Horse by Hugh Behm-Steinberg


I hate grading papers so I go to the horse store and I buy a horse. I pick one with beautiful eyes and a demeanor of certainty, a horse who knows what is what in this world.

“Do you want to buy a bridle or a saddle to go with your new horse?” the salesman asks me.

“Oh no,” I say. “I have too much grading I have to do. I’ll never have time to ride.”

I walk home with my horse, up three flights of stairs to my shitty apartment. My roommates look at me and my horse.

“That better be a rental,” one of them says.

“Of course it’s a rental,” I say. “With all this grading I have to do, who has time to buy a horse?”

I push the horse into my tiny room, the floor covered in papers I’m supposed to grade and pens.

I look my horse in the eye. “Please,” I say. “Just help me get through this pile.”

The horse looks at me stoically. “Only if I get to sing while I’m working,” he says.

“Sing whatever you like,” I say, relieved that the price of a horse’s labor is so low these days.

The horse starts to sing, the same Taylor Swift song over and over, the one about the bleachers and t-shirts. It is the most awful thing I have ever heard, but the horse is making progress, dispersing grades and stamping out comments and corrections in the margins.

Before long the roommates are banging on the door.

“No,” I yell at them. “Not until he’s finished with my grading!”

“He’s doing your grading?” they ask.

“Get your own goddamn horse,” I say.




Hugh Behm-Steinberg’s prose can be found or forthcoming in Gravel, Sand, Grimoire, Joyland, Western Humanities Review and Pank. His short story “Taylor Swift” won the 2015 Barthelme Prize from Gulf Coast, and his story “Goodwill” (first published in Jellyfish Review) was selected for the 2018 Wigleaf Top 50 very short fictions. He is a shop steward for the adjunct faculty union at California College of the Arts in San Francisco, where for ten years he edited the journal Eleven Eleven.

Also by Hugh Behm-Steinberg Dictionary / Eels & Eels #2 / Goodwill / Parade & Bears


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