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Jethro (standard:horror, 3587 words)
Author: Frank Q. MonkAdded: Dec 16 2005Views/Reads: 1829/1138Story vote: 0.00 (0 votes)
The worst thing Theo ever did.

Click here to read the first 75 lines of the story

horses do when they want something. 

He'd get his carrots, but I wanted to tell him about my teacher Mr.
Wallace first. I threw my arm over his shoulder and whispered to him 
about that funny black man. Mr. Wallace was the only black feller I met 
until then. Uncle Theo always called him coon teacher, and told me I 
shouldn't listen to him no more than the government made me. 

But the truth is I really liked Mr. Wallace. He was a huge feller,
probably weighed twice what I did and was the tallest teacher in the 
school. I think he kind of scared a lot of folks because he was just so 
big and black. He didn't scare me none, though. I've never been scared 
of big people. I've seen a small gelding let loose in a pasture full of 
all kinds of big mustangs, and within a week be running the show. 
Success in a fight don't have nothing to do with size. It ain't the 
horse in the fight, but the fight in the horse. I knew right off the 
bat that, like near everyone, he wasn't scary because he just couldn't 
get as mean as I could. When you know that about somebody, you don't 
get scared around them. Doesn't make it any easier to talk, though. 

He ran a pretty good class, and nobody smarted off much. He called on me
like all the teachers did at first, but just like the rest he pretty 
much gave up when I'd just keep on giving a little smile, not saying 
nothing. I always got good enough grades and I never caused nobody no 
trouble, in class at least, so teachers mostly went after other kids. 
And if a kid messed with me in class I would never do nothing until 
school was out and I could fix things with that kid on my own. Kids 
never messed with me for very long. 

Mr. Wallace was with grownups like I was with kids, a feller who
everyone got along with but who everyone was scared to death of. I 
don't know why he lived in Idaho where there weren't no more of his 
kind, but like everybody I guess he had his reasons. He always ate his 
lunch at his desk and not in the Teacher's Lounge, so I guess it wasn't 
because he liked the folks he worked with. 

One day when the bell rang for lunch, I just stayed and sat at my desk
when all the other kids got up to leave. I don't know why--I guess I 
was bored of walking around the edge of the field by myself. He was 
pulling his sack lunch out of his desk when he looked up to see me. He 
smiled and asked, "What's wrong with you, son? You want something?" 

I gave him my easy smile and shrugged just a little, then put my head
down on my folded arms on the desk. I just gazed out the window, 
because I didn't want him to think I was just staring at him. 

"Are you just going to sit there? You know, you're not supposed to be in
here during lunch unless you did something wrong." 

I looked back and shrugged again. He shrugged back--I think he meant it
to be funny--and pulled out his Walkman. I could hear the tinny music 
from where I was sitting, and I carefully watched him out of the corner 
of my eye as he pulled out an apple. He looked up at me again and said 
(a little too loud, because of the headphones), "You want my apple?" 

I smiled a little and didn't say anything. He turned down his headphones
and walked to me with the apple in his huge dark hand. He sat on the 
desk next to me, and his giant body just covered the desk like a big 
quilt. He set the apple on my desk as he looked at me. "Here. My wife 
always packs me two of them. She says that if she keeps giving me lots 
of apples she can be teacher's pet. She thinks that's funny." 

I stared at the big bright red and yellow apple on my desk. I hadn't
eaten since the oatmeal I had yesterday. I didn't want him to think I 
was just trying to bum some food, but I was pretty hungry. I decided 
I'd eat half of it and then give the rest to Jethro along with the 
carrots I had. That way I wasn't really begging. 

"You're a funny kid, aren't you? I been teaching a long time, and I've
seen some quiet kids. But you might be the best I've ever seen at 
keeping your mouth shut." 

I don't let my guard down much, but I couldn't help showing how proud I
was to hear him say that. I gave a little honest smile. 

"I KNEW it. I just knew that wasn't your real smile. Don't worry--I
won't tell anybody. Your secret's safe with me." I didn't let on that I 
was worried, and I put the other smile on as quick as I could, but I 
was pretty bothered. You start showing one real thing and pretty soon 
people get an idea of what you're about. Then you're in for trouble. 

He seemed to let it go, which made me plenty relieved. "You like music?
You ever hear of Bob Marley? I guess not, you little cracker." He 
smiled some, like he just told his own little joke. I didn't get it, 
but sometimes you don't have to in order to enjoy it. "Here, put these 
on and tell me what you think. Or don't tell me, which you probably 
won't." He leaned over me and his giant blackness ate up all of 
everything. When he pulled away the headphones were on my head. 

It was the most beautiful sounding voice I'd ever heard. A lot of the
words didn't make sense because he talked so funny, like he was from 
Venus, but two lines jumped out at me. "Everything's going to be all 
right" and "No woman no cry." He said them over and over, and when the 
song finished I hit the button to repeat it. It was the happiest and 
saddest song you ever heard, all at the same time. 

After I heard the song a third time, I opened my eyes and Mr. Wallace
was back at his desk and eating lunch. He was reading a paperback. I 
listened to that song until lunch was almost over, and then I slid it 
onto the corner of his desk and sat down before any kids came in. As I 
walked away I heard him laugh a little and say "Little cracker" again. 
I liked the way he said it. 

I whispered all this to Jethro. Then I picked up a stick off the ground
and propped up the Frisbee to my neck. It probably sounds dumb, but I 
started dancing around old Jethro, dragging that stick across the 
Frisbee like a violin. I hummed real loud a tune I made up that seemed 
to fit-cheery but a little sad too, and full of summer days and Bob 
Marley-and I played and played for him, dancing and humming. 

He looked at me funny at first, but he knew me and trusted me and he
surprised me by getting into it himself. He danced around the field 
too, kicking out his hind legs and snorting at the ground, his long 
black tail swishing hard as he ran and ran. His big white head raised 
up real high, then he'd throw it down and his Appaloosa rump would fly 
into the air. 

He teeter totter danced so hard that I just forgot to keep playing and I
fell in a heap in the middle of the pasture, laughing and rolling 
around on the dusty ground so I could keep watching Jethro. He was as 
strong as an elephant and happy as a bumblebee. He was stupid and fast 
and not careful and not embarrassed and he made me laugh so hard that 
my sides hurt and my eyes watered. I ain't laughed so hard since then, 
I think. I'll never forget how happy he looked, no matter what happened 
after that. 

I like to think I'm a pretty smart feller, but even smart folks can do
something that's kind of stupid. I think I, well, there ain't no doubt 
about it, I was pretty stupid that day. I got it in my head that it 
didn't make sense that Jethro had to be wearing out his lips on that 
small pasture when he could be even happier and all loose and free. But 
I knew I couldn't open up that gate myself to let him out and get some 

So I thought to myself, "He's all jumping and dancing and happy. Maybe I
could get him to jump that fence." 

I went running around in circles in the pasture, and he followed me here
and there. When he got right behind me I ran right up to the fence and 
stopped and he just stopped too. He didn't want to hit the fence. It 
didn't work right. 

I got a better idea. I pulled out the carrot from my back pack and
started clicking my tongue at him. He trotted behind me to the opposite 
end of the field from where I first jumped over, and I let him eat the 
carrot. When he got halfway done, I pulled the half apple I had left 
from lunch out of my pack and I started clicking my tongue a lot 
louder, waiving it in front of his nose. At first he just slowly 
wandered after me, but after I ran halfway across the field he kicked 
in and started galloping after me. 

I sprinted right at the fence, and we both forgot about the apple and
violins and dancing and stubby fields. We ran at that fence, running 
for freedom. I could hear his blowing pants and his beating hooves 
right behind me, and when I reached my jumping log I didn't look back. 
It felt like I'd climbed right into his head. We both knew he was going 
to make it. We were both going to be free, at least for a little bit. 

I planted one foot squarely on that log, grabbed the wood post and
hurled myself over the fence. I did it just right. I could hear him 
just behind me, stomping after me, and as I hit the ground hard I was 
already rolling to get out of his way. 

I lay there for just a half second, face down in the dirt, before I
heard the most horrible metal screeching I've ever heard. It sounded 
like a dozen women screaming into a mail box. After that came wheezing 
and stomping, and then metal winding around itself like a giant Slinky 
dropped from a ladder. Then it got quiet, and then the wheezing and 
grunting came again. Finally there came a slow, steady drum beat. I lay 
there face down in the dirt, too scared to look. 

In front of me an ant crawled over a blade of grass and then down a dark
hole. The drum kept slowly, softly beating. 

I finally looked over my shoulder, somehow thinking that if I didn't
turn my whole body maybe it would only be half as bad. It didn't make a 
difference, though. 

Jethro had made it most of the way over the fence, but he hadn't got his
back legs through. They were tangled up in the wire where his ankles 
had got stuck between the second and bottom rung. Bone was popping out 
of the skin of one of them. 

The top line of the fence had snapped, but the second line had stayed
tight. It had sawed about halfway into his belly before Jethro had 
stopped moving. Some of his gut hung out a little, but mostly it just 
oozed blood. 

The worst part was his head, though. With his hind quarters hung up on
the fence and one of his front legs plainly also broke, he kept trying 
to lift himself up by the head. He'd heave it up off the dirt for a 
second, keep it hanging in the air a foot off the ground, then give up 
and let it plop to the ground. Thump............thump.........thump. 

His tongue hung out of his mouth the whole time like a bloody pot roast
waiting to cook. Bits of half-chewed carrot floated in the blood. His 
eyes were wide open and quickly searched every way for an answer, 
whether his head was up or down. 

I crawled across the ground and sat next to him. I put my hand on top of
his head and pressed down, and after a couple of half-hearted tries he 
just let it sit there in the long grass. 

That god damned Mr. Sanders. He could put together a mean barbed wire
fence. Jethro's eyes kept rolling around to see if he could just get 
back to where he was. There was blood dripping off the barbed wire and 
staining his white flanks. I ran my hands through his coarse main, and 
just stared at his rolling bloodshot eye. 

It was my fault. There wasn't no one I could really blame. I get mad at
Mr. Sanders at times about it, but he was just being the way he was. 
Keeping things tight and tidy. I was just being the way I was. Screwing 
things up. 

My head began to unfreeze and I started to think for a bit. I couldn't
just leave him there. I stroked him gently on the neck, trying to keep 
him relaxed as best I could. I thought, "Well, I could go and get Uncle 
Theo. Get him to go and shoot this horse." But Uncle Theo is drunk and 
mean, and he'd whup me. And it wasn't his problem. He'd made enough 
problems on his own that he didn't fix. It wasn't very likely that he 
was going to be excited about fixing one of mine. 

I could have told Mr. Sanders, but that man was just evil. Besides, I
didn't think I could look him in the eye. 

Finally I fished out my Swiss Army knife. It was pretty dull because I
never sharpened it and I was always cutting into stuff that it wasn't 
meant for. Kids always find stuff to cut into. I cut into tin cans, 
dirt, aluminum cans, tires-just stuff. 

I stroked that beautiful horse and I quietly sung to him. "Everything's
going to be all right. Everything's going to be all right. No woman no 
cry." It didn't really matter, but it made it easier for me. I took the 
apple that was still in my hand and put it on the ground in front of 
his nose so he could smell it. Apple has kind of a nice smell. His 
nostrils opened and closed at the apple, maybe out of habit or maybe 
because it was taking his mind away . I took the dull blade of that 
knife, and really quickly jabbed the point of it right behind his 
windpipe. His neck tensed up under my arms, but before he could squirm 
much I tore it forward and broke through his windpipe and the big vein 

His good front leg kicked at the ground and his good back leg twisted in
the barbed wire, but I set my whole body on top of his head to keep him 
from fighting anymore. Blood came gushing over my elbow, but I just 
ignored it. His skin shook hard, and every muscle seemed to jerk in a 
different direction than where it should. The shaking was bad for what 
seemed like forever. I been in an earthquake down here, and it was a 
little like that. Out of control and not natural, lifting and jerking 
me on top of him and jarring my teeth. Not meant to be done. For just a 
second his head lifted me off the ground. 

Finally I could feel the fight leave him, so I sat back and looked into
his eye. We stared at each other for a long time, and he shared with me 
a secret about dying, a secret he was just learning himself. 

I laid my head on his neck and I didn't move until the next morning. 

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