I stole the horse because it was Christmas Eve. I stole the horse because my sister had nothing. I stole the horse after a lap of the store, taking note of the ceiling’s cameras and mirrors and the sorry blue-vesters who didn’t give a shit about the chain’s bottom line, at least not an hour before closing on Christmas Eve. I stole the horse because the wise men brought gifts to lay beside the babe in hay. I stole the horse after seeing my reflection splintered across the chrome of refrigerators and toasters, my body dissected and cast upon the sea of commerce. When I stole the horse, I set down the box with the rainbow letters and pretended to tie my shoe. When I stole the horse, I made sure to pick Blaze, the one with the magenta mane, my sister’s favorite. When I stole the horse, I didn’t ask for forgiveness or luck, knowing they’d never been mine before. When I stole the horse, I paused before sliding the boxcutter beneath the anchoring ties, cursing the horse under my breath, the cartoons my sister loved, the nightmares of pink and purple and mind-numbing storylines of pony rescue and pony friendship and pony love. When I stole the horse, I made sure not to pick Starlight or Golden Girl or Meteor, and no, despite the box’s urgings, I had no plan to Collect ’em all! When I stole the horse, I slid it beneath a sweatshirt that stank of my stepfather’s cigarettes, and as I took my first steps, the plastic gouged my gut. When I stole the horse, I thought of a distant factory, the hands of small children, boardrooms and spreadsheets and the horizon where money fades into the abstract. When I stole the horse, the store’s speakers played the Chipmunks’ song about Christmas coming once a year. When I stole the horse, I felt Jesus would understand. When I stole the horse, I wondered if I looked as ashy and dead as the night’s cart-pushers and shelf-stackers. When I stole the horse, I stared down the door’s security guard and wished him “Merry Christmas.” When I stole the horse, I breathed easier after the entrance doors shut behind me, and at the lot’s edge, I ran, even though I didn’t need to, the horse gripped tight and held high, flying the way she did in her stupid cartoons. When I stole the horse, I ran past praying churches and houses strung with lights, the breeze lifting the horse’s magenta mane, and I ran and ran, smiling against the cold, into the world of businessmen and thieves.
Curtis Smith’s latest novel, The Magpie’s Return, was named to Kirkus’s Best Indie Releases of 2020 list. He’s published over one hundred stories and essays and one hundred author interviews. His next novel, The Lost and the Blind, will be published in early 2023.