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by Eliza McGowen

Henry and his father only have one chore to do today. Henry’s childhood pony, Socks, has colicked. Although Susannah, Henry’s sister, has been walking her back and forth, the tubes aren’t going back to where they should.

Henry doesn’t know much about colic — doesn’t know much about ponies at all. His father had thrown him up on Socks when he was six; his legs barely long enough to fit around her back. This is how I learned to ride, his father had proclaimed as he slapped Socks with a switch and she jumped forward. It didn’t work so well for Henry as he was left in the dirt as soon as she loped away. His father had laughed until his cheeks went purple.

By now, ten years later, he has given up on teaching Henry how to ride. But Socks has remained, getting round and happy in the pastures next to the family orange groves.

It is still early morning. The sun is just beginning to shine on the fruit. Henry, his father and Socks are all awash in an orange glow as they make their way to the back of the grove. Henry’s father lets the pony’s lead go and holds out the gun.

“I really don’t want to, sir.”

“Jesus boy, can’t you be a man about it.”

Henry takes the gun from his father. He aims the weapon clumsily, then fires it. The backlash rips his arm out of its socket. The bullet skitters into the dirt.

His father says nothing but picks up the gun. He shoots Socks clean through her head. She falls first on her knees, then slumps over onto the ground. Immediately, her sides stop rising.

Then he shoots her again. Without a word he heads back towards the house, leaving Henry to stare.

Eliza McGowen lives and writes in Denver, Colorado, via Cape Cod and Jackson Hole. She enjoys reading and writing about the real and hurting moments in a human’s life.