The pretty good books of Susan Larson

The Joinup Begins: Sam Changes his Mind

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In this vignette from “Sam (a pastoral),” both Ruthie and Sam forgo their first impulses, namely to fight; they stop a moment and re-consider each other and decide to try a little trust.


‘Sam sauntered down the barn lane like an old moo cow, his head bobbing between Evvie and me, his ears waggling back and forth in time with his strides. My heart was thumping about three beats per waggle. I led Sam close to the stave bench, then stood on it and slowly looped the reins over his neck.

Sam tensed up and rolled a spooky-blue left eye around to glare at me. He whuffed out hard through his nose as I undid the halter and lifted the crownpiece of the bridle up in front of his face…

Hmpf!” he said, and flung his nose straight up. How could he? After I had been so nice to him.

“Should I smack him?” I asked Evvie.

“I dunno, is be being bad?”

Was he? Or was he just expecting to get yarned around? We stood there another minute. The nose stayed up, the eye stared at me. Finally I took the bridle down and reached out nice and slow with my empty hand. I stroked Sam’s neck.

“Don’t worry, Sam.” My voice was shaking. “I won’t yarn you around, ever. Ever. I promise.”

That eye glowered down at me and I looked up at it. I kept stroking his neck. It was as hard as stone. Another long minute went by.

The eye closed. Sam smacked his lips and made a sound like a sigh. Did I hear him say,

“Tsk. Oh, all right, if it means that much to you.” Sam lowered his head. I held up the bridle again and he took the bit. I eased the crown piece over his ears, off side, near side. Sam sighed again while I did up the buckles; then the eye opened and looked at me. Not glaring…

Sam lifted his nose up close to my face. He sniffed my hair and my mouth and touched my cheek with his whiskers. I sighed and shut my eyes…’


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