Michael Hammerle ~ The Horse Did Not Always Go Home

Jethrob Macromanni’s only real friend was a name­less horse. He would take the horse on long walks to the town lake and that was nor­mal. He would also ride the horse to and from the bar—because of that the horse had a rep­u­ta­tion around town.

Jethrob would tie the horse to the hitch­ing rail out front of the bar and drink all night; he, noto­ri­ous­ly, would get black­out drunk, so the peo­ple there they’d prop him in a cor­ner. A com­mon joke, unknown to Jethrob, was that his horse could pound beer too. Some of the peo­ple from the bar had proven it one night. Since then, at the end of the night, the bar peo­ple had come accus­tomed to tak­ing a pitch­er and feed­ing the horse beer—which it drank like a runt-pup­py whose sib­lings kept it last to the milk.

The real mag­ic would hap­pen after 3 a.m. when the bar closed.

Because these peo­ple had known Jethrob from grade­school, and some knew his daddy’s dad­dy, and so on, they’d car­ry him—it took at least four peo­ple to put Jethrob on the horse—the horse not mind­ing a bit, sway­ing lit­tle, under Jethrob’s weight.

The four peo­ple would put Jethrob’s feet in the stir­rups as tight as they could, lean him for­ward into the horse’s mane, and loose­ly tie his wrists around the horse with hay bale twine (the idea being the twine would fall off before Jethrob knew) like putting a bathrobe on your cata­ton­ic cousin. Your cousin woke some­time lat­er think­ing he’d clothed himself—he’d done all right. While one or two peo­ple pet­ted the horse’s face, anoth­er offered the horse a last drink of beer, and anoth­er untied the horse’s lead from the hitch­ing rail. The horse was shown that his lead had been untied and then the lead was secured to his sad­dle. As the peo­ple watched, the white horse would dis­ap­pear into the night.

The peo­ple believed the horse nev­er failed to take him­self home—to his own fields—where he grazed, buzzing in the twi­light, until Jethrob awoke at dawn.

Back on the porch of the saloon-style bar, the peo­ple enjoyed their smokes and drank the bot­toms of their beers. They hoped they would be amused by Jethrob Macromanni and the Nameless Horse for­ev­er.

~

Michael Hammerle is pur­su­ing his MFA at Bennington College. He holds a BA in English, cum laude, from the University of Florida. His fic­tion has been pub­lished in The Best Small Fictions 2017 select­ed by Amy Hempel. He has fic­tion in the Steel Toe Review and the Matador Review. His poet­ry has appeared in Eunoia ReviewPoetry Quarterly, and else­where. Hammerle was named a final­ist for the 2016 Hayden’s Ferry Review Flash Fiction Contest and for Press 53’s 2015 Prime Number Magazine Awards.