Coming Next from MindFuck: Horse Tales by Vincent Diamond

Coming Soon in MindFuck's Six-Pack Series: Horse Tales, by Vincent Diamond

Excerpt from “Holding the Reins”

It shouldn’t have felt like walking towards a prison. Barn Five was painted crisp white with forest green accents on the shutters and doors, and a classic red rooster weathervane sat atop the cupola. But it felt like prison to Marcus Denton. All of his life, he had run towards horses and into happiness: manure-scented walkways, hay-filled stalls, a life awash with gleaming horseflesh. No longer.

It was a brisk winter morning in Florida, the second of January. Marcus carried a steaming coffee cup as he walked through the dawn’s mist. He stopped at the north end of Pasture Fourteen. A slender groom led a horse into the gate, turned the animal to face him, and unhooked its halter. The horse twisted, gave its little free-at-last buck and kick, then cantered towards Marcus. He heard the thud of its hooves on the sod, the whuff of air as it breathed during its run. He couldn’t tell which stallion it was; the animal slipped by him in the mist, a ghost in the fog.

Christmas had cleared his own fog. At his sister’s house in Indiana, his seven-year-old nephew, Anthony, had played on the rug with his new racetrack set, while Marcus nursed a tumbler of Scotch. In late afternoon, the house was quiet around them. Everyone else was napping or occupied elsewhere. Marcus watched Anthony in silence.

“Where’s Uncle Philip?” the boy asked. He varoomed the car over the track, his eyes never leaving the red Corvette in his hand.

“He’s gone, Anthony.”

“Where did he go?”

Had Jeanette told her son what happened? Could Anthony even understand? Should Marcus tell the truth or lie?

Ten heartbeats of silence. Anthony looked up at Marcus, blue eyes wide. “Where did Uncle Philip go?”

Let Jeanette deal with it; he was her kid.

“He’s dead.”

“Oh.” The toy car slipped off the racetrack and Marcus’s heart pinched—just that brushbeat of fear and pain.

He couldn’t watch truck commercials anymore.

“My turtle Emma died.” Anthony kneed over to the car and set back on its path. “But it’s okay. Daddy got me a new one.”

Marcus didn’t reply. His face must have looked strange because Anthony left the room, his little-boy lips trembling.

Marcus stayed, his head bent over to his knees, his arms folded over his head. There were no tears, just an awful wailing inside of himself that he couldn’t stop. When he finally stood up, it was dark, and his arms tingled and sparkled. He could barely move them.

Now, he walked up the path towards the barn with sureness in his steps.

Time to do this. A new year, a new chance.

Marcus didn’t take chances any more.

When he got up to the stallion barn, Lowell O’Connor, his farm manager was there. Lowell was a former jockey, all of five-feet-two-inches tall, and even in middle-age, no more than a hundred forty pounds. But his heart was huge. He had run the operation since last March, run it all without imposing on Marcus’s pain. All he’d ever asked was for Marcus to sign the checks.

“A hearty good mornin’ to ya, Marcus Paul.” His soft Irish brogue washed over Marcus like a balm. There was something so right and soothing about that voice in his barn.

“And to you. Coffee on?”

“Aye. In the office.” His bright blue eyes looked Marcus over. “What brings you here so early?

“What’s going on today?”

“The Glenview Farm mares are due in at two. Donegan wants them to settle in before the early breeding.”

“Who’s the stud?”

I should know this; I’m too out of touch with the barn’s business.

Darth Vader.” A true black stallion, not a wisp of bay or chestnut in his coat. And just as irascible as his namesake. Even Philip had never ridden Vader, and the exercise riders had flipped coins over who would breeze him for his daily work-out while he was racing. The stallion’s fighting spirit had won them over three million dollars during his race days. Now, Vader earned his keep by servicing mares from all over the world.

Want to help?” There was kindness in Lowell’s tone.

“No, you can handle it.” Marcus looked away from Lowell’s piercing gaze. “Pasture Fourteen needs manure pickup today. Please tell the crew.”

“Yes, sir. Shall I tack up Mr. Smartypants for ye?”

“No, thanks. I’m not riding.” Two grooms walked by with frisky stallions on each lead. Their shoes clopped on the cement walkway, the comforting sound of home. “I’m gonna clean out Phil—the tackroom today.”

Lowell looked down the walkway towards the room at the far end of the barn. Since the stallion barn always had less horses, there had been space for Philip’s sizable collection of saddles, bridles, pads and riding clothes. He and Marcus had converted an end stall. They spent a day installing windows, nailing up drywall, and gluing down a cheap vinyl floor. When they were done, Philip lay Marcus out on the cold vinyl and heated them both to a passionate fire.

The door was closed, as always. No one had been inside since March.



MindFuck Fiction Blak Magik is Designed by productive dreams for smashing magazine Bloggerized by Ipiet © 2008