A Horse That’s Dead is Heavy as Lead

Habeas Equus

a short story

I’d previously thought dead weight meant lazy, because Dad had hung the words on Fossie when he forgot to trim the weeds around the elm stump out by the road. I learned better that day in the barn when the three of us couldn’t budge the dead mare from the stall floor — right where she had fallen like a one-ton bag of cement sometime the night before. The palomino hadn’t been much to look at when she was living, with bones poking against her skin like she was a sack of walnuts on four legs. But death had changed the old girl, made her seem bigger, too big for the three of us to yank her from her resting place.

“At this rate, we’ll be here all day and into tomorrow,” Dad said. Those were the first words he’d spoken since the horse had turned up dead. Dad never cared much for shooting the breeze, and he was extra quiet that day. Out of breath from tugging at the horse, my father looked like he might keel over, leaving me and Fossie to deal with both him and the horse. Dad wasn’t exactly light as a feather, so I doubted we could budge him either.

Dad leaned against the barn wall, pulled a wadded handkerchief from his back pocket and wiped sweat beads from his brow. His shoulders drooped like they were being forced down by the weight of his jowly head. He had added a few pounds in middle age, which wouldn’t help us to get the dead horse any closer to the barn door.

I was busy pouting, more or less on general principle, and had nothing to say on the matter of the horse or anything else. I just wanted to get the thing over with so I could retreat from the lung-sucking heat of the barn. I couldn’t see how chattering away was going to get that done. But Fossie, older than me by three years, hardly ever shut up. He leaned against the wall next to Dad with his arms folded and asked, “How much you think she weighs?”

Dad grunted. “At least a pound more’n we can handle, it would appear.”

“I bet we’d get her out quick if we had another set of hands,” Fossie said.

“You keep an extra pair in your pocket?” The Old Man was well-past frustrated with the status of his equine property, a problem he hadn’t counted on the day he was supposed to be off the place he rented.

“I bet Cloyd’d help out if we asked,” Fossie said. I could have choked him right then if my hands had been big enough to wrap around his thick neck. Only someone as stupid as my brother would bring up Cloyd Farris the day before Dad headed to prison.

If you’re interested in reading the rest of Habeas Equus (about five pages), go to Smashwords and use this coupon code to download it for free: AR73P

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