"Horses" by John Yohe

John is a writing teacher at Jackson Community College and is the author of What Nothing Reveals (Ann Street Press).  Visit his site.


© 2011 John Yohe


Cedar City dark by the time he picked her up, and getting cold. The aspen leaves already yellow up in the mountains a few weeks before. Las Vegas for the weekend. Her husband gone, her daughter up in Salt Lake City for an Ani DiFranco concert with friends. He pulled into the driveway and got out. She came out of the house smiling, carrying a travel bag in her left hand. Make up. A black dress, nylons, high heels. He took her bag and they paused, looking at each other. Then she looked around at the other house and said, let’s just get out of here.


They got in his car and he pulled out and drove down the road. After he turned a corner she told him to pull over, leaning over and kissing him. She smiled. I wanted to do that before.


I'm glad. I thought maybe you were having second thoughts.


She leaned back. I am I guess. No, I'm not. It's just, the neighbors. I mean, I don't even know any of them, but still...


And the mormon thing.


And the mormon thing...


He put a hand on her thigh. You look fantastic. I thought about coming into your house and doing it on your bed.


I know you did. We can't...


I know. He started driving again. I'm going to someday though.


She looked out the window.


He glanced at her face. I'm glad we're finally going to spend the night together. That I'm going to wake up with you naked next to me.


She smiled and looked at him. Me too. I'm sorry. It's's hard.


But you really want to.


Yes. God yes. You make me feel...good.


He pulled out onto I-15. But we won't use the 'L' word.


No, we won't.


They drove for a while. The stars out, the mountains dark shadows on their left. The moon just starting to come out behind them, almost full. The freeway started to curve left as they lost elevation. He said, Do you want to do anything special tomorrow?


I was thinking about seeing Cirque du Soleil. Do you want to?




And then afterwards you could take me to a strip club. I've always wanted to see one. Anna says she's going to work at one to pay for college.


Well, it's good money I guess.


She was joking, I hope. But I'm glad I can...






No, I want to know.


But I promised not to talk about him.




It's just, I could never do either of those things with him.


What would he do, gamble?


Yes. Anything but do anything with me.


A truck passed, an old Chevy, pulling an open trailer with four horses in back. The freeway started to straighten out, with one long slow curve. The truck pulled in front of them as they passed a ranch exit. The truck slowly leaned onto the shoulder, then jerked suddenly back into the lane, causing the trailer to tilt on one wheel.


She said oh my god and the horses fell into the side of the trailer and the whole thing tipped over, pulling the truck tail first off the road and down a small embankment.


He slammed on his brakes. They went past and stopped on the shoulder, looking in the rearview mirror. She turned around. Oh my god oh my god...


Shit. Fuck.


Call the police.


Ok, ok. He got his cell phone out and dialed. She got out.


Hey, wait.


I've got to see if they're ok.


Hold on. He got out, giving the information to the operator and they both walked back to the accident.


Somehow the truck hadn't tipped, just jerked back facing the freeway after the trailer finally snapped off. An old man with a white beard and a cowboy hat sat gripping the steering wheel.


The horses strewn around the trailer in rocks and sand. The front legs of one broken and laying in wrong directions, a femur sticking out of the skin. Another's face scraped open, skin torn off exposing the skull bone but with the eyes still moving. The third with a broken neck still twitching and the fourth not moving at all halfway under the trailer.


They scrambled down the embankment but stopped about twenty feet away. She held her hands to her mouth repeating oh my god oh my god.


Goddammit! The old man opened his door and got out. Goddammit! Goddammit goddammit goddammit!


They went over to him and he asked him if he was alright.


Course I'm alright. Goddammit, look at them. Aw, look at them. Jeezuz. Look what I done to them.


A highway patrol car pulled up, red and blues flashing. The officer got out, shining his flashlight down on them. Everyone alright?


They squinted up at him and the old man scowled. Course I'm alright. Shouldn't be, but I am.


The police officer came down next to them and shone his flashlight on the horses. Jeezuz christ.


She started to cry. Do something. Can't you do something? Call somebody.


Ma'am, I'm not sure there's anything I can do.


The old man shook his head. Only one thing to do. One thing. He got back in his truck.


The police officer got out a notepad. Now, were you the folks who called?


He sighed. Yes. I called, We were behind them.


Stop it! Stop it! They're dying! Call somebody to help them!


Ma'am, I can't. We'll call for a tow truck.


What about the horses?




The old man got out with a rifle. Goddammit, you goddamn old fool, now you gotta do this. Gotta do this.


She screamed. No! What are you going to do?


He grabbed her and she put her face on his chest.


Don't let him do it! Don't!


The old man went over the first horse and put the rifle barrel to its head. The horse grunted once and he shot. The second horse followed him with its eyes and the old man started to cry and shot it. The third twitched and gave a high-pitched whine that none of them had ever heard a horse make before, then after the shot was still. He put a bullet in the forth just to be sure, then threw the rifle away and came down to his knees crying.


The officer continued to ask for information. Name and address. Is this your wife?


He stared at the horses. My wife? No, she lives in Phoenix now.


Then is this—


The tow truck pulled up with an ambulance behind it and the officer went up to talk to them.


They stood holding each other, when he suddenly jerked away and fell to the ground, vomiting. He retched until nothing more came out, then spit and wiped his mouth.


She stared at him and wiped her nose. Let's go. Let's leave.


He stood up. I'm sorry.


I don't care. Let's go.




He checked with the officer who said it was ok and they went back to his car and got in. They sat there a second. A car passed and lit up the interior briefly, bright white.


He started the car and pulled away.


She wiped her nose again. I want to go home, ok?




I just want to go home.


I know. He put his hand on her thigh.


Don't. She lifted it off. Just don't. Not now.


Ok. Sorry.


Don't say you're sorry. Just don't. I want to talk to my baby. Just...Can I use your phone?


Yeah, here. He gave it to her and turned off on the exit, crossed on the overpass down into the northbound lane. She dialed and put the phone to her ear. It rang four times. Hello baby? It's your mom.


They both watched the flashing lights of the accident as they passed.


No baby, I'm not at home, I'm…There was just an accident…I’m calling from...someone's phone.















All work is copyrighted property of John Yohe.










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