The Black Stallion
The lightning split the sky and hit the deck. Mom rubbed my back the way the chemo nurse had rubbed hers an hour earlier.
The angry swirl of ocean swallowed the boy’s head. I knew his feet didn’t touch the bottom, and hoped he’d taken swimming lessons at the Y, so he would know you have to run in place, conduct the orchestra, run in place, conduct the orchestra. The horse was black and the ocean was black but I knew he was alive because one green eye flashed inside the waves and a whinny answered the thunder claps. Mom’s whisper rushed into my ear like the voices sliding into the sea.
I said yes, I wanted to leave.
The seats snapped shut, triple bounced, and we crab-walked along the sticky aisle. Mom clutched a striped bag of cold popcorn, her favorite thing about the movies until chemo made everything taste like a crowbar. We got to the top and were about to leave when the theater filled with light. We turned toward the screen, saw palm trees, sand, a seagull, rocks, shells, white clouds. The storm was over. I said I wanted to stay and headed back to our seats, but Mom pointed to two seats in the back row and I could hear that she was out of breath so we sat in those bad seats.
It’s one year later and Mom is gone, and I think about that movie all the time. I’m glad the horse and the boy survived, but those first seats were so much better and all I keep thinking, every night, right before I fall asleep? I wish I’d been brave.
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