Two women, occupying either end of the spectrum of middle age (which is 35-48, roughly), sat in the kitchen and toyed with the random objects scattered around them, almost as if they would, or had suddenly discovered something of interest in those objects. The table was a veritable landfill of useless things: shards of splintered crayons, plastic monsters with no heads, balls of notebook paper, cereal box trinkets, matchbox trucks with missing wheels, dried out markers, rocks. The kitchen smelled over-much of food; it was still warm from the winter, while outside, in the early spring air, everything melted. Mud season was approaching, and in the convoluted world of thick, brown slime, things began to take shape.

Concurrent with this change was a new arrival. It was mud-spattered with the season and moved back and forth, to and fro, in wide eyed fear. Occasionally, it made little cries. And it was gray. As gray as you could imagine, and all spindly and awkward. It kicked up mud in a laborious, hindered effort.

This was the women's dull delight.

The younger of the two- Rhoda- was stationed against the red countertop. She spoke through a haze of the smell of new baking.

"You want some coffee, Barb?"

"Yes please, Rho," said Barbara. She had just come in, and sat at the table, speaking through a cloud of mayonnaise smell.

"Our kind, or the regular kind?"

"Our kind."

Barbara toyed with a huge flourescent-green, plastic coffee mug that she carried with her everywhere.

"Okay." Cries of another kind echoed off the hilltop outside. Rhoda got out a tin container of powdered, chocolate-flavored coffee, and started nuking two cups of water. She forced back a small section of the debris, which made a reluctant, papery sigh as it scraped across the table top. The table top looked nearly as badly used. She set down mismatched mugs with spoons sticking out of them, and fell onto the opposite bench, flinching slightly. She pulled a matchbox truck out of her thigh and flung it clattering across the linoleum. The brown liquid was powdery on the top where it hadn't been mixed well.
"Where are the boys?" Barbara asked, which almost seemed like a ridiculous question, because the spread of objects on the table made it seem as if they were here. The state of the rest of the house made it seem as if they were everywhere. On the other hand, the question was ridiculous, because the perpetual answer to the question was "not here." For these women, the boys were perpetually gone.

"They're playing at the top of the driveway."

"It's warm out. Spring has arrived."

"Oh really?" Rhoda said. "I haven't been outside yet today."

The air flowed in and out of the screen door, mixing with itself at the same tepid temperature.

"So you haven't been out to visit the baby?" Barbara asked, her voice gaining an excited edge.

"This morning," Rhoda said, perking up. "Not since."

"How is she?"

"Good, real good," Rhoda said, puffing with pride. Of course, I'm a little paranoid that she's going to get sick or hurt herself, but so far everything seems to be just fine."
"She's stopped screaming by now, hasn't she?"

"Pretty much. Yesterday she tried to run through the fence and scraped herself up pretty bad on her chest. Cracked the boards nearly all the way through. She misses her mother."

"Poor baby! They're so cute when they're that age."

Rhoda beamed. "Yeah. You see why I'm a little worried, though."

"Well, you have me to help you if anything goes wrong, especially when she starts to get bigger."

"I think she should turn out real nice. Don't you think?"

"Yes, I think so."

Out in Nevada, Wayne Newton was on the phone in the office of his huge ranch.

"Sure Charlie, I can hold."

Clouds rolled by in the desert sky outside, and the setting sun made everything look slightly reddish. It made him think of the red lights of Vegas where he used to be a performer. Was still a performer. Well, sort of. Blades of grass squeezed feebly through the sand, only to be blown about helplessly by the dry wind, whipping back and forth without control. Not even insects were able to survive very well out there, which was why there were none. He heard a clumping noise behind him as a man in cowboy boots came in.

"Mr. Newton? Sheila's on the phone out in the barn."

"Well why didn't you just transfer her through to me?"

"I didn't know if you'd want to talk to her or not. I mean, I thought I'd better ask you first."
"Good thinking. I wish my other help was as well trained as you are. What does she sound like?"

"Bored, Sir, she sounds bored. Whiny... kind of petulant-like."

"Hmmm." Sheila was an old friend of Wayne's family; her family and his had known each other years before Wayne got famous. Most of the elders had died now, leaving only the two of them and a few scattered cousins. That she had spent a fair amount of time in their society and around Vegas, especially in her youth, was obvious in the fact that she wore purple clothing studded with rhinestones every day of her life, and could dress up meaningless circumstances until they became a hell of a story. She'd cherished a fawning and hopeless love for Wayne ever since they'd known each other. The sad thing about it was that Sheila had known Wayne so long that it was quite possible that she wasn't merely enamored of his Vegas personality, that because of their long acquaintance she actually had an affection Wayne, even though he was getting sort of fat and washed-up. It must have been true that Sheila actually saw something in the disgusting, old, has-been entertainer, with his jowly sun-burnt face and full head of black hair. What she saw, though diminutive and distorted, almost invisible, was the only real thing about him. Sheila herself was flamboyant and talkative, and a talented liar, but there was a gulf that separated her from the diamond bedecked women that Wayne successively married, only to have them take his money. They were simply from different worlds. The situation was a true tragedy.

"Send her one of the stock."

"Sir?"

"Send her a horse."

"Which one, sir?"

"A stallion. You'll find him in stall 46-D."

"I've never heard of that one."

"You'll find him where I told you. He's a little past his prime now, but he used to be quite a show horse in his day. We don't want to send her something that will kill her. He should keep her happy for a while."

The kitchen was all in confusion. A door banged and the relative silence was broken by miniature imperious voices, planning, insisting, already voicing convictions. Impish figures poured into the room and scuffed around leaving the marks of their passing on the floor. Rhoda sighed and thought "What have I done?" But the thought passed and was forgotten nearly as quickly as it had come. She had a terrible memory. Pattering footfalls surrounded the kitchen and there was more clattering as sticks were thrown onto the floor. The youngest of Rhoda's sons were just past the threshold of toddler hood.
"We need something to eat," one of them demanded in a shrill voice.

"We need provisions," another one yelled.

"Well what do you guys want?" Rhoda yelled back. "It's almost lunch time." She started rummaging through the stuffed cupboards and fridge.

Barbara tried to hug one of them, which he half submitted to, squirming and scowling. "What are you guys doing up there?" She held tighter and he stopped fighting.

"Building stuff."

"Oh, cool."

She released him and he shot away immediately. He stuffed a box of crackers in his back pack and the three of them banged back out. They were visible for a second as three dots tearing up the hill, and then they were gone.

"It's impossible keeping this place clean," Rhoda said. "It seems like I just turn my back, and then its right back to how it was before."

"It's kind of nice when they get older," Barbara said, "but then there are a lot of other things to deal with."

Out in the yard the terrified shrieking began again, followed by a series of dull thuds.
"Oh! Poor thing!"

"How come Jenny hasn't been down to see her yet?" Rhoda asked.

"I don't know. She said she wanted to come, but she hasn't shown much real enthusiasm."

"Is she still into the horses? Or has she completely lost interest since she stopped riding?"

"Oh, well, no. She still likes it..."

Jenny was in her room in the house up the road from Rhoda's.

Through the window screen, she heard screaming come up from down below, a series of drawn-out, high-pitched cries. They were hysterical, piteous in a way that made the skin crawl down the middle of her back. She felt almost embarrassed by those screams. They were the cries of someone who had suffered a great loss, and was able to feel the pain of it, but unable to comprehend how it had come about. The comparison was, of course, ridiculous, however, because they weren't even the cries of a human being.

"Stupid animal," she thought, but somewhat resentfully acknowledged that it wasn't entirely the animal's fault.

Then there was a bang audible, coming from away down the hill, as the animal kicked or ran into something. She jumped at the sound. Then, it seemed as though something kicked inside of her, and she gasped with horror at the thought.

"Did I show you her pedigree yet, Barb?" Rhoda asked, feigning ignorance.

Barbara remembered the pedigree well. She had accompanied Rhoda and supported her on her first trip to the stable, because Rhoda was nervous, and inexperienced with making these kinds of choices. As the older of the two friends, Barbara sometimes found herself playing the guiding, mature role, trying to act as though she knew more about the ways of the world. She remembered the cool, hygienic atmosphere of the stable, with its spotless cobblestone halls and smell of antiseptic and shampoo, and the dull gleam of varnished wooden walls. Rhoda had moved forward hesitantly, glancing with caution into the compartments to the right and left. A strong, athletic looking woman in an immaculate habit had greeted them; the woman moved quickly and commandingly, supervising the functioning of the stable down to the last detail. A lot of attention was paid to the pedigree; in fact, at least half of the visit consisted of the woman tracing out its branching lines for the two friends, explaining its more noteworthy points in depth.

"No, you haven't shown it to me..."

"Let me go get it," Rhoda said.

Rhoda disappeared into the back room and returned with an cream colored piece of paper, which she splayed out on the table. The sides were decorated with an intricate design in gold ink, and the names were written in an ornate black script that was just barely readable.

"Sandy just sent it to me in the mail. The baby's got wicked good bloodlines." She pointed. "He's been a world champion five times."

"Ooh, I've heard of that one before," Barbara said, pointing to a different place. "He's in The Elegant Equestrian almost every month." She glanced at the piles of magazines strewn about the room.

"This is his daughter," Rhoda said. Then, affecting the tone of voice of the woman in the stable, she added "The combination of their bloodlines produced this mare, who was bred to her grandfather to produce this horse, who was bred to his sister to produce the baby's mother. She was rather a disappointment, performance wise, but her bloodlines and sound temperament of mind made her an excellent brood mare. She was bred several times to her third offspring, and the combination was so successful every time that Sandy eventually decided to use her just for breeding purposes. The baby is the result of the fourth of these breedings."

"Oh, I see," Barbara said.

"Yeah, and every time the combination seems to come out a little better, so my baby might even be the best of them all."

"Wow. I'm so happy for you. You must be really excited."

"Yeah, but I hope she don't hurt her foot again like she did when she first got here. If anything happens to her I don't think I can afford another one. And the boys keep scaring her with their pop guns."

"Well, if she doesn't turn out all right, I'm sure you could just breed her again and maybe come up with a better combination."

"That's true. And they're so much fun when they're little."

Barbara nodded and toyed with her coffee cup. Thoughts began to take shape in her head. She would never betray the cultish sort of bond that she and Rhoda had by exhibiting any signs of overt jealousy, and suddenly felt compelled to remain silent.

"Jenny, could you go get me my scissors from the barn?" Jenny's mom said.

Jenny's mom had a little sewing workshop out there, at the back of the rickety yet imposing structure, at the top of a narrow set of stairs. Dusk was falling, and the sky was starting to turn blue-green and then purple. All objects were in the process of turning black and losing their features. Jenny banged out the screen door, and walked with soft thuds down the hill. She mumbled to herself "Its not that far, why couldn't you just do it yourself?" She looked at the darkening edifice as she continued, and then thought "I have nothing to do with it anymore. You should know that by now." She walked briskly, trying not to show her suspicion. The barn regarded her equally suspiciously. There was a sudden motion in the air overhead, and then the dimly visible shapes of two bats swooped ahead of her in a faint downward arc and disappeared under the door frame.

Her footfalls echoed with a woody sound as she entered. Little patches of iridescent blue showing through the holes in the walls were the only thing visible at first as her eyes adjusted to the dimness. She looked at the unkempt state of the place and felt uncomfortable- almost squeamish. It seemed to have entered an advanced state of neglect in a very short period of time; it had only been a couple of months since she'd stopped coming here regularly, but during that time she had only been inside of it perhaps once. The floor was covered in old straw; there were piles of stiff and moldy leather lying about; clumps of dead, dirty animal hair gathered in corners. It seemed as though some misplaced object or random pile of debris would accost her at any moment, and she shrank away from the unseen things. Except for her footfalls, the periphery was as silent as a hushed courtroom just before the verdict is pronounced.

Then, almost against her own will, she glanced into one of the side compartments, some of which had formerly been pens for animals. In that brief glance... skeletal, it was a marvel it was even still alive, that thing... she saw it. She saw the starved ribcage, and the matted coat, and the mournful face of her erstwhile best friend! It appeared the way it looked in dreams that were too strange and uneventful to be called nightmares. Her old friend, the fiery little red mare, who was beautiful, sleek, quick and graceful. She was always unable to believe that she'd forgotten to feed her long enough for her to look like that, but was at the same time convinced of the truth of it. Every time she awoke from the dream, she was for several hours unable to shake the conviction that it had actually happened. The face was weak, listless, almost a death mask, but its stare sent out waves of an intense, powerful hate. The memory, mixing with the lack of light to impress itself visually upon her, was too much to bear.

There was a noise that seemed to mock the impatient way her friend used to bang upon the wall at dinner time. The cat had caused the disturbance jumping down from the rafters and landing on a stray board. The noise dispelled the vision and she hurried mechanically up the stairs, whispering "blank, blank, blank" as she tried to think of nothing at all. She grabbed the scissors, descended the stairs, crossed the floor, and broke into a run as soon as she had passed the door-frame again, aiming for the yellow light shining out of the kitchen windows. The barn stared after her with its holey walls and gaping door, resembling, as it did, a brittle skull.

"Tally" shook and stared down at its spindly legs. It was not sure what they were, unsure what to do with them, and unsure of whether or not it liked them. A layer of white foam worked its way to the surface of the creature's gray fur. Due its profuse sweating, its whole appearance was wet and matted. Since the first day, life had been nothing more than pure terror, broken by periods of dull incomprehension. The dreadful feeling had been bad enough in the place where the creature first came into being In those days, the beast had stood in the corner of its warm, sawdust-filled box and comforted itself, reassuring itself that at least things could not get worse. But then the impossible had occurred. Since its arrival at this new place, the situation had been one-hundred times worse. Its doom was decided from the beginning.

"I know that I have excellent bloodlines," it thought, "and that I am a well-bred specimen." It nipped at its knobby, spindly limbs because they would not stop shaking. "Everyone has high hopes for me." It looked at the high blue sky, the sun, the trees with their leaves whispering in the gently breeze, and everything started to reel around it as it became more and more terrified. Its legs were now quivering uncontrollably, like two rubber bands that had been stretched tight and plucked hard. It decided that it did not like them.
The increase in its pain, it decided, was largely due to these two other creatures, who ran around with ropes and whips and objects that made loud noises. What did they want!? It stamped its hooves in anger and frustration, sending a spray of gravel and sand flying in all directions, and gouging short troughs into the ground.

"Tally! Bad Tally!" Rhoda shouted. She began to drag forward on the rope again, trying to lead the horse onto the trailer. Barbara tied a rope to the trailer door, drew it around the creature's rear end and strained on it, trying to pull the beast forcibly onto the contraption. The rope bit deep into the animal's heaving flesh, but didn't seem to have any other effect. Finally, as a result of the combined efforts of the women, the horse minced halfway in, so that only the latter half of its ribcage, its hind legs, and rump were visible, quivering and foaming. There were premature shouts of triumph from the women, which frightened the beast so that it came charging straight out again in a sort of backwards tumbling motion.

"Owww!" said Barbara.

"Goddamn!" said Rhoda.

"She's pretty worked up. Maybe you ought to walk her around a little first and let her cool off before we try again."

"Okay."

Jenny stood in the shade of an gnarled apple tree at the edge of the driveway. Barbara made a sound that was halfway between a sigh and a hiss, brushing loose dirt from her denim skirt as she approached. She looked up at Jenny and smiled.

"She'll learn," she said. There was something uncertain and half-expectant about the smile.

"Why does Rhoda want a baby horse? Why didn't she just get one that was already grown?"

"Because babies are fun."

"But why?"

"Because this way she can raise it and train it, and it will really be her own. There's something really special about raising your own horse, that you can't get from one that's already 'broke'."

"But Rhoda can't even ride as it is."

"She'll have some help."

"How can she expect to teach it anything when she hasn't even learned the basics herself?"

"Uh oh... just a second."

Barbara ran to offer Rhoda some assistance and returned.

"Don't you think she's sweet, though, Jenny?"

"Not inherently." To Jenny, it would always be "the beast", "the nuisance", sometimes even "that gray thing"... dumb and pitiable.

"You might feel differently about it later."

"I don't think so."

Rhoda was attempting to coax the thing onto the trailer again.

"Frankly," she continued, "I think the two of you are doing this for the wrong reasons."
"Jenny! You're evil!"

There were a few brief thuds and the walls of the trailer rattled.

"Evil? Just because I don't feel the same way as the two of you? Just because I'm trying to point out the possibility of a mistake?"

"There she goes, Bren!"

The horse stood with its head and neck thrust out of the front door of the trailer, as wet and awkward as a newly hatched bird. It blinked, looked disoriented, and gummed at its lips, which were rubbery and highly flexible, and its disproportionately big ears hung submissively to either side of its head. On the whole it was a pretty badly put together thing, and it certainly would take a lot of luck or effort, large scale change of some sort, for anything good to come of it.

"That's a good girl!" Barbara exclaimed, and moved forward.

The trailer crept down the driveway like an awkward sedan chair moving through a thick jungle. It stumbled into ruts and swayed precariously. The truck driver cursed and spat outside the window at the annoyance, but was unworried. Sheila lead the way in her Honda CRX, anxiously glancing in the rearview mirror to check the progress of the white vehicle. Eventually, the small procession reached the very bottom of the driveway and rolled to a slow, tired halt.

The trailer was now spattered and caked with mud after its long journey through country back roads; it looked strange in its present condition because it was obvious that it had come from somewhere very far away and very different, and was now a misplaced object. Even with its covering of filth it stuck out like a gleaming white thumb. Special care had been taken to ensure that its contents would arrive safely. It was like a hermetically sealed vessel, an archeological find, or even a container fallen out of the sky, and Rhoda and Barbara fidgeted in anticipation, unable to imagine what would come out. Rhoda was even a little afraid.

"I don't know if I have the facilities here to hold him," she had said, "but the money will be nice."

Sheila got out of the Honda wearing a purple chenille sweater, purple leggings, bright red lipstick, and a rhinestone-studded jean jacket. She held a purple leash in her hand.
"Hi Rhoda. He's been on the trailer for three days. He's probably exhausted."
"Well," Rhoda said, "there's water and hay inside the paddock, but do you think its bad to feed them after a long trip?"

"How am I supposed to know?" Sheila said.

They both looked expectantly at Barbara.

"It's OK as long as you don't feed them too much," Barbara said. "Ooh... I can't wait to see him. What do you plan to do with him?"

"Whatever I want. Wayne gave him to me." Sheila never missed the chance to emphasize that fact.

"Do you ladies expect me to do this all by myself?" the truck driver said.

The three of them went to the back of the trailer and struggled, grunting, with the locks that held the ramp up. An impatient stamping issued from the inside, and the vibrations caused the tarpaulin covering the top of the aperture to quiver and slap lightly against the metal frame. With a metallic wheeze the ramp freed itself and dropped heavily on its springs.

"Oh, somebody get his head..." Rhoda began, but before anyone could do anything 1500 pounds of raw muscle came barreling out.

The horse stood rigid and statuesque, like a silver idol, its head reared back on the stalk of its neck and its nostrils fully distended to take in the foreign air so that their raw, pink, cavernous insides were visible.

"There he is!" Sheila said.

The old leash, which had somehow come undone, dangled from his head. Sheila snatched at it and planted a red kiss on his soft muzzle. The horse jerked his head and gave her a hard crack in the jaw.

"Ow!" Sheila yelped, obviously somewhat hurt and dismayed.

The boys had come rattling down from the top of the driveway on their bicycles, and now stood staring in brutish curiosity. The horse stared back and ground his teeth, with a look in his eyes like he'd like to pulverize them all.

"You better put him away. He looks like he's not going to let you hold him much longer," the truck driver said.

With the aid of Rhoda and Barbara, Sheila let the horse loose in his paddock. The silver plume of his tail fanned out behind him as he moved back and forth rapidly in the small space, snorting at everything. His eyes crackled and his hooves shot sparks as he kicked aside the stones with violence. His neck writhed like a snake, and the undulating wrinkles in the skin pushed up rows of bristles in the soft hair with every movement. His coat was mostly white, but had red-brown speckles on the rump and curving, magnificent neck, as if they were flecked with blood. He approached the gate and his spectators several times, lips pulled back from his huge teeth, face frozen in an ugly leer. Pinkish foam dripped from his lips and chin.

"He bites himself in the mouth sometimes when he gits scared or nervous," the driver explained.

Old Nick, the ancient, dwarfish, black Shetland pony, craned his neck to its full extent and perched his small head atop the fence, staring in impudent curiosity. The stallion made a serious effort to bash him in the face, which Nick avoided with devil-brained agility. The stallion halted and gestured lewdly at the baby, who stood on the other side of the fence and gawked dumbly. "Just you wait..." He ran back and forth a few more times, and at last came to a standstill and contemplated his audience, watching for a reaction, challenge, or counter-display. Since none was immediately forthcoming, he became bored and went to pick tranquilly at the hay that had been set out for him.

Jenny had been watching from a distance, concealed in a thin cluster of knobby spruce trees. From her position on the hill, it looked like the trailer had been sucked into a quicksand pit, or a bog, when actually it was just an especially bad mud season and an especially messy spring. "I hope the driver can get out," she thought, as the vehicle looked stuck. The scene appeared interesting enough that she crept down the slope, and now stood at the bottom just as the women began their exclamations:

"Oh! He's magnificent!"

"Breathtaking!"

Rhoda dabbed at her forehead with a rag, used a piece of paper for a fan, and actually adjusted her hair. Sheila strutted around with the leash, inspecting the fence. Jenny noticed her mother, toying with the coffee cup, pressing her crotch and lower abdomen up against a fence post, fidgeting.

The horses' tensed muscles relaxed as it became more and more absorbed in the pile of hay. Its gigantic member emerged like a part in some kind of slow, hydraulic mechanism. It was mottled, pink with blotches of gray-black skin, like a soft, bottom-dwelling sea serpent. Even in that state it was huge. The horse pissed on its hay. In response to the womens' partially concealed agitation, or perhaps despite it, she thought "Well... it is a pretty neat horse."

The horse looked up at her and they exchanged glances. Even in captivity it was a neat, interesting horse. She imagined that there was actually meaning in the look between her and the mute animal, but before she could speculate on what that meaning might be, she felt her mother's hand gripping her shoulder.

"What do you think?" Barbara said.

The horse looked back down at its hay. Jenny did not like the feeling of that grip.

Sam and Jenny had been accused time and time again by certain townspeople of being witches. Against the true menace, however, the real dark and tightly knit group, conspiring in corners, the three blind fates plotting in a cave, the two of them were but babes in the woods. Though they were sharp, not altogether un-cunning, the forces that they were up against were as old as the world itself. Even if they had seen it coming, the adversary was massive, stretched in abundance over the earth, right down to its foliage and animal kingdom, and had a natural, downward, gravitational pull that would take superhuman feats of strength to escape. And those mothers of misfortune had begun to spin their webs faster, drawing them in toward an end that was, to all appearances, inevitable.

"Horses are for girls. You know what I mean? It's mostly girls that are into horses," Jenny said. "It's weird. I think it must be something biological."

Sam laughed. She was stretched out on her bed in the dim confines of her room, one leg propped up and sheathed to the knee in a tall leather riding boot, her mane of black hair spread out behind her.

"That's kind of true," she said, "thought I'm not sure why."

"And its not just the little girls. Its the older women too. I mean, my mom, Rhoda, that lady Sheila... they're obsessed. They treat that gray creature like it was their own child."

"Maybe its because we turned out so bad," Sam said. "Horses are pretty cool, though. They're big, they're powerful, I like the way that they smell. You used to like them."

"No, I still like them, I've just moved on to other interests. But when I did ride it was for different reasons I think. I like the more intellectual aspects of riding, and I like big animals too. I like being able to control a big animal. But them... I don't know what kind of psychology, or biology, for that matter, is behind their weird obsession. I don't think its the same for you and me."

Sam sat up and grinned a gleaming white grin. Her eyes were dark, mischievous, and smart. "That's because we're not the same as them," she said.

Across town, downstairs, in a cabinet, there is a photo album which Jenny's mother owns. The photo album contains happy memories organized in a logical way into its clear plastic pages. However, there is also a whole collection of rejected snapshots which also belong to the photo album, but have been judged unfit for inclusion. The rejects actually outnumber the displayed photos, but only Jenny knows where they are kept. It is fairly certain that most the rejects have only been seen by Jenny and Sam and certain of their friends, although a scattered few may have formed the basis for the witchcraft accusations. It is less certain what form the rejected photos exist in, whether they are printed photos, photos composed of pure memory, or otherwise. In fact, the rejected collection is probably comprised of a combination of these forms.

Here, in this photo album, we find pictures of Jenny, Sam, and Jenny and Sam's friend Sal, who is like them, attending horseback riding competitions. Several of these photos depict scenes in which Jenny, Sam and Sal do not appear, photos that seem aimless, without subject, as if they were trying to capture a particular feeling that was in the air that day, but have failed. Certainly, even if they have no specific subject, all the photos contain objects. For example, there are several in which families, or more predominantly, mother daughter pairs, wander about over green fields, through white stable buildings with pennants flying from their corners, enjoying the summer day. Little dogs run around nipping at the horses heels. However, they seem scattered; indeed, in some cases about to wander right off the edge of the photo.

Jenny's mother is not very good with technical equipment, and is not a very careful photographer. Jenny wonders if her mother is aware of the fact that these photos have nothing to do with Jenny, Sam and Sal.

In these photos, although Jenny, Sam and Sal do appear intersticed amongst the other people, they are never seen to partake of the activities that the others do. For instance, they never appear eating, taking a nap, drinking a soda . . .

They do sometimes smile or laugh, their arms draped around each other. Outwardly, they are dressed like the other horseback-riding girls, in snug, pale-colored breeches and tall, close-fitting leather boots. Sometimes the blend in almost perfectly; sometimes they appear to stand out, irreconcilable with their surroundings.

Jenny, Sam and Sal always win.

"Uncanny," says one of the judges. This photo portrays perfectly the look of disease and wonder that he wears on his face. These photos have all been of the "acceptable" category. Of the "rejects", there are several with the three engaged in activities in the remote corners of dilapidated buildings, contortion of limbs, black riding crops, large patches of exposed white skin, knees digging into the hard dirt floor... In another, the three girls lounge in a wooden doorway of a fair building, eyes darkened and white shirts smeared with dirt. Although there is nothing overtly obscene about the photo, it had been rejected based on feeling alone.

Meanwhile, back in the dimly lit bedroom: "Sam," Jenny said, suddenly disquieted, "there is another reason why. I really think that we've got to watch out."

"Jenny, I need you to help me with something down at Rhoda's today," Barbara said.
With the words down at Rhoda's, a chasm seemed to open up near her left ear where the words went in, into which she was in danger of falling. There was definitely a rift somewhere, a yawning hole, perhaps in her brain. At any rate, down at Rhoda's resonated forcefully with the meaning she'd always known it to have, backed up by the pull of gravity associated with the suggested chasm. Steep it was.

"I know mom, you already told me. But you still haven't said specifically when or what."
"In a little while. I just didn't want you to forget or go running off somewhere."

"OK" Having a strong inkling that the task was going to be an extremely unpleasant one, she tried to speak in a robotic, flat voice, the kind that didn't mix with or participate in the surroundings.

They started down the road shortly. The trees whispered evilly at the bottom of Rhoda's driveway, tossed about by the same breeze that seemed to kiss her cheek so gently, long ago, when she'd go flying over the summer fields with her friend- the fiery-red little mare. The sky, though it was a bright cerulean blue, looked filmed over with a sticky, impenetrable film, a film that felt very close while the bright blueness overhead seemed so far away. There was a sick smell of mud, or perhaps it was spring fever, she thought as she caught sight of a pathetic, mangy looking cat in heat, perched atop a fence post and yowling for its mate. She walked stiffly and reluctantly, hoping that at least if she could not avoid this task, whatever it was, it would at least be over quickly. Rhoda was waiting for them down below. She tried a last ditch effort at escape.

"You're sure the two of you can't handle this by yourselves?" She felt a little guilty for trying to weasel out of something that would only require a moment or two of her time, but this feeling of resistance was rising up out of the soil itself.

"No. I definitely need you."

Jenny stood and shifted nervously from one foot to the other while the two women conferred. She'd been trying to maintain her robotic profile, but it was all coming apart now.

"Okay, Bren, I've been talking to Sandy and I think the best way to do this is to get them in the paddock, but with the gate open. That way if he strikes out at her or threatens to injure her in any way, we can get her out of there quickly."

"Of course we don't just let him loose. One of us has to hold his head."

"It should be a really good mix."

"You've seen to his hygiene? It's got to be sanitary."

"This is so exciting."

Driven as they were by a specific and uncontrollable excitement, their eyes were shining somewhat deliriously, despite the detailed and businesslike nature of their planning.
"Jenny, come here."

"What?"

"Come here and stand in this paddock."

She stood mute and horror-stricken as she suddenly realized what they intended to do,
"No, I don't want to."

"Jennifer Jones, I don't ask you for help that often. You can at least humor me this one time."

"But," she gasped as they forced her into the enclosed space, "I'm not like you."
"Now, it won't kill you to do this."

Oh, but it will! It already has! Hasn't it? She couldn't decide if this was inevitably in the cards for her, or if her puny will, her microscopic disgust, could save her from this event willed by the forces of nature. Was there still time? If there was, than this exact moment bore tremendous weight. After all, every moment in a person's life counts in some way or other.

She saw that Rhoda had the horse, and was advancing. Something about the sight of that particular horse, snorting, powerful, and full of life, turned her anticipation from a fearful kind into a kind tinged with curiosity. Curiosity or some sensation that was not entirely negative. Soon, the hair covered body impinging upon her, or the women, or something was pushing her black jeans down off her hips, and there was a voluptuous, fleshy sort of pressure. And, she realized as another horrified, electric shock rattled through her body, the gate was open, but she was making no move to escape through it. The horse's weight only added to her own increasing weight, as she felt herself swell with fluids already.

The horror and the repulsion vied with the other feeling.

Then it occurred to her, accompanied by a wan and hopeful feeling of relief, that this design would not be successful, that the species were too different for anything to come forth from it...


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