Shooting a Horse

Michael Klecker

Michael Klecker

We headed down to the barn. It was winter.

It was my brother and I, and the horse had lamed herself out and was dying. My dad gave us the .30-06. Said shoot it. My brother carried the gun and he looked too small for it, with his oversized boots and hat. Maybe we both looked too small for it, but he was younger than I. She was on her side, and huffed the air in large breaths and snorted. Bone stuck out of her leg and the snow was red. He peered down the sights, so careful. I know he could see her brown hair, her dark mane. He shot her in the neck so my sister could watch while we buried her. But it was winter so we didn’t bury her. I remember now. We laid her in the ditch along the side of the dry-run in the field behind the house. Her ribs protruded in the spring and in summer her skin was dry and stretched and by fall she was gone.

Before that it was fall. And all the leaves came down and all our shivering cats crawled into the barns or sheds with their half-raised young. We shot the extra pumpkins that had grown too large to use. We were practicing. The snows had come and we waited and waited for them to fall thickly, so we could bury ourselves in them.

Before that it was summer. We threw dirt clods from the garden at wasp nests on the shed wall. We climbed the trees of our land. We rode dirty bikes through mud to the creek to fish. We watered animals. We laid in the summer sun and watched the sky pull itself around. We went into the house for lunch. Our mother served it on an old wood table. She smiled at us as we ate tomato soup. As we ate hot dogs. As we ate pot pies. Then in the evening the storms came, ranging, from the south. They lit the whole dark sky. They blotted out the stars. They looked like huge beasts, come to destroy the land we had conquered.

Before that it was spring. The rabbits and squirrels and raccoons my father shot in the winter were tossed in a metal culvert that had been plunged in the ground at an angle, and they’d build up in there, frozen. And then when the thaw came their carcasses softened, and out of the ground the bugs would creep, and the flies burrowed warmly into them, and soon they writhed as if they were alive again. And we peered down at them on tiptoes and we took long sticks and poked their bulging bellies and they split, and the white poured out like a moving snow.

And before that it was winter again, and, without knowing it, we were waiting for horses to die. But we were just boys. We still dreamt of summer, dreamt of laying out once again and watching the clouds, pointing, “There! An elephant. There, a giraffe.” We could imagine the blueness of it all. Winter, and the animals of our world had not yet died around us.

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