Literary Yard

Search for meaning

I’ve Been to the Desert with Dewey Bunnell

By: Todd Mercer

It’s infuriating and impossible to understand: my person refused to name me. Who does that? Every other horse in this stable? Normal names. At first I thought it was an oversight, but then it struck me how not naming me makes it easier to send me to the glue factory. That’s always the implied threat in the background.

So yeah, it’s been hard to completely relax and feel secure around these stables, but I try. You can’t live life constantly on the cusp of panic. To my person’s credit, he feeds me high quality oats and the occasional apple. But to check against the big picture again, is that out of kindness or is he fattening me up? A horse has to be barn-smart about these things to last long.

I’m not a lazy pasture horse, chomping grass, dreaming my days and muscle tone away. No way. You’re talking to a working horse. I do short tour walks and unfortunately, I’m also available for multi-day adventure rentals. They’re where ninety-nine out of hundred of my problems happen.

My person saddled me one morning. He said I was booked for the whole weekend. Great. Stuck wandering around buttes and salt flats with a British pop singer aboard, ooh-ing and ah-ing at tumbleweeds, etc. Lucky me. Temperatures hit a hundred and ten degrees out there day after day. The dread was strong.

If this gig went like the last one, me and the crooner could both pass away under the blazing sun. My person must’ve needed to sell the idea. He brushed my hair a little. He said the singer used to live in New Mexico as a kid. Military brat or whatnot. Maybe we could assume the man had a modicum of desert sense. Maybe.

A horse can only hope.

But no, it was the worst, as expected. Plenty of sunburns, scorpions, and badly-timed hallucinogens. That last one was him—I leave the trippy plants alone. More water would’ve been super, we agreed on that. If he hadn’t turned me loose on the epic Day Nine of a supposed two day trip, I’d be a pile of bones in a dry canyon. That would’ve been ironic, eh? “Nameless Horse Dodges Glue Factory, Succumbs to Desert.” Imagine the headline.

We went through one unlikely debacle after another. I was on the clock and therefore powerless to influence what we did, or which way we’d go. Later I considered suing, but nobody takes horse litigation seriously in this county.

Six months passed. My person turned on the barn’s radio. Kiss my ass and call me Nothing! We heard my nemesis! It was the pop singer who, when we were together, could not recall his own name. That’s right, had a legal name, forgot it. What a luxury. We heard him sing about that memory lapse and the hell he put me through.

What hurts deepest—all my life I’ve wished for a name never got one. Then some guy who notices what I lack writes a catchy tune in which a horse’s rider is likewise functionally nameless. He’s mining my trauma. It’s a lot to take. It’s heavy business.


Mercer’s short collection, Ingenue, was a winner of the Celery City contest. Mercer was nominated for Pushcarts and Best of the Nets in Fiction and Poetry. Recent work appears in Dunes Review, Flash Frontier and MacQueen’s Quinterly.


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