Snapshot of Adolescence II

The school bus drops me off at the barn after school, and I clean stalls and horses until it is time for my lesson. The manuals and experts measure each animal hand over hand from ground to the tips of its ears. But I measure each creature by how close to flying it feels to ride atop its back. How fast we can go without me screaming, as I cling to the scratchy wisps of mane that run up the horse’s neck. When I find myself gliding through the air and coming into contact with the dirt for the first time, I lie still for a long moment. The gray gelding that tossed me bends his head in my direction. His large, soft nostrils flaring to take in my scent. Then I am laughing, sucking air, and the other young riders stare like I’m crazy. Later, when I am cleaning stalls again, an old mare will step on my foot. And all 1200 pounds of her will press into the bones that make up my toes, snapping those of the longest one. Later, my father will tape it to the others, and I’ll slip my boot on the following day. Sit astride that same mare and clutch her withers as we glide through the dust of a mild October evening.

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