The Law of Moses
Author:Amy Harmon


“WHAT ARE YOU LOOKIN’ AT?” I said sharply, finally giving Moses what I assumed he wanted, which was my attention. All the kids my parents took in soaked up attention like it was as necessary as air and they were all gasping to breathe. I hated it. Not the fact that they needed it from my parents, but that they also seemed to need it from me. I liked nothing better than being alone with the horses. Horses weren’t needy, and everybody else was so needy I thought I was going to lose my mind. Now Moses was here, in the barn, watching me, invading my time with Sackett and Lucky, my horses, sucking all the oxygen out of the room the way all the foster kids did.


Kathleen Wright had asked my parents if Moses could work out some of his new, un-medicated energy on our little farm. She said he would muck stalls, weed the garden, mow the lawn, feed the chickens, whatever they had available if they would help keep him busy that summer and into the school year if it all worked out. Those were all my chores, and I was happy to have him help if it meant I wouldn’t have to do any of them. But my dad found other things for Moses to do and Moses worked hard—so hard that my dad was running out of jobs. It would be impossible to keep him busy all summer.


Apparently, my dad had included cleaning the barn on the list and Moses had been stacking hay bales, sweeping, shoveling, and organizing tack like a mad man all morning. I didn’t know whether or not I wanted him there. Especially when he stopped suddenly and just stood, hands at his sides, staring. But Moses wasn’t looking at me. He was staring over my shoulder and his yellowish-green animal eyes were huge. He was holding perfectly still, which I’d never seen him do, not even once since he arrived. Moses didn’t respond to my question but his fingers moved, flexing and closing like he was trying to improve his circulation. It was what I did while waiting for the bus when I forgot my gloves. But it was June, unseasonably hot, and I doubted his fingers were cold.


“MOSES!” I barked, trying to snap him out of it. The next thing I knew he would be writhing on the floor, twitching, and I would have to do mouth to mouth or something. The thought of putting my lips on his lips made my stomach feel strange. I wondered if I could press my mouth to Moses’s, even if it was just to force air into him. He wasn’t ugly. I felt that funny swoosh once more, a slipping in my gut that wasn’t exactly unpleasant. Moses wasn’t ugly at all. He was strangely beautiful—different looking, especially those weird wolf eyes, and I had to admit to myself, on Moses, different looked good. It looked cool. Too bad he was cracked.


My parents used horses for therapy with the foster kids. In fact, theirs was a world-renowned program, all non-verbal kind of stuff, you know, because horses can’t talk. That was something my parents said in their sales pitch to make people laugh and put them at ease. Horses can’t talk, but sometimes, kids can’t talk either, and equine therapy—a fancy term for bonding with a horse and figuring things out about themselves by watching the horse —was how my parents made a living. That, and my dad was a vet, which was what I wanted to be when I grew up. Our horses were well-trained and used to kids. They knew to stand still when a kid approached, when a child was near. They were unfailingly patient. They would allow a stranger to slip a bridle on, even curling their lips to allow the bit. And children responded to them in ways that had the grown-ups using words like “miracle” and “break-through” whenever the troubled kids my parents took in returned to their families or moved on from ours.


Moses had been hanging around for the last two weeks, working, weeding, eating—holy crap could he eat—and generally getting on my nerves because he was so unsettling. He didn’t do anything wrong, exactly. He just made me jittery. He didn’t talk to me, which I convinced myself was his only redeeming quality. That and his cool eyes. And his muscles. I flinched, slightly repulsed at myself. He was weird. What was I thinking?


“Have you ever ridden a horse?” I asked, trying to distract myself.


Moses seemed to tear himself away from the daydream that had him standing and staring off at nothing.


His eyes re-focused on me briefly but he didn’t respond. So I repeated myself.


He shook his head.


“No? Have you ever been close to one?”


He shook his head once more.


“Come on. Come closer,” I said, nodding toward the horse. I was thinking maybe I could help Moses with some equine therapy, just like Mom and Dad. I’d seen them work. I thought maybe I could do what they did. Maybe I could fix his cracked brain.


Moses stepped back like he was afraid. In the weeks he’d been working on the farm he’d never gotten close to the animals. Ever. He just watched them. He watched me. And he never talked.