Tuesday, August 14

The Pull Forward

On the first night without her the moon was hidden. It slipped into the darkness that covers us all. It showed itself later, swollen and dull, ignoring the laments of the world below. Last night it was a hungry crescent, a weak promise of return. The changing moods of the moon remind me of what I do not want to believe. Ruthie is dead.

My sadness refuses to fade despite the daily care and kindness of visitors. My friend Samuel, anticipating simple things I didn’t know myself, bought me new shoes. He took me for walks over fields, beside the stream, under the comforting canopy of the apple orchard, saying nothing, requiring nothing in return. Other friends brought me chocolates, trying to lure my thoughts away from myself and the grief that threatened to swallow me. I accepted their gifts without grace, gratitude overwhelmed by a sense of loss.

This morning, as Ruthie used to do, I stand by the fence to watch the day unfold. Beyond are the scents of new mown hay, the flicker of bluebird wings, and the clanking cow bells of my farm. Samuel pokes me in the ribs. It startles me with its rudeness. I want to kick him, but he is insistent. Wallowing is over, he seems to say. Work awaits.

We hitch up the wagon and begin our familiar route. At the green house we deliver two quarts of milk. We deliver a half-pound of butter at the blue house. The brown house wants nothing. The grey house is the liveliest one on the street, its sagging porch filled with the laughter of boys. It needs four gallons of milk, two dozen eggs, a pint of cream, a pound of butter, and a gallon of ice cream.

“Hi, George!” Alex hollers out to me. He throws a ball to Samuel, with the obvious expectation of it not being returned. I have never seen Alex without a ball in his hand. He is always in motion, always shouting or laughing. My world has changed, but his has not. I nod my head in his direction.

Alex runs to me and pats my shoulder, then runs across the street, falling into a tumble of other boys on the lawn. Tonight they will sleep the exhaustion of innocence spent under a summer sun. Tonight the deliveries of Samuel and I will fuel the escapades of their tomorrow. Tonight the moon, reveling in the sweetness of caprice and new mown hay, will shine bright with promise. Ruthie is gone, but my work is here. It will fill the empty spaces between questions until answers can be found.

I set my hooves to the street and pull the wagon forward.

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