By A.D. Simmons
THE COLT STOOD at fifteen hands and had legs like green saplings. It was narrow-shouldered and too stiff in the hind fore. It could never race. The fucking state of this, Rafferty thought. The horse has such poor confirmation that every time he looked at it he wanted to put a bullet between its eyes. He’d bought it off an acquaintance who was in some money trouble. Of course he was! Rafferty’s face twisted into a dark smile. If he was breeding horses like this. His son Callis stood by the colt, the lead rope dangling loosely from his hands. “Make him walk.” Rafferty grunted. The animal wouldn’t move. Seemed to sit back on its hooves, eyes rolling back into its worthless skull. That wasn’t a good sign. Callis whipped the rope against the horse’s flanks, making a sharp smacking sound. The colt weakly fought the head collar. Lame. Rafferty went and pressed his hand against a lower leg. It was hot to the touch. Probably laminitis. “Pity makes people weak.” Rafferty spat into the dirt. He was angry about the money he’d thrown away. “Callis, get the gun.” The animal would feed his dogs.
Rafferty was considered to be a cruel man. He had big wide hands: butcher’s hands, someone had said once. He could be cruel at times, certainly — but who wasn’t in this world? — but he was no monster. He’d never beaten his wife. And even though he couldn’t stand the girlish sentimentality of his daughter — who had cried every time he’d sold a yearling — he never laid a finger on her. Not once. Hadn’t he put the clothes on their backs? Brought the food to the table? Gave them a bed at night? Perhaps this was his mistake. His father used to beat him with a belt but that sort of thing wasn’t permitted these days. Maybe he’d been too weak with them. He thinks the belt would have sorted his daughter out. But she was a city woman now, no doubt parading herself about London, all sweetness and light… His wife’s been whoring about, the rumour went.
Callis returned from the outshed with the rifle. The colt stood stupidly, looking at nothing. Rafferty loved his son. Now there was a boy! He was whip-smart, as quick as a fox. He had a natural talent for the horses, he sat ever so quiet on the flightiest animal; he could make them take the bit, make them turn, could make the doziest youngster fly when he was in the saddle. Yes, Callis was his own flesh and blood. It made Rafferty’s chest swell just to think about it. “Does it need holding?” The boy asked, loading some bullets into the magazine. “No, son. I’ll tie it to the fencepost. You can do it.” Callis nodded, and after Rafferty had tethered the wretched thing, he shrugged the rifle-butt into the pit of his shoulder, lined up the sights and pulled the trigger. As the horse buckled it sounded like a wet sack hitting the ground.