Friday, September 11, 2015

Summer Foal

July 26, 2015

[OT] Sunday Free Write: Leave A Story, Leave A Comment - Space Walk Edition! 
(NOTE: I actually got the idea from the title of a post in the thread).

"The damn thing's breech, Sara," Jed said, and sweat trickled down his forehead, threatening to seep into his eyes. He rubbed his face across his shoulder. He braced his feet, and grabbed on to the slippery fucker with both hands.

Though he'd birthed foals dozens of times on the farm, this one was going down in Harkin history as the worst he'd ever dealt with. The mare had bit him on approach, which was his own fault for being careless. But she'd tried to kick him every chance she got - the numb bitch had no idea he was saving her life. Which was par for the course when it came to horses. And as horses went, Nandy was thicker than most.

All of this would have been fine if the temperature hadn't been hovering around 100 in the shade. And the smell. He knew he was just in a bad mood for this sort of thing, but the smell was just making him nauseous and prodding at the headache that was growing behind his eyes. The blood and mucus and manure all mixed together coating his nostrils and tongue and gagging him whenever he took a deep breath.

Usually doesn't bother me, he thought as he fixed his grip on the foal and heaved. I like the smell of horse.

The thing got stuck, and he spat a curse that his wife would give him hell for later, but for now she just wiped his forehead and waited for him to get the animal out of its mother so she could help.

He heaved, knowing that if he wasn't quick the mother could go into shock and die. And she was too young for that. He felt rather than heard a bone pop out of joint, but then the foal lid from it's mother, neat as could be. Well, neat as any birth can be.

"Mother of God, Jed, look at its back," said Sara.

Normally, Sara swearing would have been enough to send Jed ducking for cover - but he'd seen it too, as the foal landed in a tangle of legs on the stained blanket his wife had laid out: Wings. One was flopping loosely on its back, but the other stretched, still covered in the slime and blood of birth, and then folded like a bird's. They were complete with little spindly pinfeathers and down, matted with bloody gook.

Both of them just stared in silence, the mare began to lick the birth off the baby and it staggered to its spindly feet and began to look for her teat and its first meal.

"We need to kill it, Jed," she said, her voice hard and her eyes wide. She didn't wait for him, and had already crossed the barn and picked up the maul he used to split firewood. He noticed that she was white as milk, and semi-circles of sweat had stained under her arms and along her back.

Jed moved over and looked at the baby. Despite her earlier grouchiness, the mare let him check over the foal, content to clean it. The thing had latched on to a nipple and was having its first meal. It shivered as Jed touched it's limp wing, and by feel he could tell it was only out of joint. He wiped his hands on his coveralls, then took hold of the wing, and with a deft movement popped it back in place.
The foal paused in his suckling to give a pained cry. Nandy's ears went flat, but once the foal settled she continued to ignore Jed.

Sara was looking at him, wisps of her dark hair had come free of her braid. She held the maul and both hands and was staring at him, her lips pressed into a thin line. Jed knew as well as any man the signs of his wife's smoldering temper. But there are some things a man won't do.

"I ain't killing our foal, Sara Harkin. Stop being foolish," he said.

"It's a demon," she said and hefted the maul and made to shove past him and he took it - not from her, but held it with her. She tried to move it, but Jed Harkin was many things, but weak wasn't one of them, and it felt like trying to move a hundred-year-old oak.

"It's a horse. Nandy's been with the farm since we been wed, woman."
She tried one last time to move the tool, and then let go. Jed knew that he would be eating leftovers for dinner.

"The neighbors won't like it. Us having a demon," she said, but her voice had softened. A silvery tear dropped from her eye, missing her cheek entirely. "I told you Old Bill weren't the father. Nandy would never let him near her."

He released the maul, and wrapped his wife in his arms. She was stiff at first, but as he held her, she eased her head on his shoulder and tucked under his chin. He touched her soft hair.

"Neighbors don't like our pigs, neither," he said, his voice gentle rumble in his chest. "Help me wash him down. You'll like your demon better once he's had a bath."

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