I’m a horse, just wandering around the neighborhood. It’s very nice out; I decide I’ll visit the preschool where I had so many fond memories when I was a foal. I leap the fence, and I’m surrounded by toddlers in awe of me. Of course, I’m a horse, enormous and calm; I let them pet me. I’ll be their secret, I breathe deeply as only a horse can, and the children are so happy.
Later the day turns toward naptime, I go inside to lie down. Mrs. Sanchez whispers in my ear that perhaps I’m a little big for preschool, but my eyes are soft and pleading. I tell her I’m not going to stay forever, I just want to be nostalgic for a short time longer. I’m a horse: it is my right.
One of the bigger kids feeds me carrots she stole from the snackroom. I am somber; she doesn’t understand yet what she is doing. I kneel down very carefully and let her mount me. When she is older she’ll imagine we galloped, and while we did this her life divided, but I walk very carefully, the other children trailing behind us. We are a parade.
A bear is a gesture, the gesture of touching, which is to pull. The bear can’t stop talking; he keeps secrets by telling them. Telling somebody a secret is delicious: it’s to be covered in fur and growl all the time.
Your children, their wet fur, their playing are patterns which break and rebuild, rise up and get kicked over. It’s reactive in a way they can’t articulate, they repeat and the repetitions are magic; the children do magic and they understand all the animals. It’s a method of touching, very lightly, so that their parents turn back from far away, wherever that is.
Your children asking you who are you going to be, and you look as far away as you can, and you say “there, that’s who I’m going to be.”
“Oh,” they say, “we’ve been there already, it’s kind of boring, but ok.”
“Smell this,” they say.
Hugh Behm-Steinberg’s prose can be found in The Fabulist, *82 Review, Gone Lawn and Gigantic. His short story “Taylor Swift” won the 2015 Barthelme Prize from Gulf Coast. He is a member of the non-ranked faculty collective bargaining team at California College of the Arts in San Francisco, where he edits the journal Eleven Eleven.
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