The hill

They were just standing there; just standing. Three of them, three horses, just standing. Mist came out of their mouths as they breathed, just standing and watching the land beneath them. They were standing on a hill, at the top of the hill, beside a tree, bare of foliage and in the winter chill of early morning, skeletal.

All about the hill is pasture and woods and a single snake of road without a single car, nobody passing through to an appointment or to work or to college. It is just a road, lonely and empty in the moments before dawn. It is landscape.

The sun is crawling into the sky.

The three horses stand, watching, now backlit by the rising light, not silhouettes, not yet, the light is too feeble to cast anything into such sharp relief. One horse shakes its head from side to side, its mane flying, and then it is still again.

A shot. Two of the horses whiny, scream, and run, the black following the bay.

One horse, the smaller chestnut, lies with its eyes fixed on the horizon or on nothing. They are not seeing.

One man, tall, with a beard and a light, winter coat, stands at the bottom of the hill. He takes a small, brown, dog-eared, notebook from his jacket pocket along with a sharpened, yellow pencil, half-used. He opens the notebook to a page. He runs his finger down until he finds a line with the word chestnut on it, ticks alongside the word, and stashes the notebook and pencil back in his pocket.

The man takes one last look at the horse lying at the top of the hill, a backlit heap, unmoving save for a wisp of steam rising from its cooling body, turns and walks back into the trees from which he had come.

He begins whistling a tune, cheerful and light.


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