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by Bradley Sides

When I was a kid, the joke in my family was that I couldn’t keep my head out of the clouds. Ma and Pa would laugh and carry on such foolishness, like I was the oddest boy that ever walked the prairie. That little boy would’ve made them so proud.

One day — it was about nine years ago — I jumped on top of my horse, Bessie. We were just trotting out by ourselves to survey some unclaimed land. I kicked up and gave Bessie a fine tap to get us going, and when I did, my head leapt right up into a cloud. I went to slinging myself in all directions. I was like one of them underprivileged, domesticated dogs with an owner’s collar. No matter how hard I rocked my neck, I couldn’t fling it for nothing.

With such a calamity aboard her back, Bessie didn’t know what was going on. My weight was enough for the poor thing without much else. She turned her head up and looked at me. When she saw what wrapped around my head, it was worse than if she’d seen she was carrying a masked gunslinger. She flung her head up, as straight as it would go, and took off plum across the prairie.

I tried it all — hollering, swatting her behind, and even a couple of pinches, but not a thing worked. She ran clear across two states before she stopped. Finally, she dropped like a grave digging octogenarian. Of course, when she fell, it was with me still on board, so I had to muster myself out from under her, which wasn’t the easiest thing I’d ever done. When I freed myself, I noticed her white gums and folded skin. I knew she needed some water. That’s when it happened.

Thunder rolled out across the flatland. A few bolts of yellow lit up our overhead. When the rain hit, it felt like pins spearing me. I’ve never been into cussing much, but I couldn’t help myself that day. I said some awful things. My language got the best of ole’ Bessie. She watched me in utter dumbfoundment. Luckily, because of Bessie’s plum shocked mentality, I found a way to open the poor girl’s mouth and get her some water. She, at first, looked at me like she’d just about rather wind up in a buzzard’s belly than take my help, but she eventually gave in to my offering.

When the thunder and lightning let up, the rain kept going. When the skies cleared, I still felt it. When the next morning’s sunrise came, it was the same. It hit me: I was stuck in a blasted cloud. I grabbed that puffy fluff of nothingness and wrung it as hard as I could. I even tried a few tugs to make sure it didn’t want to join the other clouds. It refused to budge, even an inch. I straddled Bessie, but when I tapped her to get going this time, I made sure to not jump too high.

Bradley Sides holds an MA in English. His fiction appears in various print and online magazines, including Literary OrphansToasted Cheese, and Dark Corners. He is the editor-in-chief of Novel Enthusiasts. He recently completed his debut novel, Leaving Today. He lives in Florence, Alabama, with his wife.