Dad wanted to call him Pokey, but I named him Jedidiah. A good sturdy name for the stubborn fence post he was. One day he’d stand there with hooves planted in the ground and the next he’d roll on his back in the arena after I finished tacking. Cost me three cinches.

No wonder Dad wantedJed to sell him.

“Horses ain’t good for bankruptcy, kid.” Dad shook his head.

“Come on, Evan.” I twisted my hair into a ponytail and grabbed the car keys.

My eight-year-old brother rubbed his hands together—his nervous, autistic tick. “But, Victoria, it’s Sunday.”

“We’re not workin’.”

At least I wouldn’t. Jed might if I rode him, but it wasn’t like God would punish a horse. At the stable, I stormed to Jed’s stall while Evan lagged behind, trying to find the carrots.

Jed poked his head out of his stall to greet me, and I stroked his face. Evan came up from behind and offered a carrot.

“Good boy,” Evan whispered.

Jed’s ears turned towards Evan, and I slipped into the stall. Evan followed, hiding several carrots behind his back. I smiled. Evan could always lift my spirits.

Jed raised his muzzle and breathed in my face. Then he rested his massive head on my shoulder.  My smile faded. It felt like the weight of guilt. Or bankruptcy. 

My smile faded. It felt like the weight of guilt. Or bankruptcy.

It was Sunday, so I wouldn’t work Jed. But I’d be back the next day to ride. The rodeo was in a couple of weeks. Surely Dad couldn’t find a buyer before then. Jed just had to win.

***

Evan made his rounds handing out carrots, and Jed plodded onward in the arena, his head bobbing in a lazy rhythm. I felt like resting my head on his neck in front of me. Until I saw Dad pull up in the truck. It was too early for him to pick me up. Unless—

Dad stepped out just as another truck pulled up. I pulled Jed around and kicked him into a trot so I had my back to the newcomers. But Jed couldn’t trot in one direction forever. The arena turned us back. My eyes fell on the potential buyer and a boy next to him, his son I guessed.

I stopped Jed before them. The little boy flapped his hands like a nervous bird. I glared at Dad. He owed money, so he would sell my horse.

But he owed me more time. He owed me.

The kid backed up behind his dad. I dismounted and walked over, thankful for the fence between us.

“Want to pet him?” I asked the kid.

He looked to his dad, who nodded.

The boy slipped through the fence, and Jed lowered his head and sniffed.

“I’m Victoria, and this is Jedidiah. What’s your name?”

“Carlos.”

He patted Jed’s nose. I glanced up. Dad and the buyer were talking. Perhaps if I could keep Jed away, the man would leave.

“Want to ride him?” I asked Carlos.

Carlos nodded. I boosted him into the saddle and swung up behind him. Jed bobbed into a brisk walk. I held the boy with one hand and the reins with the other.

“Want to go faster?”

“Yeah!” Carlos shouted.

I clicked my tongue and urged Jed into a trot.

“Fa-ast-er-r!” Carlos cheered between bounces.

I asked Jed for a lope. He gave us one.

We soared across the dust of the arena. Carlos whooped, and I felt Jed’s rhythm and the flutter of the kid’s heartbeat. Reminded me of riding with Evan, except this kid was smaller.

Nothing better.

When we slowed down to a walk, I dismounted and helped Carlos down. Both dads looked at us.

“They’re a perfect match.” Dad looked at me.

I frowned. How could I be so stupid? Of course the buyer wanted my horse for his son. Why couldn’t Jed act like a fence post around the kid?

Carlos patted Jed’s nose again.

“Good horsey.”

What was I supposed to say to that?

Carlos followed as I led Jed back to the stable and untacked him. The kid bounced on his heels while I brushed Jed down. I ignored him. I didn’t want him touching my horse anymore.

When I put Jed back in his stall, Carlos’s dad called him. Time for them to leave.

Evan came in to give Jed another carrot.

“Carlos’s nice. We’re in Ms. Janet’s class together.” Evan said.

Janet was Evan’s speech teacher. Carlos’s teacher. No wonder the kid’s flapping hands reminded me of Evan.

Autism.

I stared at my little brother. I didn’t need a blue ribbon from the rodeo—I already had Evan. What did Carlos have? He couldn’t even ride by himself.

The thought made me smile. Somebody would have to teach him.

Meet the Author

A, HuHot Restaurant, Springfield, MOAzelyn Klein is a nomadic blogger who enjoys exploring castles. She devours books during the day and makes up stories in the wee hours of the night. During her time in Texas, she visited her friend Connie, a lazy quarter horse, on a weekly basis. She recently graduated from Evangel University with a BA in English and plans to start am MA in English Literature in the fall.

 

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