By R.T. Fitch
I picked up my horse today; should have done it sooner, the equine hospital had called days ago and said that he was ready but I resisted.
The members of his herd missed him, missed him lots. Everything in the herd dynamics was upside down because the boss was not there.
After breakfast, his best buddy Moose would linger at the barn’s entrance and stare at the empty stall with the closed door. He would simply stand and stare and then move under the barn’s porch and survey the lower pastures for a glimpse of his friend. His persistence was unrelenting.
I picked up my horse today for fear of retribution from the equine hospital, it had been long enough and it was beginning to look like I did not care and was a bad equine parent. But I fought it and did not know why.
The days had drifted away, one by one and the property was different without him, I should have gone and gotten him earlier but I languished. I was ashamed.
I picked up my horse today by getting in the truck, turning the key, adjusting the mirrors and backing out of the driveway. Today would be the day that I would bring him home but I felt no joy.
As I drove further out into the country the bright blue sky against the crisp green of the hay fields brought me no joy as I knew not where my heart was nor my soul, I should have done this weeks ago.
I pulled through the automatic gates of the hospital, parked the truck in the dusty gravel parking lot amidst a sea of parked working trucks with trailers and walked into the hospital waiting room.
There were several crusty, horsey types sitting in the hard, wooden straight back chairs but no one waiting at the window so I walked up and introduced myself to the young girl behind the counter.
“Howdy, I am R.T. Fitch and I have come to pick up my horse.” I said.
“What is your horse’s name, Mr. Fitch?” she countered.
“Harley!” I answered.
“Please stand at the double doors to the right,” she replied, “I will be right back.”
I walked over to the double swinging doors and waited; I could feel the eyes of the people waiting staring holes in my back as the stark walls of the waiting room offered nothing to entertain, but I fought the urge to turnaround and stare back.
I could hear footsteps coming down the hall behind the closed doors and my pulse quickened. I am sure that a fine sweat was breaking out on my bald spot but it was cleverly concealed by my straw hat. I looked down at my dusty boots and I heard the doors swing open before me so I looked up.
The girl from the service window said, “ Here’s Harley; tail, mane and ashes are all here.” she whispered as she thrust a 12X24 inch cardboard box into my hands. “We are sorry.”
I don’t recall how I responded, I hope that I was kind enough to have said thank you but I have no recollection as I was in the process of spiraling down into an abyss of pain, misery, regret and desperation.
Nor do I recall the looks on the faces of those who were in the waiting room as my eyes were blurred with tears and I could not feel my feet under me as I pushed open the hospital’s office door and stumbled across the gravel parking lot. I was lost in time, the lot was huge as the memories of Harley’s last day came crashing in on my consciousness and the tremendous pain of his last moments sized my soul and made all time stand still.
It felt as if I had been walking forever as I made my way to the truck, a month worth of grieving came rushing back at me with a vengeance. I knew I was staggering, I was aware that I must have been a spectacle but I was doing my best to navigate that long and lonely mile back to the truck so I could depart this place of despair.
After what seemed to be hours I reached the truck and put my hand on the back door’s handle to steady myself. I was breathing heavily and my glasses were smeared with tears and dust. I jerked open the door, set the box gently on the back floorboards and sat down on the truck’s side steps to gather my wits and to clean my glasses.
When I had finally caught my breath and had some strength back in my legs and stood up I turned around to look at the little white box that contained all that was left of my best friend and companion. It was then that I saw, delicately scrolled with the flourish of a black felt pen, the name Harley Fitch written on the box. I sucked air, lovingly reached out and stroked the little box.
“You are going home, Harley.” I sobbed as I petted the box, “I am finally taking you home.”
I picked up my horse, today.