SP Hannaway's short story "This Blasted Horse" appears in issue forty-six of Neon Literary Magazine

Shh
yes, all of you
nosey parkers
lurking behind trembling lace
pottering in perms and dowdy dresses
butt out
don’t say it
I don’t want to hear a word
not a peep
thing is, this blasted horse he doesn’t sleep and I’m not sure what he does when I sleep
if I…
maybe he squeezes into the lift, goes for a canter round the streets, about the town, maybe he considers… horse things
maybe he just switches off and I don’t mean he sleeps, he doesn’t ever close his eyes, doesn’t have to
obviously
just that he’s come from another place, somewhere elusive, in between – the head and the heart – and maybe he returns there, goes back
retreats
until I’m up

*

he’s not a rude horse
not like me
I’m fucking rude
ha
I misbehave
you know what I’m like
but generally a man is ruder than your average horse
I know this
I know a lot of things
I listen
for me, it’s control
sometimes I say something do something and I know he disapproves, he has a certain way of looking
astounded
or not looking at all
snorting nostrils
flaring
sometimes he turns his shadowy head away
disgusted
like he can’t quite believe it, like he would never… if he wasn’t, you know, a horse
and by the by I can’t imagine anything worse than having a horse in your flat apart from having a rude horse in your flat, can you imagine it?
nosey?
are you there?
I bet you are, the whole tribe of you
ears glued to the walls
curious
the cat, it came to a sticky end
and by the by I always think it’s better to say it how it is
the horse, well, he would differ
if he thought about it
if he thought
if he deigned to comment, to say something to me
now
anything at all
I mean why turn up out of the blue if you’re not

*

I think this horse, I think he’s tired
but not of me
I didn’t make him appear, I didn’t force him to come
and who would tire of me?
it’s all this hanging around
waiting
idle
I know I’m tired
hiding
I’m a wreck
I always fancy, like now, you know, slipping down the rabbit hole of sleep
his eyelids droop but they never close and if he thinks I’m distracted or overcome or crumpled up with rage, blinded by the emptiness
he shifts his weight
one leg
to the other
a sleight of hoof which for a horse…
well
unnerving

*

thing is, I’m rude but I’m not heartless, I know this horse finds it hard, standing all day, keeping guard, his ears tangling in the light shade, his heft bowing the floor
not your common or garden grassy meadow
so when he first pops up, drops in, when he comes to stay I think
oh
a horse
he needs a bed, a place to rest heavy haunches, he must be spent
after the journey, the long, the narrow winding track
(I want him to think he’s welcome)
so in the dark yes the dark I sneak from garden to neighbour garden, rooting and rummaging, pilfering and piling up
yes
mostly leaves
but other stuff too
little treasures, finds
through openings, windows left unlocked
and by the first pinch of daylight I have an armful and I make a bed on the floor of fallen leaves, of decay, a thick and crackling layer
a deep and earthy mattress
a floor in the forest in the flat
for the horse
this
blasted horse
he won’t lie in it
shakes his head, ears pinned back
other people’s leaves make him snuffle and sneeze
he’s sensitive
something in them running up his nose
little spiders
a plethora of ants
maybe it’s the smell
the rot

*

can you imagine?
nosey
Mrs Parker
no, not the rot – imagine, inside, a stonking horse, the force of its steaming piss, its heavy plop, the black sheen off its flank, a horse like mine
this… blasted horse
you’re thinking
really?
really?
you’re thinking
what have you ballsed up? what have you done? what have you done in your sick little sad life to make this come about? sneaking around in the dark revving your engine through the streets stealing your neighbours’
leaves
filling your flat with spinning spiders, soldiering ants
with a horse
even if it’s blasted, a horse doesn’t just… crop up, does it?

*

does it not?

*

*

in my head the dream I can’t get rid of the open twisting road the wash of dark the waiting hills the heart of the car thumping and the blood rushing to somewhere nowhere in the blasted country and the houses dotted pinpricks light wavers in a window and the rain punishes pummels the windscreen the water swirls into a blur and then a figure in the night up ahead on the verge a man the bundle of a man lost without a purpose a point veering out out in the road in the way my foot pressing the pedal staying put and my crumpled heart aflutter fingers tingling on the wheel gripping power the man’s face dripping turning the flicker of light in his eye the hand of God in my hand holding on

*

out of my head
nosey
keep it down
you’ll wake my spiders
they don’t like to be disturbed
you’ll upset him
horse
with your insinuations
and I won’t have it, stand for it
I won’t have Myrtle, Marge or Mary wake him
he has to nap because he isn’t staying, I know it
I’ll kick him out
and he’ll think that it’s me, judge me, blame me, that I don’t care, I have no heart, it’s crumpled
but I do
I did
that I wanted to get rid of him because I could
because I’m me
and God
he’ll think I’m the one
without a point
fucking rude
and true.

***

SP Hannaway’s first story appeared in Litro Online in 2014. Since then his work has featured in journals such as Dream Catcher, Brittle Star, Lighthouse, The Incubator and The Interpreter’s House. He’s studying for an MA in Creative Writing at Goldsmiths. He’s worked as an actor and lives in London.

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