“I looked back and forth between them, feeling the heat of their anger, the unspoken words swelling in the air like smoke. Jerry took a slow sip from his beer and lit another cigarette. "You don't know anything about that little girl," he told Nona. "You're just jealous because Cap belongs to her now."
I could see Nona's heartbeat flutter beneath her t-shirt, the cords tightening in her neck. "Her mommy and daddy might have paid for him," she whispered. "But he's mine."
I waited for Jerry to cave in to her, to apologize, to make things right between them. But he held her gaze, unwavering. "He's not."
Nona stubbed her cigarette out on the barn floor, then stood. "If you don't believe me," she whispered, "I'll show you."
My sister crossed the barn to Cap's stall and clicked her tongue at him. His gold head appeared in the doorway and Nona swung the stall door open. "Come on out." she told him.
Don't!" I said, but she didn't pause.
Cap took several steps forward until he was standing completely free in the barn. I jumped up, blocking the doorway so that he couldn't bolt. Jerry stood and widened himself beside me, stretching out his arms. "What the hell are you doing?" he asked.
Nona stood beside Cap's head and lifted her arms as though she was holding an invisible lead rope. When she began to walk, Cap moved alongside her, matching his pace to hers.
Whoa," Nona said quietly and Cap stopped. My sister made small noises with her tongue, whispering words we couldn't hear. Cap's ears twitched and his weight shifted as he adjusted his feet, setting up perfectly in showmanship form. Nona stepped back to present him to us, and Jerry and I dropped our arms to our sides.
Ta da!" she said, clapping her hands at her own accomplishment.
Very impressive," Jerry said in a low voice. "Now put the pony away."
Again, Nona lifted her hands as if holding a lead rope, and again, Cap followed. She stepped into him and he turned on his heel, then walked beside her through the barn and back into his stall. Once he was inside, Nona closed the door and held her hands out to us. She hadn't touched him once.
Now," she said evenly. "Tell me again what isn't mine."
Jerry sank back into his chair, cracking open a fresh beer. "If that horse was so important to you, maybe you shouldn't have left him behind to be sold off to strangers."
Nona's face constricted, her cheeks and neck darkening in splotches of red. "Alice, tell him," she whispered. "Tell him that Cap belongs to me."
Sheila Altman could practice for the rest of her life, and she would never be able to do what my sister had just done. Cap would never follow her blindly, never walk on water for her. But my eyes traveled sideways to Cap's stall where his embroidered halter hung from its hook. If the Altmans ever moved to a different town, they would take Cap with them. My sister would never see him again. It wouldn't matter what he would or wouldn't do for her.
My sister waited a moment for me to speak, and when I didn't, she burst into tears, her shoulders heaving, her mouth wrenching open. Jerry and I glanced at each other, startled by the sudden burst of emotion.
You can both go to hell," Nona hiccuped, and turned for the house. "Right straight to hell.”
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