The Smell Outside Hints at Southern Indiana Country Air, pt.2

I looked down and saw the velcro straps of my high tops not threaded through the plastic-lined holes but jutting out like a bayonette to the side. It was the style of the time. That’s how Doogie did it. I was looking down because I was crying, sobbing, because of an F I recieved on a test that day at school. I sniffled out to Tiger, the only other mammal there, “I’ll never be an architect, kitty.” His eyes squinted, cat smile, and he rubbed my leg.

I sat on the sidewalk and the heat pushed my head down. Ninety five and no rain for a long time, the begining of a drought that would last all summer. The grass yellowed and couldn’t cry like me. Tiger hopped in my lap and circled before resting in the home my indian style legs made for him. It was unbearable, him sitting there…fur and heat, but needed. “Hey, buddy,” I said and he mewed a response – “Hi.”

I removed him from my crotch and walked to the field, grabbing the BB gun on the way. On a day like this, I could lose myself in shooting the frogs at the pond. Hit them just right and they would flip on their backs, belly up, showing you where the BB went in. Deadly aim, the eleven-year-old me had. When there were no frogs, the water would be the target. A leaf floating. A reflection.

The field was not our property but that of a man in prison for manslaughter. He always seemed nice, except when we mowed the grass to the edge of the property. They would munch it, jump the fence, and wander acres and acres away. It was like putting candy in front of a baby for those horses, he said. “They can’t help the sweet taste,” he told my father. Sweet taste? How did he know? Was he eating people’s yards when he wasn’t manslaughtering?

Tiger always followed me to the field. He never seemed to go on his own. On the horse paths, which intertwined throughout the field, acres and acres of it , he followed closely behind. In the thick grass, the stalks behind me shook with a steadfest rhythym that to this day wells my eyes. True blind faith. While sitting on a rock next to the pond, he would chase bugs, sniff dead frogs (but never eat them), drink water, and stare at the spirits. I would watch him and smile. I tried to look at the clouds to find shapes but the only ones I found were clouds. In this tranquil state I sat and thought for hours. The sun left me time and time again, telling me to return home, but Tiger remained until my preadolescent feet clumsily weaved home.

This time, the day of the realized failed aspirations, my father’s voice broke the silence. He stood at the barbed wire fence. “Look behind you!”

I turned and saw two large, fleshy, oblong moons growing and shrinking. Eyes moving up, I saw the complete beast. A horse. It was smelling me. It was wondering what was at it’s watering hole. I jumped up, gun in hand, and sped. Tiger, encountering these mammoths (to him) possibly numerous times before, watched me in wonder. Then followed.

I raced through the weeds towards my father. I looked behind me and saw trampled weeds, Tiger, and the horse. Following like a marching band. Like they were tied to a string on my high top. In my mind the horse was out for blood. No matter how fast I ran, death was coming. Mine and Tiger’s. Dad was the only life jacket I had at that moment. “Throw me the gun,” he yelled. Like a Pekinpah film, the Red Ryder sailed through the air into his one-handed catch, butt-to-shoulder, aim, BLAM.

Right into the horse’s ass. It nayed. Stopped. Shook it’s head. Tiger and I crossed into our land. Safe.

“Almost gotcha, huh?”

“Yeah. That was scary.”

“Have you been crying?” My dad’s eyes squinted at mine. I know he cared, in his own way.

“No.” If I had answered in the affirmative, he would know what can be put off until the report card comes in the mail. Because of that F, I got a B in the class. My first B.

Tiger rubbed my leg, thanking me for saving him. My father didn’t exist in his eyes. Those magical, smiling, night-hunting eyes.

“You should take a bath. Didja shoot anything?”

“Just some frogs.”

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