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Randall Brown

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).

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