Listen to a reading of “Where We Off To, Lulu Bee?” by Rosie Forrest.
Let’s ride this thing till’er soul slips out.
Mama smacked the horse’s neck and a hollow note thumped inside. The horse had tissue paper flowers, orange and pink, tied to its tin neck with twine. Overnight Mama had painted its eyes purple in honor of Elizabeth Taylor. Everything, it seemed, was in honor of Elizabeth Taylor.
I named her Rosemond, she said.
Mama was mighty proud of her Goodwill finds. This one came home in the trunk with a blue ceramic pitcher and a pair of women’s bowling shoes.
I picked at the horse’s left iris with my fingernail, chipping the paint into tiny purple flecks and uncovering a true, kind brown. I was too big for this toy. Anyone could see that. Each leg was secured with a metal hook bound to a coil, and the phrase “drawn and quartered” came to mind, then I thought of my treasured set of charcoal pencils and then I thought of roast chicken and drumsticks with crispy skin.
The horse was planted in the grass, her mouth agape from a rough bridal. Tiny ants crawled between my toes, and I stepped on each foot with the other one to mush and wipe them off my skin.
Old toys don’t break, Lulu Bee, Mama said. Not like shit today affixed with dried toothpaste. The mane had been molded into brown and gold waves, thick as thumbs.
In the afternoon heat, Mama swayed. It made me itch, the way her body lived beneath her white nightgown, fabric so thin it stretched peach across her belly.
I told your daddy you’d try to talk to it with your mind. She’s just gonna stare at it, is what I told him.
Mama hiked her nightgown up around her waist, well above the worn elastic that barely harnessed her underpants, and before she straddled the helpless creature, she looped the extra cloth into a floppy side knot.
Look, Lulu. You just ride the fucker.
And she did. Knees bent to her breasts, and her large heels seared against the blocks designed for softer feet unmarred by ragged earth.
Thumbs in my ears, I jammed them there to hush the alien groans of rusty springs.
Where we off to, Lulu Bee? Mama shouted, her right hand gouging fist circles above her head. San Antonio or Santa Fe? Straining against the weight, the horse dipped low and quivered with pressure. Salt Lake City or Sacramento?
Mama hooted like she was surfing a locomotive, the panicked horse ablaze with violet, and me, eying a crack or pull splitting near the rump, where the tin body opened a fine slit.
Shoo! I whispered, bending toward its tail. Get on with yourself! And behind the damp small of Mama’s back, I fanned the horse’s hindquarters, blew at the dint with puffer cheeks to free the tender frenzy trapped inside.
About the author:
Rosie Forrest is the winner of the 9th Annual Rose Metal Press Short Short Chapbook contest. Recent publications include SmokeLong Quarterly, Whiskey Island, Ampersand, and forthcoming in Dogwood. In 2013, she was the writer-in-residence with Interlochen Arts Academy; now she makes her home in Nashville, Tennessee. More can be found at rosieforrest.com