“...let’s do some dead thing, after we die...”
- Mick Jagger from ‘Wild Horses’
Andy got up and pulled on his boots. “Godfuckingdammit,” he cried out in the darkness of his bedroom. He searched around on the wall and turned on the overhead light. 4:22AM blinked in red on the clock beside his bed. He started talking to himself, “I’m fucking sick of this shit, sick, sick, sick, SICK of it. Every motherfucking night…what about me?..I need to get some goddamned sleep…”. He heard his roommate call out from the adjacent bedroom, “Andy, shut up and go back to sleep. It’s 4AM for christsake.” Andy didn’t answer. He was going to put an end to this once and for all, he thought to himself. He went to the closet and pulled the tattered shoebox off the top shelf, the metallic clink of bullets rolling from side to side as he pulled it down.
Every night now, for about the last two weeks or so, the horse he kept in the corral behind the farmhouse he shared with his roommate had whinnied, bellowed and kicked – always at some ungodly hour. He’d won the horse nearly two years ago at a rodeo. The horse – he’d named her Julia - was a fine filly Quarter horse that the boys from the rodeo had caught on the Indian reservation land up by Baisings Creek. Willy and Jim and some of the boys would ride up there and round up a few of the wild horses that still roamed the reservation whenever there was going to be a rodeo. Only one of the horses was given away as a prize to the cowboy who hung on the longest, the rest were set free again after the contests were over. Andy had had to hold on for dear life to win her; she’d damned near ripped his hand off with her fury. He knew when he’d mounted her that if she bucked him, she’d stomp him. He could feel the intensity of her rage beneath him, rage that probably came from being roped and pulled off the range one too many times. He’d seen her before – occasionally the boys would round up some of the same horses when they’d go up to Baisings and this filly had been ridden in the rodeo a time or two before. She knew the game, and she did everything she could to get free again.
Andy pulled the nickel plated Smith&Wesson out of the box, clicked off the safety and spun the cylinder to see if it was loaded.
“Yep, a full round…now I’m gonna put a fuckin’ end to this shit,” he muttered to himself under the harsh overhead light. The whinnying and kicking had now stopped. That was the way it was, as soon as he’d get up and turn on the light, Julia would go quiet. It seemed like a cruel little game designed to drive him mad.
Andy thought about a cat that had belonged to an ex-girlfriend. That cat was probably the sweetest pet that Andy had ever been around but it had one enormously irritating trait. Every night after he and his girlfriend had gone to bed the cat would begin yowling and clawing at the front door, then when Andy would wake up and yell at him, he’d run off into the darkness of the house. As soon as Andy lay back down and had nearly drifted off to sleep, the cat would appear beside the bed all sweetness and affection, at which point Andy could no longer be angry. His girlfriend slept through it all and when he tried to talk to her about it she explained that all cats were a little neurotic. Andy had told her he thought the cat’s behavior was more than just a little neurotic especially because it happened so often and was so extreme. The cat was both completely obsessed with its freedom and endlessly needy at the same time. Andy had ultimately felt sorry for the cat which seemed confined to this behavior pattern, lacking the consciousness to change it.
He walked to the backdoor, pulling on his wool hunting vest over his long johns. It was mid February and the nights were still cold up in the mountains. He grabbed the flashlight out of the kitchen drawer as he headed out the door. “No more chances, no more fucking chances..,” he continued muttering as he stepped off the porch and into the blackness of the back field. He could see the corral and vaguely make out the outline of Julia under the starlight. His right arm and hand, his sweaty palm gripping the revolver, began to tremble he was so mad. He could feel the icy wind blowing across his face and hands making him tremble and shake even harder. He pointed the flashlight towards the corral, hitting the switch with his left thumb – nothing. “Fuck!!…” he screamed out into the blackness. Now pushed past his breaking point, he slung the flashlight with all his might into the corral.
The next thing he heard was the echoing of the six rounds he’d just emptied into Julia, his filly, his prize. The echoes bounced back and forth off the mountain walls and seemed to go on for an eternity. Then there was complete stillness, then another even longer eternity. Time and relevance lost their place in his mind. Then the sound of the screen door on the back porch slamming itself shut. Andy heard the shriek of the spring pulling it back, slamming it hard.
“Andy, Andy, for god’s sake man, what’s going on? I heard shooting, what in the hell are you doing out here in the middle of the night?” his roommate’s words infused with terror and bewilderment.
“I had to shoot Julia. I just couldn’t take it anymore..,” Andy heard his own voice speaking now.
“Andy, give me the gun and come back inside. Julia’s been dead almost two weeks now. We’ve been waiting for the ground to thaw to bury her, remember?”