Previous Challenge Entry (Level 1 – Beginner)
Topic: Father (as in paternal parent, not God) (04/10/08)
TITLE: Dad's Secret
By Carol Sprock
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I stared at him, breathing quickly through my open mouth. Then I blinked as a starburst of enchantment exploded behind my eyes: a horse, me, and Dad whispering a secret only I could appreciate. At twenty, I was still as enthralled with horses as I had been at age ten, which is when I began campaigning to turn the half-acre field in our backyard into a pasture with horse. But how would I hide a horse from Mom?
He read my eyes and mumbled, “Um, sorry, honey, the horse isn’t for you.”
My heart sizzle-smoked in the millisecond my dream bloomed and died. I frowned at Dad’s flushed face and pictured a joyful Saint Bernard in a small room—loyal and loving but creating chaos with each enthusiastic, slobbering bound of delight, madly dashing to please while unmindful of a tail acting as pit and pendulum.
“Well, I guess it’s not really a horse yet. See?” Dad scootched his chair over to mine as he shuffle-passed me three Polaroid photographs. “I didn’t buy it, actually. I invested in it—you know, bought some shares. I think there are six other investors. It’s a race horse. The mother has thoroughbred blood and the stud was….”
“Uh-huh, hmmm,” I murmured, my eyes stroking the flanks and nose of a one-year-old dull roan colt in impish poses. Their paddock was a haze of dust and rocks with only a few sprigs of lanky weeds. I sniffed the heat baking the hard ground with its dollops of manure, horse-hide sweat strongly fragrant in my nose.
“A guy in the office out in Oklahoma City convinced me to use what I had left after investing in Florida oranges last year—remember it froze so I lost a bit? They think he’s got the talent for the Kentucky Derby!” I presumed Dad meant the horse and not the co-worker over a thousand miles away from us. This also meant the horse was that far away, and my heart clutched my throat.
“Really? That’s pretty cool,” I managed with the journalistic mastery of words my college education had provided me. “Will we get a chance to see him race? Do you get some kind of say in how he’s trained?” My tongue felt oddly foreign, heavy and thick with its failure to add the “Can I ride him?” begging of my ten-year-old self.
“Nah, I don’t think so. We just provide the money for a good trainer. And any of the races he runs will be too far away for us to get to, too expensive. Course you and I will watch the Kentucky Derby together on TV. You won’t tell Mom, will you? I knew you’d love your pop owning a horse.”
Dad planted a solid but quick kiss to my right temple and grabbed the pictures from my hand, peeking at the door before stuffing them under the blotter. With a smile dazzling from his eyes and twinkling across his lips, he reached his arm around my shoulders and gave me a warm Saint-Bernard hug that saturated me to the core, almost drowning my silent wails.
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