I am proud to release the fourth installment of my mini-series, A Night on the Green River.
Part Five shouldn’t be too far behind – that was the reason for the delay – I’ve been working ahead for story development purposes.
Part Four: The Week Before
She was there in the sunshine feeding the horse.
From where he was standing he could see all of it, the horse and the girl with the hay in her hand, the wood fence and the white horse with its head over it, the green hills beyond that covered with yellow wildflowers, although he was having trouble looking past the girl.
The horse chewed with his mouth open, the pieces of hay sticking out. When he had eaten all that was in her hand she tapped his head.
“Good boy,” she said to him, as if he was her pet, but the horse did nothing.
She climbed the three-rail wood fence and went into the pen and stood beside the horse. Keeping her hand very straight and flat she touched his side, running her hand along the tough skin up to his off-colored mane – a cream white that stood out from the rest of him.
Through her fingers went his long hair, and now the man was smiling, looking at the girl with her sun-lightened hair running down along the front of her shoulders, combing out the knots in the horse’s mane.
She looked up at him and asked, “What?”
“Nothing,” he said with a smile, “You look beautiful.”
The girl smiled and he could see her cheeks get flush. She looked down at the horse and pet it and said with her head down, “Why don’t you bring me a handful of hay?”
The man bent down and used both hands to sweep up a pile of the hay that was scattered on the patchy ground. In some places the grass grew well, but other spots had been faded and worn out by the horses. Where the horses walked most there was no grass.
He had the bundle in his hand and he gave half of it to the girl. He took the rest and he put it in front of the horse’s mouth. The horse looked at the hay and then took a step closer and began to eat.
“He likes me, too,” he said.
“He likes your hay,” she said.
“What about you?”
“Same,” she said, “That’s all.”
“I like you,” he told her.
“I know you do,” she said, but she said nothing else. She did not know him very well.
“Look, I’ve got a lunch packed,” he said, “At least join me for that. Then you can decide from there.”
She smiled, thinking the request seemed reasonable enough. “What did you pack?”
He went back to the car and popped the trunk. He lifted the lid and removed the red cooler and then slammed the trunk closed. It was a big trunk.
He removed the lid and on top was a blue blanket and he spread it over the grassiest spot he could find. Then he took the containers from the cooler and took the aluminum foil off of each one, revealing the pasta salad and hard-boiled eggs and crisp celery, and in the thermos he told her was rum punch.
“I won’t have any to drink,” she told him, “I’ve got to get home soon.”
He flashed a face of disappointment and said, “All right. I’ve got some water. And at least have a little to eat.”
She sat on one of the corners of the blanket and he sat next to her with the food spread out in front of them. He put an egg and some celery on a plate and asked her, “How much pasta salad would you like?”
“That’s enough,” she said, watching him scoop it from the plastic container onto the paper plate. He handed her a plastic fork and she smiled and said, “Classy.”
“I do this too often to worry about washing dishes,” he told her with a smirk.
But the girl took it as a joke and she looked at her watch and said, “My friend is going to kill me.”
“Oh, you don’t have to worry about her.”
“She’s been waiting a long time.”
“My friend will take good care of her,” the man reassured the girl.
“She’s going to be upset with me.”
“Do you think she’ll come sailing with us next weekend?”
“But you’re in, right?”
She acted surprised and said, “I just met you,” but the man knew that was only a front – that the girl cared very little about the fact that they just met – and he said, “I will only ask for a sail and after that you can decide what you think of me.”
She did not say anything and looked at him, then reached out and took a stick of celery. There was something about the man that had grown on her, something that interested her very much. He was keeping it inside but she could see that it was there, whatever it was.
“You’re sailing here?” she tried to ask casually, taking a bite after.
“Be here at noon,” he told her, smiling.
She smiled and chewed and did not say anything. Then he asked, “What will your father think of you hanging out with someone my age?”
When her mouth was empty she said, “I’ll probably leave that part out.”
All the man did was smile.