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Her characters are vibrant, flawed, vulnerable, and above all, wholly memorable. This is a beautiful, sensitive, and sophisticated debut. Rutting Season tackles hard topics—grief, death, poverty, the search for self and shelter—with haunting beauty. Smith is a phenomenal new talent. Mandeliene has waited tables, weeded gardens, taught writing, worked as a secretary, and translated books into Braille, among other things. The author of Rutting Season , she currently lives in Lexington, Massachusetts, with her husband, her two daughters, and two dogs.
All rights reserved. Not on the main road, which Pam might have expected, but on the dirt track that formed the western boundary of the farm. How was it possible? No one even drove there. But there he was, splayed out in the lush, green weeds of the shoulder, his sweet muzzle soaked with blood.
Pam wrapped him in her coat and carried him across the field to the house, his body still soft in her arms. With the kittens, the vet thought it was some sort of congenital defect. And the duckling? Who knew? The children needed an explanation for everything. Pam turned back to the sink, unconsciously shutting out the sight of his smooth, too-serious face. He was seven years old and his father was dead. The chicks died, the barn cat came down with distemper, the goats wandered out onto the rotten ice of the pond and drowned.
Besides, she had always hated the hamster. She saw again the little curved teeth, the furry face. Greedy and self-serving. It would have eaten its own ass if it could have gotten its mouth around it. To laugh, to make a joke, however feeble, restored to her a sense of herself as someone normal—a mother, a woman in the world. She stuffed another load into the machine and let the lid slam shut. You should go to bed.
Why take on so much? Why make life so complicated? Trish kept things simple: one child, one cat; a backyard just big enough for a swing set and a patio. She pictured Trish hanging up the phone and padding down the hall to relay their conversation to her husband, Brian.
A bitter envy rose in her. The grief came in a surge: savage, shocking. She cried hard for a few minutes; then she wiped her eyes, got up, and went back to folding clothes. Brian had died six months earlier of a massive coronary. Yet he would do such a thing—to help her out, to revel in the crazy, animal-filled circus that was his home life. He had loved all of that: the chickens sneaking into the sunroom, the mice making nests in the horse blankets, the rich, crowing absurdity of having three children and six horses and four dogs and two cats and God only knew how many chickens and goats and ducks.
He would come home from work and stretch out on the couch, sated, an only child surrounded by fecundity. She was vigilant, always. Her father had died young, and she knew how quickly things could go bad. But Brian had believed—if not in God then in his own good fortune: Pam was the best; the kids were the best; everything would be fine.
But he had been wrong. She was bitter, she knew it; her heart was clenched like a fist. She was cleaning the bridles in the tack room when she saw his car coming up the driveway. He went on: He knew how hard it was; God knew how it hard it was. He wanted to talk about God? Fine, let him talk. When he was done, she let him peck her cheek and then watched him walk to his car with a piece of hay dangling from his pants. Reverend Pratt came to defend God, she told Brian. He sat on a hay bale. That was it?
Brian said. Reverend Pratt on a hay bale? No thunder? No whirlwind? Pam laughed. But she did, of course. She made it and made it and made it. Pam finished folding the laundry and put the basket at the base of the stairs so she would remember to bring it up. She glanced at the clock as she pulled on her boots. Trish was right, it was late, but Pam liked the evening barn work. The solitude and quiet were soothing after the hectic pace of the day. She shoved the plastic baby monitor in her back pocket and went out into the fragrant June dark.
She breathed in the exhalation of the cooling earth. The crying had released her a little, and now the sensations of the world flooded back: the scent of the linden tree, the damp air lifting the tiny hairs on her arms. She let herself stop inside the barn door to listen to the horses eating hay in their steady, peaceful way.
It was the sound of comfort and routine, of everything as it should be. If he had to be married to a horse person, why not move out to where the horses were? It was the kind of quip he used at cocktail parties and barbecues, places where he was likely to meet other beleaguered horse husbands, but the truth was he had been generous about her need to ride, even after the twins were born.
What was it she loved so much? Riding was hard, hot work, repetitive and often frustrating, and yet she always felt better afterward. It untangled her, somehow, to engage in that physical call and response, to guide, through the live wires of the reins, the pressure of her legs, that spectacularly powerful body, that wild, mostly unknowable mind.
She went to his stall and he stretched his head over the door to sniff her face with his soft, whiskery nostrils. He was a beauty, a real mover. Even when he was hacking around in the pasture you could see it—the springing stride, that natural ease. And he had heart, meaning that he was willing, that he would give you everything he had, not because you forced him, but because that was how he was.
People had begun to suggest that she sell him. Her mother-in-law, her sister; even Trish had tried to bring it up. They thought it was too much, caring for all those horses—too much time, too much money, too risky leaving the kids alone every morning.
Those were all reasons Pam could dismiss, but there was another, better one: She had no right to keep him if she was going to let him go to waste. She ran her hand along the crest of his neck. Already he had lost muscle. I should sell him, she told herself, and a rush of anger went through her. Trish, she thought, suddenly remembering something that had happened the week before, goddamn Trish.
Pam and Trish and Lacey, another mom, had stayed to help. Or that was the idea, anyway. In fact, Trish and Lacey had disappeared halfway through. When she came upon them talking in the kitchen, she stopped in surprise. Then Trish looked up and saw her, and the amusement died away in her eyes. Now, in the quiet of the barn, Pam saw again their turning faces, bright with laughter and sweat, and herself in the doorway behind them—sexless, drab, a figure who stood aside.
I kid you not. Her brain lurched in the sudden dark. Through the thick plane of his muscle, she could feel the grinding of his teeth, the quick jerk of his head as he tugged more hay from the net. Slowly her face cooled, her mind went quiet.
In the months since Brian had died, she had lost all taste for the wants of her body. She ate but she had no appetite, and afterward she often felt nauseated, as though she had forced herself to do something unnatural. Dimly, she knew this; she knew that people noticed, but she could not bring herself to shower more often. Her breasts, her belly, her thighs, even the sensation of hot water on her scalp—all this had belonged in some part to Brian, or to their pairing. To see her own flushed skin, to run the soap over the muscles of her arms and legs, felt like a betrayal.
That part of the life of her body was over; she wanted it to be over. And yet when she had come upon Trish and Lacey laughing, she had felt the stab of exclusion. She opened her eyes and looked at the line of shovels and forks hanging along the barn wall.
The neat row of handles spoke of order and calm: the tools in their places, the children safe. Why not start riding again? What harm could it do? An hour or so while the kids were in school. She straightened up, buoyed; her exhaustion had drained away. She swung open the stall door and let Ace bomb down the aisle to the paddock.
Then she put the baby monitor on the windowsill and started mucking his stall. Alice, get away from that fish tank. She reached over the back of the chair she was standing on and touched the dirty surface of the water with one small finger. Pam suppressed a flash of irritation. Alice spun around. Bribery and manipulation, manipulation and bribery—really, she was getting worse and worse. She had woken early, not with her usual dread, but with a sense of expectation.
She had thought through the logistics as she lay among her sleeping children. If she put off going to the feed store, if she skipped lunch, if she left Ace in the paddock instead of turning him loose with the others—she could squeeze in an hour, anyway. It was a start. She put half a bagel on each plate, and a spoonful of cream cheese; then a handful of Cheerios, then banana slices. Food and backup food. She needed ten minutes, fifteen at the outside to get the morning barn work done.
She walked over and latched the door that led to the stairs. Pam grabbed one of her boots from behind the door and pulled it on. He lifted his eyes to her solemnly. She put an extra blob of cream cheese on each of their plates to boost the entertainment value and grabbed the baby monitor. The dogs crowded up against the door, jumping and whining.
She opened the door and the dogs shot out. It was a beautiful clear day; her heart lifted. Outside the barn, she scooped up the dead bluebird by the fence and tossed it onto the manure pile without a thought. She was already letting the horses into the pasture when she heard something over the monitor.
She rolled the wooden door shut and stopped to listen: nothing, overamplified silence. Ace whinnied frantically in his stall. Pam went back to him and slipped the halter over his bobbing head. Then she led him down the aisle to the door that opened onto the paddock. The next sound came through in a burst of static. A crash? An explosion? She heard him clatter out the door as she ran the opposite way, toward the house. She found them standing on the chairs, unhurt, above a flood of greenish water.
He was trying not to cry. She splashed over to the table and pulled them into her. Everything was okay; she could still ride. The air coming through the window was laced with the smells of summer: new hay, warming asphalt, the secret damp of the woods.
She would start Ace off with some basic dressage, she thought—halts, extensions—get him back into the mind-set. She held her hand out the window like a wing and let it fly up on the rush of air. When she came home from the grocery store two hours later, she found Ace with his nose in the grain bin. She had forgotten to shut the paddock door. That terrible night, when Pam had spotted Brian lying so strangely on the frozen ground, her mind had refused.
No was what she thought. Not a plea or a prayer but a command: No. Even as she ran to call the ambulance, even when the EMT stood up in defeat; even the next day, when she was making the funeral plans and relatives were arriving, she was secretly refusing. She stood there and took it. But now her resistance deserted her. She had done this. If Ace died, if he foundered, it would be her fault alone. He raised his head and looked at her; then he burrowed his nose back in the bin and began eating in a frenzy, flinging grain against the metal sides.
She made herself step forward and grab his halter; then she jerked his head out and backed him into the aisle. She clipped him into the crossties with shaking hands and went to get the thermometer and stethoscope. A fluttery weakness had come over her, and she leaned against him to steady herself while she took his vital signs.
She had seen a lot of colic over the years but only two cases from grain: one in her first pony, the other in a dressage horse at the barn where she had trained. The horse had died when the swelling grain ruptured her intestines. The pony had survived, but afterward he had foundered—his hooves had curled back on themselves like elf shoes, and he could never be ridden again.
They had kept him anyway, as a pet. You could do that with a pony. She put Ace in his stall and took the water bucket out. Then she went back to the house to call the vet. It was Leland, the younger partner, the nice one. When he had hung up, she called Trish to ask if she could take the kids overnight. She stopped to get control of her voice. He was bright-eyed and frisky, and every time he caught sight of the other horses, he tossed his head up and whinnied.
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An intimate, sparkling collection of stories by a debut writer about girls behaving badly and families on the brink of collapse.
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|Christine stephen king kindle torrents||The seven stories in this collection are well-crafted gems that peer into the lives of seven women and girls at pivotal moments. Hamilton Swallowing Darkness - Laurell K. Mike Thorn. He was gone; she would raise their children alone. Later she got a couple of horse blankets and lay down in the paddock where she could hear Ace. I understand that a lot of it is metaphorical and that, on one level, the story is talking about toxic masculinity but maybe it was a bit lost on me. How had the boys never seen it before?|
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The Weapon. Plant, The. The Old Dude's Ticker. On Writing. Riding the Bullet. Hearts in Atlantis. In The Deathroom. Storm of the Century. Little Sisters of Eluria, The. Bag of Bones. Low Men in Yellow Coats. Everything's Eventual. The General. Blind Willie.
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Arnie had me. And then he had Christine. Leigh came later. I just wanted you to understand that. Arnie was a natural out. He was out with the jocks because he was scrawny--five-ten and about a hundred and forty pounds soaking wet in all his clothes plus a pair of Desert Driver boots. He was out with the high school intellectuals a pretty "out" group themselves in a burg like Libertyville because he had no specialty. Arnie was smart, but his brains didn't go naturally to any one thing.
He was great at that stuff. When it came to cars, the kid was some kind of a goofy born natural. But his parents, who both taught at the University in Horlicks, could not see their son, who had scored in the top five percent on his Stanford-Binet, taking the shop courses. He had to battle his butt off to get that. He was out with the druggies because he didn't do dope. He was out with the macho pegged-jeans-and-Lucky-Strikes group because he didn't do booze and if you hit him hard enough, he'd cry.
Oh yes, and he was out with the girls. His glandular machinery had gone totally bananas. I mean, Arnie was pimple city. He washed his face maybe five times a day, took maybe two dozen showers a week, and tried every cream and nostrum known to modern science. None of it did any good. Arnie's face looked like a loaded pizza, and he was going to have one of those pitted, poxy faces forever.
I liked him just the same. He had a quirky sense of humor and a mind that never stopped asking questions, playing games, and doing funky little calisthenics. It was Arnie who showed me how to make an ant farm when I was seven, and we spent just about one whole summer watching those little buggers, fascinated by their industry and their deadly seriousness.
It was Arnie's suggestion when we were ten that we sneak out one night and put a load of dried horseapples from the Route 17 Stables under the gross plastic horse on the lawn of the Libertyville Motel just over the line in Monroeville. Arnie knew about chess first. He knew about poker first. He showed me how to maximize my Scrabble score.
On rainy days, right up until the time I fell in love well, sor. Other author's books:. Add comment. Menu BookFrom. Net Home BookFrom.
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