By Amanda Klejeski
I ride in a buddy saddle, two stirrups and a cushioned seat, strapped behind Mom’s brown leather Circle Y. Tezza is a tall Arabian and the clop of her hooves sounds farther away than it is. At an easy walk, I hold onto the belt loops of Mom’s jeans or, if we are loping, I wrap my arms around her waist. She holds my sister in a baby sling across her chest. Mostly we ride Tezza out on the trails, and sometimes down the gravel road to Little Long Lake, the three of us.
Cinderella, the little gray and white spotted mare, is the horse we learned to ride on. First my brothers thought she was theirs, and then my little sisters each called her “mine,” but really, they don’t know her. I asked Dad to buy carrots and he did. He doesn’t know that I sneak them out to the pasture. My Cindy-girl is the only one who likes treats—the other horses snort, nibble, and drop the pieces in the dirt. It is our secret.
The sun has set; we keep riding, deeper into the woods, Dad and my sister and me. ReadySetGo-ing for another race, we whoop and thunder down the trail. Until my saddle pad slides to the ground. My mare, Misty, spooks and bucks and bolts for the trees. Tipping, falling, hooves flying in my face, hanging from her belly. I hit the ground. Blood pours from my lip and I feel chunks of skin caught in my teeth. The next day, I cry harder than when I first fell. Staring out my window where I can see Dad at the arena fence, watching Misty, like I am watching her, praying that he doesn’t sell her or shoot her. God, it wasn’t her fault, she was just scared, please God, let her stay.
His nose is pink and soft, and his newborn whiskers tickle my palm. I lean into his neck, stroking his tri-color coat, and sniff his mane as he sniffs my shirt. He doesn’t smell like a horse yet—he just smells like fresh dirt, the good kind. We’re going to be best friends, kay, you’ll see. His ears flick at my whisper. He is mine, since Misty is his momma and she is mine. I don’t know what to name him, so we just stand together, staring, breathing, warming in the sun.
By Sarah Pirila
Our cat Calico pushes Birdie’s wire palace off the dresser, scattering colorful seeds on the wood floor. Birdie’s screeches alert us, and we find Calico poking at the bars, Birdie anxiously fluttering around.
Calico is scolded and banned from the room as Jonathan rights the birdcage, cooing comforting words to his ruffled pet. Snow was what he named her officially, but by the end of the first week, we simply called her Birdie. She has pure white feathers and a spot of bright blue on her back.
Birdie’s favorite thing is flying around my brother’s blue room. She will land on his bunk bed and on the white, cloud-like curtains. She will also land on our hands, butterfly-light. We laugh and spin around as she flies in circles. We like to lie on the floor, trading Pokémon cards, hiding them when Birdie lands to innocently chew on the shiny paper.
She likes to talk to her reflection and will make twittering sounds after we clean her mirror. It is always dirty since she tries to feed it seeds. She likes to spin the clear-colored beads on the bottom of the mirror, making clacking and whirring noises. Mom buys her colorful wooden toys to chew, and the newspapers on the bottom of her cage are illegible by the end of each week. Birdie is always in Jonathan’s room, and sometimes I sneak in to talk to her when Jonathan is gone.
Birdie sometimes has unfertilized eggs. Sometimes they make her go silent and she shuffles around uncomfortably. One night she squeaked distressingly, and her eyes were dull. I sat downstairs and read to her all night.
When Mom and Dad divorce, Birdie comes with us to Mom’s new house. She adjusts faster than anyone, squawking in the mornings when asked, and making her usual sweet twittering and murmuring during the day. Her new perch is in the dining room, where she sees all of us more often. She is neutral ground, and we all talk to her.
By Destiny Sherman
“Rosie had puppies?”
I stand in the back room of the humane society, watching my supervisor lining the floor of a kennel with towels. Seth straightens, patting his knees before facing me. He is big, bigger than I am, with black hair and a bushy black beard. He might be intimidating if I didn’t know how nice he really was.
“She had them last night,” he confirms. “We need to move them in here.”
“We?” I yelp.
Rosie is a tiny dog, mixed breed, red and white, not even reaching knee height on me. She is sweet as a button.
Unless you have brown hair. Then she hates you.
I have brown hair. Rosie hates me.
“You’re all I have,” Seth says.
“She’s going to kill me, Seth. Can’t you do it?”
I have been avoiding Rosie since day one. She is the kind of dog that sends me hiding in janitors’ closets and under sinks when someone has to bring her through the halls. Seth sure gets a kick out of it.
I know I am not laughing. I am on the verge of pissing myself.
“I need you right now,” Seth says encouragingly. “I won’t let her hurt you. I need a helper with this if I want Rosie and her puppies safe. You get the puppies. I’ll carry Rosie.”
I hate when he does this. He knows I love puppies.
Seth leaves to fetch Rosie from the dog room. I hide in a janitor’s closet, waiting for him to turn the corner. When I see his shadow, I close the door. When Seth passes by, his broad form blocking me from Rosie’s sight, I bolt from the closet and straight to the dog room.
Four bundles of red and white fluff lie on the towel in the empty kennel. My heart melts. These can’t possibly be that devil dog’s puppies.
“Hurry up!” Seth shouts.
I gather them up and head down the hall as quickly as I dare. Seth is at the far end, back to me. If Rosie sees me, she’ll go off like a bomb. She’ll bark and bite and scratch until she can get me, then do all of that to me. I’ve avoided a bite so far. I don’t want today to be my first.
I duck into the room and deposit the puppies at the back of the kennel. I give them one last pat before I run from the room, shouting “Clear!” behind me. Seth turns and goes into the room, Rosie whining when she sees her babies.
Seth and I share a high five when he exits. I am treated to Seth’s snack stash, stealing some orange soda and a few cookies as my reward. I deserve it for dealing with Rosie.
“My ‘Phobias,’” As Transcribed by Chester’s Human
I tend to get a little anxious in the pickup; some would say it’s a little more than that. A term I’ve heard bantered about is amaxophobia, the fear of riding in vehicle. However, what’s usually said is more along the lines of, “Oh, he’s just a little nuts.”
Regardless of the label, it is always followed up by a thorough and complete mocking of all of my implied “neuroses.” Maybe I don’t understand all of their words, but I get the inflection, and it’s hurtful. My issue, if there really is an issue, isn’t that A-word at all; rather, it’s simply that I’m a little terrier and I get a tad wound up in vehicles. It isn’t anything that can be helped. It’s just who I am.
There isn’t much for smells in either of my human’s vehicles, except of course for the lingering stench of that malodorous cat. It’s no picnic living with 220 million olfactory receptors in your nose, and being forced to cohabitate with a tomcat constantly reeking of last night’s lurid soirée.
No, the actual source of my excitement isn’t the truck or its smells—it’s the anticipation of the destination and all those wonderful smells that await me there. Places like the park, yes the park, where I can fly! At least as far as my tether will allow.
Okay fine, so I visibly quiver, cannot sit still for a nanosecond, and yes, I tend to vocalize in a pathetic sort of whine/bark from the very moment the engine starts. Equally true is that I continuously jump from front seat to back and back to front, coating every square inch of window in a layer of sticky canine mucous along the way.
But don’t you see the real issue here? My excitement is that I get to spend the day with my humans, and I get to go someplace wonderful where I’ll finally able to eradicate that cat from my senses. The absolute fact of the matter is that I love riding in cars, even if I have to do so in a kennel.
Amanda Klejeski is a senior at Bemidji State, majoring in English and creative and professional writing; she is the winner of the 2015 W. D. Elliott Creative Writing Scholarship. Sarah Pirila is a creative and professional writing major at BSU. Destiny Sherman is always in two places at once because wherever she’s standing is not where she’s at in her head. Craig Sorby is a creative and professional writing major at BSU.