elliot on the back. “I’ll brush Bullet. You go on inside and wash up.” I offered.
Uncle Deke was a loud, boisterous man, the life of Horse Haven. He built it from the ground up, on his back with sweat and blood. His absence was a heavy blanket over the ranch. The sky was gray since his passing, and even the animals were mourning. I talked to Bullet as I lead him to the stables.
“You probably don’t remember when your mother passed, Bullet, but I do. I remember the day you were born ‘ole boy. Maggie gave her life for yours and mine.” He shook his head as if he understood. “She taught me about death and life. She gave me you.” I hugged him hard around his neck. “I’m sorry I haven’t been here lately.” He snorted, with annoyance, it seemed. Then he leaned into me returning my affection.
“I remember Deke holding me and letting me cry over Maggie till I ran out of tears. Then he showed me how to care for you, buddy.”
Deke told me to pay attention to what I was feeling, the sadness, the anger, and remember the love as well. He said he and Elliot felt that strongly for me and that I should take all of that and honor them and Maggie by living the best life I can while I can.
“It’s going to be tough without him, boy.” I let myself cry it out with my old friend. Bullet comforted me with gentle nudges. Even in my sadness, it felt good to be home.
After I showered, I joined Uncle Elliot in the kitchen to help finish making dinner. We sat together to eat and reminisce. A light rain began to fall, and the rhythmic pattering on the windowpane reminded me how exhausted I was.
I remembered Deke telling me about my parent’s car accident. Deke and Elliot raised me here on the ranch. Deke stepped up and took on the responsibility of his sister’s infant daughter. He told me I got my strong will from her, and my nurturing spirit from my dad and it just made sense that I should live with him, and help raise the horses.
I don’t know much else in life that does make sense.
I said goodnight to Elliot and reminded him that I was here to talk if he needed me, and went to my old room to get some sleep.
The morning sun woke me and melted away the remaining gray. A clear sky left me with an unbroken view of the Haven. The same view from my childhood.
I thanked Deke for everything and promised to honor him with the life I have left. Off in the distance, I saw a rainbow encircling the stables. I smiled as a tear slid down my cheek.
– Written for YeahWrite.me Fiction|Poetry weekly writing challenge #264. Prompt up sentence was “I looked at the horse standing a few feet away, twitching its ears at me.” WC 558. Photo from Pexels.com.