I was cooking breakfast when my phone rang. Kimberly’s picture was on the display.
“Hey there,” I said.
There was no answer. “Call failed” replaced Kimberly’s picture. I had reception. I called her back twice, but she didn’t answer. I was a little worried.
I popped the English muffins out of the toaster, turned off the flames under the egg poaching water and the hollandaise, and threw on my shoes and a jacket. I was opening the back door when my phone rang. It was Kimberly.
“I got kicked and passed out,” she said weakly.
“I’m coming!” I shouted as I ran toward the barn. It felt like I ran a million miles through the riding ring made soggy by the early morning thunderstorms.
Even after being married for five years, I’m still not used to Kimberly’s low pain tolerance. I remember she once passed out after whacking her elbow on a countertop. I could barely imagine the pain from a well-aimed horse hoof.
When I reached the barn Kimberly lay in a puddle in the barn aisle. I looked around thinking one of the horses might be loose, but all the stall doors were latched. The horses were all leaning over the tops of their doors looking at Kimberly.
“Are you OK?” I asked, slowly helping her sit up.
Her jacket and pants weren’t waterproof, and she was soaked. I placed one arm around her back, the other behind her knees, and picked her up.
“Ow!” she shouted. “It’s my thigh.”
I adjusted my hold on her and eased her down on the bench near the tack room.
“Is anything broken?” I asked.
“I don’t think so.”
“Who was it?” I asked a little angrily, glancing at the faces peering over the stall doors.
Madison, Brownie and Vander all shook their heads, as if offering an emphatic “not me!” Mandy and Ellie weren’t likely suspects as they were still out in the pasture. When I glanced at Justin, his eyes widened, and he disappeared into his stall.
“It was Justin,” Kimberly said, gingerly peeling off her jeans to examine a quickly-darkening, hoof-shaped bruise. “I had just taken off his blanket. I was sort of standing behind him when I started folding it. He must have spooked, and I was right at the end of his kick.”
“How’d you make it to the barn aisle?” I asked.
“When my eyes started blacking over I got his door latched and lay down in the aisle,” Kimberly said. “I didn’t want him to get loose.”
I entered Justin’s stall and latched the door behind me. Justin stopped eating and looked up at me. The blanket lay beside his bucket.
“Am I in trouble?” he asked, his bottom lip quivering.
“Only if you do it again,” I answered firmly, picking up the blanket.
“I promise I won’t!” he shouted. “Put it away–I promise, I promise!”
Justin was shaking and had backed up into a corner, keeping both eyes on me and the blanket.
“Do you really think we’d hurt you?” I asked.
“Not you guys–but that thing might!” he exclaimed, his eyes moving from me to the blanket in my hand.
“It can’t,” I assured him. “I’m just going to fold and unfold the blanket a few times just to show you that nothing will happen to you.”
I firmly grasped the blanket with both hands at the neck opening and slid my right hand down to the tail flap. Justin scooted sideways with his butt pressed against the wall, as if he were trying to squeeze himself between the two-by-10 slats and make an escape.
“See,” I said calmly. “It only does what we want it to.”
I slowly brought the tail flap to meet the neck opening. Justin scooted sideways back into the corner. I pulled the new fold taut and then made a final fold by draping the blanket over my arm.
“Good job, Justin,” I said. “It’s just that easy. Let’s try it again.”
Gripping the blanket’s neck, I let it unfold and fall to the ground. Justin shot out of the corner with a buck, barely missing me as he threw himself into the opposite corner. Again, he stood shaking.
“I can’t help it!” he said with a loud snort.
“It’s OK,” I said, slowly repeating the same motions with the blanket until it was folded.
When I let the blanket unfold to the ground, Justin flinched, but didn’t leave the corner. I folded it again and then let it unfold.
I was so into my little routine of folding and unfolding the turnout that I didn’t notice that Justin had returned to his bucket. I watched him as I folded and unfolded the blanket one more time.
Then I let the blanket unfold, and I shook it. Justin didn’t look up. I shook the blanket as hard as I could.
“Do you mind?” Justin said, sounding annoyed. “I’m trying to eat.”
“But isn’t this scary?” I asked, vigorously shaking the blanket.
“Why?” he responded with a mouth full of food. “It’s just a silly blanket.”
Justin took another mouthful of food from his bucket. I simply patted him on the back as I walked past with the blanket and exited his stall.
Color had started returning to Kimberly’s lips and face. Our head barn cat, Macy, was curled up, asleep in her lap.
“Another session or two and our patient may be cured,” I said, sitting down beside Kimberly. “How do you feel?”
“Better,” she responded. “I should probably try walking.”
Macy stayed curled up as I moved her from Kimberly’s lap to Justin’s folded turnout. I helped Kimberly up. She winced with the first few steps, but things loosened up a little after that.
“I’ll bet getting stung like that helps work up an appetite,” I said. “How about some eggs Benedict?”
“Sure,” she answered. Kimberly took a few more lightly limping steps through the barn aisle. “At least now I don’t feel as guilty about Justin’s appointment tomorrow.”
“What appointment?” I asked.
“Justin’s getting gelded tomorrow,” Kimberly answered as she hobbled past me and headed slowly toward the house.
“Psssst!” Justin said, motioning for me to come to his stall door. “What’s ‘gelded?'”
“Well,” I said, “it’s…um, it’s…”
Justin stared at me, wide-eyed with excitement.
“It’s something special,” I said, “and it’s just for big boys.”
“All right!” Justin exclaimed. “Just for big boys like me!”
I jogged from Justin’s stall feeling slightly queasy. For some reason the poached eggs I was making for breakfast no longer sounded good. As I caught up to Kimberly, I was hoping she might be fine with cereal and toast–and, of course, an ice pack.
Jeremy Law and his wife, Kimberly, live on a small farm in North Carolina. Read Jeremy’s other columns in EquiSearch.com’s Humor section.