The Law of Moses
Author:Amy Harmon

“Go ahead. Sackett’s the best horse ever. At least give him a pat.”

 

“I’ll scare him,” Moses responded. I was startled once more. It was the first time I’d heard him speak and his voice wasn’t two-toned like my foster brother Bobbie’s and so many other boys, as if it was hovering between the steps that would eventually take him to the basement, squeaking and shifting, before finally sinking into position. Moses’s voice was deep and warm and so soft it tickled my heart a little as it settled on me.

 

“No you won’t. Sackett doesn’t get excited about anything. Nothing scares him or makes him nervous or anything. He would sit here all day and let you hug him if you wanted to. Now, Lucky, on the other hand, might bite off your hand and kick you in the face. But not Sackett.”

 

Lucky was a horse I’d been wooing for months, a horse someone had given my dad as payment for services they couldn’t afford. My dad didn’t have time for Lucky’s attitude, and he had turned him over to me and said, “Be careful.”

 

I had laughed. I wasn’t ever careful.

 

He laughed too, but then warned, “I’m serious, George. This guy is named Lucky for a reason. You’ll be lucky if he ever lets you ride him.”

 

“Animals don’t like me.” Moses’s voice was so faint I wasn’t sure I heard him right. I shook off thoughts of Lucky and patted my faithful companion, the horse that had been mine for as long as I had been able to ride.

 

“Sackett loves everyone.”

 

“He won’t like me. Or maybe it’s not me. Maybe it’s them.”

 

I looked around in confusion. There was no one in the barn but Sackett, Moses, and me. “Them who?” I asked. “It’s just us, dude.”

 

Moses didn’t answer.

 

So I stared at him, waiting, raising my eyebrows in challenge. I stroked Sackett’s nose and down the side of his neck. Sackett didn’t move a muscle.

 

“See? He’s like a statue. He just soaks up the love. Come on.”

 

Moses took a step forward and raised his hand tentatively, reaching toward Sackett. Sackett whinnied nervously.

 

Moses dropped his hand immediately and stepped back.

 

I laughed. “What the hell?”

 

Maybe I should have listened to Moses about animals not liking him. But I didn’t. I guess I didn’t believe him. Wouldn’t be the last time.

 

“You’re not going to wimp out are you?” I taunted. “Touch him. He won’t hurt you.”

 

Moses leveled his golden-green eyes at me, considered what I had said, and then reached forward once more, taking another step as he stretched out his fingers.

 

And just like that, Sackett reared up on his hind legs like he’d been hanging around Lucky too long. It was completely out of character for the horse I’d known all my life, the horse who hadn’t bucked once in all the years I’d loved him. I didn’t have a chance to scream or shout or even reach for his halter. Instead, I got a hooved foot in my forehead, and I went down like a sack of flour.

 

Blood stung my eyes when I opened them and stared up into the rafters of the old barn. I was laying on my back and my head hurt like I’d been kicked by a horse—I realized suddenly that I had been kicked by a horse. By Sackett. The shock was almost greater than the pain.

 

“Georgia?”

 

I focused blearily on the face that suddenly loomed above me, cutting off my view of crisscrossing beams and dust motes dancing in the streaky sunlight peeking through the cracks along the walls.

 

Moses held my head in his lap, pressing his T-shirt to my forehead. Even in my dazed state, I still noticed the naked shoulders and chest and felt the smooth skin of his abdomen against my cheek.

 

“I need to get help, okay?” He shifted, moving my head to the floor, still holding his shirt to my bloody forehead. I tried not to look at the amount of blood on that shirt.

 

“No! Wait! Where’s Sackett?” I said, trying to sit up. Moses pushed me back down and looked at the door as if he had no idea what to do.

 

“He . . . bolted,” he answered slowly.

 

I remembered that Sackett hadn’t been tied off. I’d never needed to restrain him before. I couldn’t imagine what had gotten into my horse to make him rear up and then go tearing out of the barn. My eyes found Moses again.

 

“How bad is it?” I tried to sound like Clint Eastwood or someone who could handle a devastating head wound and still not lose his cool. But my voice wobbled a little.

 

Moses swallowed sympathetically, his Adam’s apple bobbing up and down in his brown throat. His hands were shaking too. He was as upset as I was. It was easy to see.

 

“I don’t know. It isn’t wide. But it’s bleeding a lot.”

 

“Animals really don’t like you, do they?” I whispered.

 

Moses didn’t pretend not to understand. He shook his head. “I make them nervous. All animals. Not just Sackett.”