The Renderer

The Renderer

Our Patsy died last night. Fifteen years with that horse, we had.
A big ole gal, sweet and constant. You could set a little baby on Patsy’s back,
send her down the lane and know that baby’d be safe,
like pushing Moses’ little boat into the reeds.

My boys were quiet this morning. No squabblin’. I knew they were wondering
how they were going to live without their horse, how Patsy’s big old body
would make its way to heaven.

I told them that God would come and be real gentle with Patsy.
Why He’d carry her across the sky to the most beautiful pasture
covered with grass and clover, dotted with butterflies. A brook too
with all the water Patsy could drink.

I watched the boys’ eyes and I knew they were seeing Patsy in that pasture,
seeing her look up at them, her mouth stuffed with grass. Every now and then
she’d dip her muzzle into the brook, plunge her pink tongue into the water
with a splash.

An as I described it to the boys, I started to see it myself, to feel it myself.
Her sleek brown flank so warm from the sun, you could lay your face on it,
smell the sweet dust, just a hint of manure, and all the time,
grabbing her stiff mane with both hands, hanging on tight to what you know.

I put the boys in the back seat of the pickup, and they leaned forward with their little
faces up behind me. I could feel their warm breath on my neck.

I needed to get us out of there before the guy came, so I drove fast down our winding
drive, sailing through the deep ruts of dried mud, the truck rocking from side to
side. All the while the boys kept asking me to describe ole Patsy in her heavenly pasture,

to say it again and again how God would carry her away and how sweet her life
was going to be, that we’d sure miss her, but we could be certain
that she’d be happy, that she’d be safe with the Lord.

Then I saw the head of that green truck climbing the hill in front of us like a monster.
It groaned, let off a big burst of exhaust, then stopped in the middle
of the road so we dare not try to pass.

The driver jerked the brake up like he was snapping something’s neck.
Then he lumbered over to my side of the car, his red, chapped belly
spilling out of his pants, cigarette pasted to his lip.

He looked right past the boys and growled, “I’m gonna have to saw the legs off, lady
‘fore I hook it. Then I drag it out on its back. Have to take the stall door off—
barn door too.” He blew smoke into the truck as he talked.

I felt like I was standing at the edge of Patsy’s heavenly pasture, and all I knew was that
I had to keep him out. I rolled up the window so his voice became muffled but we could still see his black eyes and see that cigarette moving up and down as his wet, blood-red lips contorted.

I let out the clutch, hit the gas and swerved the truck over as far as I could to get around
him, then barreled down the drive. I kept on going fast and steady till we hit the main road. I slid onto the pavement and drew a breath.

The boys were as quiet as could be. Not a single scuffle from the back.
We drove for several minutes in silence until finally, a little angel voice
came sweetly from the back.
“Yes, Jack?” I said.
“Was that God?”

Andrea L. Fry