Catching Horses at Midnight

Horses

Pepita and Darius

My cell phone on the nightstand buzzes just as my daughter and I snuggle under the covers.

“Please silence it, Mommy. I’d hate to wake up tonight.”

“Sorry–with Dad gone, I prefer it up and running.” I put it back after reading my husband Jan’s message that he had a great day, a thousand miles away. “You could go sleep in your own bed, honey.”

“No, I want to stay with you.” To Aisha, sleeping in the king bed is the only benefit of Jan’s absence—never mind she’s fifteen.

Hugging her tight, I pray for a restful night. We both need it. Aisha had a sleepover at a friend last night—super fun, Mom—but of course, they did anything but sleep. Taking advantage of my solitude, I had been wordsmithing an article until 3 a.m.

I switch off the light, turn over onto my side, and fall asleep instantly.

Drrring, drrring.

Groggy, I reach for the phone. The display informs me that my neighbor, Valeria, is calling me at midnight. “Hello?”

“Milly, sorry to bother you at this hour, but it’s urgent—your horses escaped.”

“What?” I jolt out of bed and start getting dressed with one hand, while she tries to reassure me. “I’m blocking the road with my car, so they can’t go any further.”

“I’m on my way.”

I hastily explain to a drowsy Aisha that I must catch our two horses.

Mamma mia, my luck. They’re always docile, but now Jan’s gone—these few days a year—they decide to get away. I grab a carrot, a headstall, and a flashlight. Outside, I discover the flashlight has a dead battery. Sure, bad luck accumulates. Thankfully, the moon in a cloudless sky lights up my path as I descend the steep dirt road to our neighbors’ house.

Instead of a car and horses, I meet dead silence. “Valeria!” My voice carries off into trees, shadows, and an empty pasture. “Valeria!”

Oh no—forgot my phone.

After a strenuous run uphill, I’m chuffing into the receiver. “Valeria, where are you?”

“Almost there.”

Outside again, I see headlights come around the bend of the road. Despite stress and fatigue, I can’t help but smile at the sight of the equine pair, sauntering toward me in front of the creeping car. I wave to Valeria and put the headstall on the gelding, who willingly exchanges his freedom for a carrot. The mare follows us into the pasture.

Moments later, while they’re munching hay in the shed, I realize that I forgot to feed them since Jan left, yesterday morning. Probably, the late-autumn fields left them greedy for greener grass.

“Now, where did you break out?” I mutter, as I rub their crests and inhale their sweet scent. For a moment, the gelding interrupts his chomping to nuzzle my hand.

Before checking the fence, I phone Valeria to thank her. She warns me, “The gate at the bottom of the hill was open. I closed it as well as I could, but you better check.”

“Mama!” Frustration echoes from Aisha’s voice as she calls me from the doorway.

“Here I am, sweetheart.” I snatch my car keys. “Now, go back to bed. I’ll join you in ten minutes—just need to check the gate.”

“No. You can’t leave me alone.”

“Okay, put on your shoes and jacket and come with me.” Great, now we’ll both be wide awake.

When I inspect the double gate in the beam of the headlights, I discover that the bolt slide isn’t shut. What hunter, truffle seeker, or other nature explorer would leave our gate open after having benefited from our grounds? Groaning—the iron gates are not level—I slide the bolt in place.

When we finally tumble into bed, Aisha mumbles, “You’d better say another prayer; God didn’t hear you the first time.”

I’m about to agree, but all of the sudden, my perspective shifts. “I think God heard us well, honey. He wasn’t the one who forgot to feed the horses, to close the gate, or to recharge the flashlight. He is the One who led me to leave my phone on, made Valeria come by at the right moment, cleared the sky, and calmed the horses…Honey?”

Aisha’s slow breaths reveal she’s sleeping. To whom am I preaching?

Thank You, Lord.


 

This article was first published as an entry in the FaithWriters Weekly Writing Challenge.

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