Short Fiction

Horse-collared by Tom Sheehan

The great storm of 1822 hit greater Boston with swirling winds while Harriet Grant and her three children had left hours earlier to visit her sister in Lynnfield. The route she chose was through a wooded section with few houses en route. Edgar Grant didn’t begin to worry until the storm did not abate, its fury continuing with the wild winds laden with thick, heavy snow building up in a hurry.

If he went out there on his own, it would do little good if he too was caught asunder, unable to penetrate the thick fall, lose himself in such a massive undertaking. He knew he was caught between the good, the bad, and the actual horror of loss every which way he could imagine.

Edgar had made sure his barn was intact, doors tight, critters able to withstand the cold while under cover, the way they always did. And the wood supply in the house was enough to keep it warm enough while wearing proper clothing of a heavier nature than usual. He could rest that way as he continually looked out the window for the family’s return until that was useless too; nobody, especially a woman with her children could be protected for long against the fury of the storm, if they were not now under a roof.

He was feeling useless, not knowing which way to turn in his dilemma; be a fool or be a hero; both ends of his family trapped by indecision perhaps, poor choice of change, fate which controlled every move made, leaving folks up to their own senses, their own luck.

As he put two more logs onto the fire, he realized half his mind was in sync with his latest move of adding wood to the fire; a part of his mind trying to break loose of indecision trying to tear him apart: to leave this room would be the do-all or the end-all.

The wind, in its ferocity, slapped and banged and jarred the house at each edge, on each corner, from the earth under the floor, to the rooftop plastered with snow, and yet holding its own. If he went out there, would it be here when he got back, would it be here if Harriet and the children somehow reached the half-haven of these thin walls?

At that moment, as fate had made up its mind, chance and choice at work, his great white stallion, his lone horse, Galaxy by name, was neighing and knocking his head against the back door of the house, like an alarm without a siren, but with an obvious directive of his own, as if he was saying, “Let’s go get ’em, me and you, Edgar.”

Edgar swore he could hear the thought in his mind. He fumbled into his added clothing, packed a few blankets on the saddle, put on a pair of gloves, eyed the fire, felt for the reigns, took off blindly on the trail to Lynnfield.

Galaxy was a stalwart against extra weight, sharp tugs on the reigns, toes in his gut, ultimate commands he had not heard before, as his great legs and hooves sort of scissored through the thick piles of snow, the wind beating at him as though he was a slave at work under the worst of circumstances, yet plowing on, a resourceful giant.

They had gone a mile when Edgar remembered an old broken-down shack on the side of the trail. He’d never seen a person in it though it kept three walls to the weather and one wall to a huge rock provided by the centuries themselves. Galaxy went at it without pause, as if he smelled blood or spirit, a stout, near-cheering neigh snorted from his great white head, as Edgar Grant’s family came back to life.

With the extra blankets he had packed on Galaxy, he wrapped Muriel and the children, and they rode out the storm as Galaxy did in his own way.

Muriel smiled once before she bundled up, her daughter in her arms, a son at her back, the other son in his father’s grasp, until the sun came out in the morning, peace every which way

On that bright but cold morning, Edgar Grant simply said to Galaxy, “Take us home, boy. Take us home.”

Tom Sheehan

Image by mollyroselee from Pixabay – Snowy scene in the mountains with a hut in the foreground and heavy snow falling.

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