by DAVID GHERGSON
Vela unhorsed the girl with her foot. She could not remember the name of the creature. The mare was called Manse.
As she fell the girl said, "I know why you did that." Vela placed her on Manse.
"All right?" Vela said. "Now get off." The girl - it was something with an A - hesitated, and Vela slapped Manse hard on the rear to get her going. The horse took off amiably in a lazy trot, circling around. When they returned, Vela said, "You've got to check your mount first. Each of her feet, carefully. Suppose one of them has a nail stuck in it."
"She's not mine," the girl said. It was Aurelia.
"You mean you're not the only one who rides her. That's true, but that doesn't mean she isn't yours as long as you do."
In the house, after Aurelia had seen that Manse had fresh hay and water, Vela gave her a cup of coffee.
"There's caffeine in there," Vela said. "You may not have had it before." Aurelia shook her head. "You're going to now, because there are things I must tell you before you go to sleep."
Aurelia made no move, but after a moment sipped from the cup.
"Tomorrow the others will come, and you have to set an example for them," Vela said.
"You don't," Vela said. "I know you think you have had it bad."
"That's the way I feel," Aurelia said.
"You're right of course. But it won't get these new ones to do what you say because you did this or that, suffered certain things they have not."
"All right," Aurelia said. Light from the full moon slithered into the room.
"Maybe you've been told to share your own experiences." Aurelia said nothing.
"I'm going to tell you how to get anybody you talk to do what you want them to do." Vela called the dog. "This is Larkin. When we came in the door did he greet you in any way?"
"You're not comparing these troubled - what do I call them?"
"Juveniles." Larkin barked softly.
"You've compared us to dogs."
"Yes," Vela said, "but I did not say they were like dogs."
"A dog knows nothing of simple reverse psychology. It is that which parents use on certain children in order to get them to do as they say without realizing they are being made to do it."
"Eventually they realize."
"That's right," Vela said. Outside, she heard dim footsteps and her eyes drifted to a window. Vela told her to put her coffee down.
"Too late for someone you know," Aurelia said. Vela nodded. She hid the girl in a closet. Before closing the door, she said, "If you hear me cough, clap your hands as loud as you can."
Aurelia could barely speak. "To turn out the lights," Vela explained.
She moved to the rear of the house. Moving away from the barn she saw movement in the fields. She slunk closer, shuffling through the high grass. It was the horse, Manse, free of the stables. When she returned to the house Aurelia was gone.
David Ghergson is a writer living in Missouri.
Images by Miriam Cabessa.
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