Today They Will Canter
His daughter has confused optimistic with
pessimistic, and so when he says, "I'm sure it will stop raining
before your riding lesson," she thanks him for his pessimism. No
problem. He's chock full of it.
At the lesson, as she rides by, he pretends a
banana is a phone. She scowls and mouths, "We're in public now."
Public is no place for whimsy. She's afraid, since the summer fall
and the broken wrist. Some falls happen in slow motion but not hers.
He told her next time pick a horse with a name like Slowpoke instead
of Wildfire. Not funny.
There's the cliché of getting back up on the
horse, and it's his wife who made her come back. His wife hadn't
been there for the fall, for that jump over the fence and her
daughter writhing as in football when grown men twist their limbs
the wrong way.
She's only eleven. You don't want her to be
scared. That's one letter, he told his wife, from scarred. She's not
going to be either one.
In the show ring, they go in circles, gaining
momentum. Cantor is Latin for singer, and his wife sings cabaret in
spite of the performance anxiety that sends her to the bathroom
weeks before a gig. His daughter grips the reins, her face set in
seriousness. He can hear her inner voice chanting. You can do this!
You can do this! This is no place for optimism!
Afterwards, he walks in on her at the stable.
She's rubbing her horse's neck. Captain Marvel. She's closed her
eyes as if meditating. She's seeing herself flying around the show
ring, maybe even jumping things, and her dad's there, fist raised,
not twisted away, as if he's certain.
Randall Brown teaches at and directs Rosemont College's
MFA in Writing Program. Recent work has appeared or is forthcoming
in Cream City Review, Quick Fiction, Gargoyle, Connecticut
Review, Saint Ann's Review, Evansville Review, Laurel Review,
Dalhousie Review, Night Train, upstreet, and others. He is the
author of the award-winning collection Mad to Live (Flume
Press, 2008) and a contributor to The Rose Metal Press Field
Guide to Writing Flash Fiction: Tips from Editors, Teachers, and
Writers in the Field (Rose Metal Press, 2009).