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The Pretty Horses


Michael A. Nielsen

This is not the story of some nobody that finds fame, itís not a story about a rich or a poor kid, or even a kid at all, but where should I begin?

I sat beneath a tree on a grassy hill near an old brick building that appeared crumbled and ancient, yet stood firm in its foundation. All about me were people, milling and conversing about the weather and politics and sports and love, their hands intermingled in handshakes and loving embraces or just the casual touch of a human being. In my lap I held a pad of paper with which I recorded these visions and actions which took place about me. My tie hung from my neck, all blue and green with slashes of occasional red and gold, my shirt all starched and white and comfortable in its own way. I inhaled the deep rich air that swirled gently across the yellow-green grass and began to hum a distant melody as my pencil scratched against the open pad. The dark lead drew straight and twisted lines that blended and curled into shapes of humans and wildlife and how they both coexisted in what seemed like a melodramatic state of happiness.

I drew the lofty trees that sprouted here and there across the crowded field, their limbs stretching proudly up into the morning sky, the leaves dancing in the summer breeze. Beneath, in immense expanses, stood the reddish brick buildings of the University, row upon row, set in sequence as if they must match the very science they contested to be true.

"Draw a strawberry." She said, her dark brown eyes resting on my face and her thin soft lips curving into the hint of a smile. They were pink and red and would probably be the perfect conception of a strawberry and my mind wandered and remembered them sweet and cool against my cheek.

And so I agreed and turned the page and glancing at her lips I began to mold them in my mind and then transfer it onto the pad in deep dark gashes of red and orange and leafy green. The whole while she rested her chin on my shoulder, her curly brown hair falling down against my neck and chest and she was quiet and watched without movement until my rendering was complete. We both gazed at the drawing for several minutes. The crowds about us were beginning to dissipate, pending the beginning of the next series of classes. I sensed a slight longing in her, a division between remaining here with me, watching what I would make for her, touching her skin against mine, listening to the wind, or returning to the ever ominous amount of study required for that day.

I took her hand in mine and held it firmly for a moment, my eyes locked on hers and hinting that I loved her I tore the paper from the pad and folding it, placed it in her soft, sun bleached, leather bag. She smiled and whispered something in my ear and rising and turning she walked away, and I watched her go and admired what I thought was mine until she disappeared around the corner of the library.

I placed my pen inside its case and reached for the brown paper sack that lay all crumpled and cold beside me. From its innards I retrieved two ham sandwiches and carrots and crackers and macaroni and celery salad, a box of apple juice a toothpick and a napkin, and leaning back against the tree, I fed the only hunger I could at this moment. And I smiled and ate and was content.

For hours I contemplated the meaning of different aspects of my life, I wrote and sketched and read from my favorite novel, the relaxing words soothing the wrinkles in my mind and retrieving thoughts and memories of her. In the waning moments of a majestic sunset, she came again to me, crossing the circular field, her step all soft yet brisk as the evening breeze. She sat and admired my works of the day and we talked about this and that and I listened to her voice and held her hand and we watched the sun bleed across the crimson sky until it finally melted behind the western horizon. She pulled the chair up close and gave me leverage with which to place myself upon it and stooping she gathered my books and pencils and paper and the remains of the sack lunch and stuffed them in my blue nylon bag which hung
from the back of the chair. Releasing the brake and thrusting my hands against the wheels, I set the chair in motion. She grasped onto the handles and steadied our voyage across the grass to the smooth pavement walkway that spiders its way between the buildings and trees and small grassy hills until finally reaching the parking lot.

The sky grew dark and cold and the breeze brushed and clung to my numb legs and feet and glancing out across the vast expanse of partitioned blacktop I saw them and they saw us and they came. Yet she continued to speak to me, her voice a soothing melody and she did not understand the danger or merely thought nothing of it until they were upon us and had grabbed her and I cried out. I swung my arms wildly about and struck at them with my fists and raked their flesh with my nails until they pulled her away from me and threw her to the ground and her smooth white knees tore against the jagged gravel. One of them turned and looked at me and I called out to somebody, anybody and nobody replied. I yelled vicious things at them until they beat me across the jaw and against the chest and I heard bones break and felt the blood surging in my mouth and seeping down from my forehead and against my eyelids. They grabbed our bags and began to search through them, their filthy hands rubbing against my pictures and smudging the gentle red of a strawberry, and they tore into her clothing and jeered at her nakedness and kicked her until she could cry no more. With one last rush of energy I threw myself from the wheelchair and in a rage I pulled myself toward them, toward her crumpled body and they laughed at me and spit upon me and then glancing across the parking lot they turned and fled in the opposite direction.

I began to sob as I pulled myself across the ground toward her, the tips of my fingers sliding ragged across the pavement, my blood mixing with hers until I finally reached her side and gently took her bruised and broken body and held her in my arms and my sobs turned to uncontrollable weeping and my sides shook with pain and horror and my legs were cold and dead as usual. I picked the blood clotted strands of hair out of the creases of her mouth and eyes and ran my thumb down her swollen jaw and slender neck searching each vein for a beat of hope. Fear crept into my soul, gripped my heart, stilled my breath, the blood and tears mixing in my eyes and clouding my vision until the pain in my head and in my side drained the strength from my living limbs. My world had fallen and lay breathless in my arms and bled as red as a strawberry.

And then she moaned.

Tonight the sun is orange and the air is warm and I watch as dragonflies skim across the tops of flowers and shrubbery and unpicked weeds. The horses dance in the field, their manes shaggy and black and glistening in the setting sun as my brush folds back and forth smearing color upon color. And when the wind is still and the clouds hover silently above, she comes to me and slides her arms about my neck and kisses me and holds me. And I cannot protect her and yet she remains and I love her for it.

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