The Darkest Mare
Simon A. Smith

Relapse, you bitch. You, with your three fingers pointed backward, your crooked thumb, you wretched, ruined rambler. This is what you know about your flaccid, selfish self. Self, you’d lick the barrel clean and call it blasé.

You listen to Wu-Tang on your way to the barns because it drowns out your thoughts about Neil Young, the Damage Done, your wife’s shared wishes, your childhood goodness and your near future regrets.

Your thoughts on guns: alarming, distasteful, frightening and dreadful. Horses? Fine, smooth specimens with soft eyes, warm hearts and anthropomorphic wisdom. Your wife, Wanda, agrees. Some of your most satisfying conversations have been about guns and horses, your anti- and pro-religious stances about no religion at all save the farmlands you grew up on. You don’t even like rap music, which is why it pairs so well with the other horrors from which you can’t keep your hands clean.

The last time you pulled the trigger you almost went to church. But you don’t believe anymore so you wrote yourself a note about discipline and self-control and slipped it in your sock drawer. If you considered hitting up the stables again you’d read it, and it would be your paper savior, your painful reminder, your Jiminy Cricket. That was the plan. You scribbled: Wanda, whom you love more than anything, will abandon you and your pitiful self. The cops will find you. Your mother will know. Your body will fill with sweat. The heart can only beat so fast. You’ll get cancer and die. You won’t recognize yourself and you’ll wonder if you ever have, and that will go on and on until …when?

The sock drawer is such a silly place to keep something so serious, and you allow yourself to laugh about it. You don’t read it. You can’t. The music has already started in your mind. It convinces you that your horse shooting problem is cosmetic. It’s not a problem at all but more of a temporary blemish. And even though you’ve been shooting horses solo for years, you remind yourself about your horse popping comrades from college and wonder how many things they’ve killed in the past ten years.

Inside the barn the straw is a duality of sharp, piled food and a rough pillow. The naked bulb crackles, flickers a dim orange. It’s a far cry from a heavenly light but it will do. The horse is pitch black, beautiful and inquiring, and his forelock shutter matches your shutters shutter for shutter as you bring out the pistol. You’ll hate yourself in the morning. Hate isn’t a strong enough word, but then neither must be words like release, compulsion, propulsion, erasure or … fuck.

Simon A. Smith writes and teaches high school English in Chicago, where he lives with his wife and a murderous orange tabby named Cheever. His fiction has appeared or is forthcoming in Hobart, Quick Fiction, Keyhole, Monkeybicycle, Whiskey Island, PANK and more. He likes it here.