Coming home with a migraine, Sam saw his daughter Rosalyn and Anna through the kitchen window। They traded tastes off wooden spoons like sisters, although Anna was his age.
They would want to know how he was feeling, including nuances that were beyond him. Having made it inside the living room, he resolved to maintain reticence.
In one corner of the living room light from the street streamed in, illuminating a horse from an antique carousel. Sam had always assumed it was a gift from one of his wife’s lovers. Last New Year’s Eve, sixteen-year-old Rosalyn had plopped a blonde wig on its head.
The kitchen lay past the horse through a swinging door. The sudden, sweet smell of brown rice almost brought him to his knees as he leaned against the door frame.
Through the hinges he saw Rosalyn holding a finger to her lips. Anna said, “I think it’s time, don’t you? Let’s ask today’s contestant to come on out and say hello. Sam Durkin, folks, a financial consultant from Westchester, New York. Sam?”
He had no choice. He was in pain but conscious.
“Let’s give him a hand,” Rosalyn said.
Seeing his face, Anna whispered. “Imitrex?”
He’d already taken two; he could take another after midnight. Anna turned off the lights and through the jig-sawing darkness, she gleamed. Through filters of pain, he kissed her goodnight, ecstatic as always at her touch. He found his daughter concerned in the background and kissed her goodnight, too.
Upstairs, he dreamed about being ten years old with Anna and watching a horse being born. They stood inside the hot, humid barn, charmed by a shaft of light turned substantial by motes of hay. Grandpa’s big, blonde horse, Lorna Doone, snorted and thrashed. They watched her belly shift backwards. She reared up and issued a noise like a scream. Their grandfather ran into the barn, into the stall, and held Lorna’s head down. More thrashing until he had to jump back from her bucking hindquarters. He stroked her side and the foal rippled through its mother’s body. Grandpa was pulling and yelling above the horse’s ferocious screams and kicks. So many legs working and then they heard a wet, wrenching sound.
The foal lay still inside a pillow of slime, which Grandpa ripped off. He cleaned the foal, a filly, rubbing it with hay. Lorne Doone had rolled onto her side.
The children, Sam and Anna, hugged each other as the newborn horse tried to stand—and did.
Shot through this half-conscious memory were haphazard sensations that harked back to Rosalyn’s birth. She had been bloody and squalling, not lifeless, not trapped in a thick sac of membrane.
But the recollections ran together: the violence of birth, the hugeness of a head, the spindliness of legs and how quickly we totter up, grow gigantic, and run.