Girls Horse Club Blog

In the Tempest

Published by • Apr 30th, 2011 • Category: Competitions & Giveaways, Fiction

Story by HorseFeathers, age 18 | Illustration by HorsesForever, age 11

“Come on, Jarreth you promised to clean out the attic this weekend!” called Grandfather.

“Yeah just a second, I have to get past the fifteenth level of Xtra Roadrage,” Jarreth muttered while concentrating on his video game.

“Young man, I’m gonna be “Xtra Outraged” if you don’t get your rump up those stairs.”

“Mhhmmm? Yeah sure that sounds fine.”

“Jarreth Michael Richards if you want to spend the evening mucking out twenty horse stalls instead of cleaning the attic like you promised, I’d be glad to trade you jobs!”

At hearing his middle name, Jarreth turned away from the laptop screen and stared up at his grandfather’s angry face. The elderly Native American man could glare a stallion into submission with that look. Jarreth thought he had better get his hide into the attic if he didn’t want to smell like manure tonight.

It wasn’t that he didn’t like horses. After all, his grandfather owned the largest ranch this side of northern Oklahoma; with over fifty working horses. It was just that if Jarreth had to spend his entire summer vacation at the ranch he wanted it to be just that… a vacation. However, his grandfather firmly believed that, “Each person and animal must sow their seed in order to reap the profits.” Jarreth didn’t know if that was supposed to be an ancient Cherokee proverb or what be he had promised to organize the attic.

The fifteen year old boy had chosen this job because it seemed easier than any of the outside ranch jobs. Jarreth climbed up a rickety wooden stair case that wrapped around in a small spiral. It took him a couple tries but he finally managed to shove open the old, oak door which sent up a mushroom cloud of dust. Jarreth coughed and waved his hands trying to clear the air. There wasn’t any light switch but the skinny sun rays shining through the glass widows provided enough light to see the mounds and mounds of boxes. Perhaps this wasn’t the easiest job after all.

Sighing, Jarreth started with the first section of smaller boxes that seemed to hold billions of nuts, bolts, and old tools his Grandfather didn’t use anymore. Behind that was a chest full of broken bridles and halters. Why did the Indian keep this useless stuff anyway? Gradually, the young man began to organize the items into keep and junk piles for his Grandmother to approve of; his grandfather would probably just put it ALL back.

Pushing aside a large cardboard box filled with moth-eaten work jumpers, Jarreth discovered a stack of framed artworks leaning up against the wall. He picked them up and browsed through the drawings and pictures. Mystery in His EyesAll of them had to belong to his grandmother because the subjects were still lifes of gardens or some other type of romantic scenery. Jarreth was just about to put the pictures in the junk pile when the last portrait caught his attention. It was bordered in a bronze and gold metal frame, but it didn’t weigh very much. The picture itself was black and white and fading with age, but the subject was still stunning. Right smack dab in the center, a muscular black stallion seemed to stare strait into you. In the vast wilderness landscape behind him, the stallion and his herd seemed small in comparison. Yet, the look in the mustang’s eyes looked playful and dangerous. It was as if he knew something that the observer didn’t and he dared you to find out.

Jarreth turned the picture over to see if there was any other workmanship to be admired. There was nothing; except for a small title and initials written in the bottom left hand corner.

Well the title definitely fit, but who was A.Y? Jarreth couldn’t remember anyone in his family or friends by those initials. As he turned the picture over to view the beautiful shot again, part of the frame’s backing ripped and something light and papery fell to the ground. Afraid that he had damaged the beautiful piece, Jarreth bent to the ground to pick up the fallen pieces. But what he found wasn’t a part of the frame at all… it was a journal! Or at least part of one. The wrinkled brown manuscript was just barely legible. His curiosity pining him, Jarreth could stand the suspense of his discovery no longer.

Sitting on an old window seat with his back against the wall, he began to read.

March 27, 1925

It is spring and with it the mares have foaled once again. I myself am expecting soon, and I cannot wait to show the wild foals to my new son. He already leaps within me each time I walk out to the field to watch the mustangs run. How blessed Thomas, my husband, and I are to live with the wild ones at our doorstep.

I love all the horses, but there is one I do favor most. I call him “Ahanu” which in our native language means “he laughs.” Ahanu is a large black stallion who has apparently claimed the field in our backyard for himself and his mares. When I first saw him from our wooden lodge two years ago, I wanted to capture the stallion on photograph with the new camera Thomas had purchased for me. I am pretty stealthy if I do so say myself, and I thought I did a good job of sneaking up close to the herd. However when I raised my body out of the grass to snap a photo, the horses spooked and bolted out of camera range. The black chief turned around and gave me the most curious expression I’ve seen on a horse. It was a mixture of laughter and offense. He seemed to snort to me, “What, did you really think I didn’t know you were there?”

Ahanu and I, we continue to play this game. The stallion knows I am no threat to his herd and lets me get within feet of them. That is until I try to bring out my big scary camera and the horses bolt further away. But I’ll catch him, I know it! When he’s least expecting it I’ll capture him on film and keep him for always. For now, I had better go inside; Thomas is complaining that my strenuous exercise will hurt me and the child.

Always,

Appaloosa YellowFeather

Jarreth stared at the crumbly journal entry in his hands. Yellowfeather was his grandfather’s last name but Jarreth had never heard of someone called Appaloosa in his family. Goes to show how much he knew about his heritage; and spending all that time on the laptop didn’t help either. Jarreth was already pulled into history with the first journal entry and he wasn’t about to step out.

March 29, 1925

I could not write yesterday because I was recovering from what happened the night before. Ahanu came to the field at the light of the full moon and he was alone. This was surprising to me because stallions do not usually leave their mares, in the fear that bachelor stallions would steal them away. Ahanu did not wear his usual mysterious grin, but bore a worried frown… if mustangs can frown.

I saw him from the window in our bedroom. I did not want to wake Thomas because he had worked hard in the factory that day, so I quietly slipped my robe on and went outside. The wind was chilly and it playfully batted at my robe. I wrapped it around my wide girth as best I could. Ahanu was not his usual bold self and kept prancing back and forth in front of me like a skittish filly.

My mother always told me that because God’s creatures do not have words to speak, you must try to listen with your eyes. I knew at that moment that something was wrong with my ornery stallion. Without hesitation I tried to follow him as fast as I could. It wasn’t very far until we came to his small band of mares. I counted four, and realized the dark sorrel was missing. She was his lead mare and I worried what had become of her. I looked around and noticed that in the dark, Ahanu was standing over something and nickering gently.

Waddling over, I now saw that the dark form lying on the ground was the lead mare. She was in labor and from looking at her stomach, I knew the foal was positioned wrong. The young one would not come out without extra help and the mare was in great pain. I whispered to Ahanu pleading with him to let me help his wife and child. His brown eyes searched mine, reflected by the full moon. Without a sound, the stallion backed away and joined his other mares.

I set to work trying to rearrange the tiny foal inside the pained mother. This is not the first time I have had to help in a foaling. My family had raised and bred Appaloosas for years; a favorite breed among my people. In fact, it was so important to my parents that they named me after that breed. The wild baby was coming out legs first. Usually, a foal is born head first, but nature doesn’t care what is usual. Slowly but surely the foal’s tiny black legs eased out and I smiled as the mare finally released her tensioned agony as her baby was born.

It was a little filly. As black and beautiful as her father. When I reached out to touch her, the small body didn’t move. I’d hoped that it was just the filly’s dark coat and the night that shadowed her movements. But no, the little body was still and lifeless. I was about to move away when the mare suddenly sprung to her feet and in the process her hind foot kicked out and made full contact with my stomach. I gasped and fell to my knees, breathless in pain. I felt as if my whole insides had been switched around.

With deep breaths I was able to stand to my feet. The pain was intense but not enough so that I couldn’t walk. I watched through gritted teeth as Ahanu and his mare sniffed over their lifeless daughter and grieved in the way that horses do. I could do nothing, especially with the condition I was in now.

When I finally made it back to the cabin, I immediately settled in bed just as the sun was rising. When Thomas awoke he was worried about me because I was sleeping more than usual that morning. “Just tired, baby and all you know.” I smiled. He would never forgive me if I told him what happened. Everything will be alright though…

Always,

Appaloosa YellowFeather

*************************************************************

April 29, 1925

I have not been able to write for a long time. I have been too busy grieving. For Ahanu and his lead mare, for their daughter. For my beautiful little girl. I was so sure I would have a son. But as God has his little mysteries I had a wonderful female child. She came silently and at first she was warm and peaceful as I cradled her in my arms. But I came to realize that she was not moving… as still and lifeless as the little filly I had helped deliver. I believe I already knew that before she was born, but I didn’t want to believe it.

I knew it was because of the kick I received to my stomach. The impact that took the life of my daughter. Two lives in one night. The mare didn’t mean to hurt me. Does anything this sorrowful really mean to happen in this world? I don’t know what

Jarreth blinked. Where was the rest of the entry? He looked at the back and front of both aging papers but there was no more writing, not a word. It couldn’t end this way! What happened to Ahanu and the herd? What happened to Appaloosa Yellowfeather and her husband? There were too many questions left unanswered! Jarreth suddenly brightened to the idea that there might possibly be other pages to the journal among the dozens of boxes within the attic if he could only find the next…

“Jarrreeeeeetthhh time for dinner!” called grandmother from down stairs.

Jarreth stomped his foot in frustration. He didn’t want to stop he wanted to clean the attic and find that manuscript!

“Jarreth Michael Richards, your grandmother has a hot meal on the table. Now get down here now or don’t come down at all.”

Jarreth flinched. He had better not make his grandfather any angrier than he was already. Jarreth had all summer to find those journal pages and by thunder be would find them! He would also ask his grandfather who this Appaloosa Yellowfeather was, after he calmed down that is. The tempest had just begun and storm of discovery was yet to come.

IN THE TEMPEST is an entry in the Every Picture Tells a Story contest, where authors create a short story inspired by image submissions, then readers vote for the winning collaboration. Click here to learn more »

18 Nickers »

  1. Amazing story, can’t wait to hear the rest of it!!

  2. Great job HorseFeathers:)
    Is there going to be a sequel?

  3. That story was Amazing! I love the name Appaloosa YellowFeather!! Such a creative story also. It was a trhilling read! Hopefully there will be a sequel! I am “Xtra Amazed” at this great.

  4. Amazing, and sad.

  5. Wow,HorseFeathers!

    For one,I’m absalutely thrilled you chose my photo.

    I believe the direction you’ve begun to take the story is quite fitting to the picture.I just love it, actually! I can’t wait to read more and I hope you write more!

    Fantastic job.

    ~HorsesForever

  6. amazing story! love how it takes place in the moon light that last bit, and great picture horsesforever =) i submited a poem for Horsefeathers picture, i hope it gets published! But for now i will just wait and munch on cookies, does any one want one?

    (>’,’)>[::::]

  7. Aw. that story made me SO sad! I like it though, it is just really sad. You are very talented though! Keep up the good work!

  8. Hey gals! Thanks for all the nice compliments! This story is all there is for now.. for the contest. But if general submissions open up somtime I might add on to it!

    Any suggestions to what you would have happen next? I just love getting ideas from other people and mixing them up with my own! =)

    HF

  9. zikzik, thanks for your interest in the Every Picture Tells a Story contest. Poetry submissions are welcome when general submissions open, but this contest is for short stories only. Click here for contest details »

  10. sorry LeadMare i didn’t see that it was just for short storys so i thought i would wright some poetry, i have a tough time writeing any thing that isn’t poetry so sorry, i did make a short story but it all rymes so it’s not just whriteing, i geuss i’ll stay out of this then tell i can really get my poem storys out. Good luck HorseFeathers! i’m routing for you! ;)

  11. wait LeadMare now i am confused i wrote a poem story suspended between peom and a short story, does this hybrid horse count? it’s a story that just so happens to ryme, does that make it void? did it even get read? was it not good enough just because of it’s style? are there no hybrids aloud? and i was just wondering, how many people submited storys?
    please help me under stand. D=

  12. Zikzik,

    Sorry if your confused. What leadmare means is that this specific contest thingy was meant for short stories; poems weren’t included this time. I beleive when you said you wrote a poem, Leadmare thought that’s all you did. Did you write just a poem or a poem within a short story? Like at an inbetween for the storyline?

    We do have poems published here, its just that they are only accpeted at a certain time of gerneral submissions. We’re having a short story contest right now. I’d love to hear work if you decide to write a short story. It doesn’t have to be long.. but I dont think it can be so short that it would be counted as a poem. For instance “The midnight Ride of Paul revere” might be considered a story poem and I think that kind of thing might be alright.

  13. Zikzik,

    What HorseFeathers said is correct. This contest focuses on short stories. If your story integrates poetry within it, that is fine. Editors will review it and decide if it’s a good fit for this competition.

    As for number of entries, keep in mind that we look at quality, not quantity. The number of stories submitted will not decide whether or not yours will be published, but rather the content of what you actually wrote.

    I hope that clears up some of your confusion!

  14. Thanks HorseFeathers and Julia for supporting our herd.

    We made the writing portion of this contest about short stories because last time we had open submissions we got a lot of poetry, but very little fiction and no non-fiction. Readers expressed an interest in more diverse content, so our hope was that this contest would inspire the poets to venture outside their comfort zone.

    We haven’t gotten too many qualified submissions, but what we’ve gotten from HorseFeathers, DragonRider, and (at least one) more to come are fantastic. Cheers to the artists and writers who are participating!

  15. I haven’t had the time to read either stories yet, but I have read the beginnings and they are amazing! I will have to read them, but right now I’m writing my own story. Many girls here seem to like writing poetry more then fiction, but I’m the other way. I struggle with poetry A LOT, but writing stories comes fairly easily to me. So this contest is great for me!

  16. Thank you LeadMare for saying that my story was fantastic and thank you Toppyrocks for saying that the beggening of my story is amazing! I was so afraid that nobody would like my story. (After all, I’m kinda new to this site.) thanks you guys! :)

  17. Oh no! Leadmare, I just finished my story now, and it’s late here but still before midnight. Because of mothers day I didn’t manage to finish it earlier today. Could I email it to girlshorseclub, or is it too late?

  18. Toppyrocks, yes it’s fine to email your story to the address below. Be sure to include the title of your inspiration image.

    Please head over to the contest blog if anyone has additional questions. Thanks!