CONTESTS

Western Child

KENDALL POE

Second Prize winner of the 16th Annual Geist Literal Literary Postcard Story Contest

Someone throws a TV into the bonfire, which sends the thickest black smoke you’ve ever seen into the sky and subsequently ends the party. We all slide into Tyler Taylor’s pickup truck like seals. No one wants interference from the Dust Devils—what we call police. Then we drive to a cemetery and play with the thermostat of a mausoleum until it’s like a sauna. Heat stifles our laughter as the door claps shut behind us. It’s 2005, and we are not nice people, although three-quarters of us are Mormon. At least we aren’t addicted to gambling or working at Little Darlings. At the end of the night we roll down the hill of Lone Mountain Park to coat ourselves in fertilizer. This new skin makes it better, but what we really want is for someone to notice. Adults only have eyes for their destruction or their salvation, depending on which part of the valley they live in. Parents pick a side: church or casino.

The next day we snake through northern mountains until we get to the woods with the abandoned ski resort. Reckless energy pours out of the sedan as soon as we stop. Cold air snaps us into action. We stamp at the dry ground, duck under the rope with the No Trespassing sign to ascend the gentle slope. The empty chairlift creaks in the breeze above us. Cedar and dust and primrose swirl through our hair. None of our parents knows where we are. Eventually someone runs uphill. The others give chase, but the one in front stops just as suddenly. There’s a mustang grazing two hundred feet ahead of us. The horse looks but doesn’t stop chewing on late spring grass. Another horse joins it, then another, and another, until they skew the horse to human ratio in their favor. We are a mix of fear, reverence and confusion. Some of us sit to watch them. The more faint of heart inch back towards the car.

Adults say that with each passing year wild horse sightings in Lee Canyon have become more and more rare. We don’t know this yet, but in the sunshine, on the snowless slope, bald except for patches of thistle and shooting star, we see the mustangs, and in that moment, they see us.

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KENDALL POE

Kendall Poe is a writer. When not working, she likes to bike. She lives in Brooklyn, New York, and at kendall-poe.com.


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