The large mare leaped, head down, rear legs thrown halfway into a kick. She spun, muscles taut, flanks covered in foam. Her eyes were wild with rage, mouth open and gasping, flared nostrils spraying droplets of saliva mixed with sweat. I looked at her thick, golden coat.
“How much?” I asked.
The farmer regarded me as one whom he had just met emerging from an institution for the mentally challenged.
“Now, I won’t bicker with you,” he said.
“I’m sure of that,” I replied. “How much?”
He pulled his hat down lower as though to shield his eyes from some bright light I couldn’t see.
“She does have good papers,” he reminded me.
“I am aware of that, Mr. L. And seeing that she has obvious behavior problems hasn’t deterred my interest. But the price may.”
“Four thousand,” he said slowly, and looked away as though dreaming.
I started to leave.
“Three thousand eight hundred,” he offered.
I didn’t stop.
“Thirty-two hundred,” he said.
I stopped. “I thought you said you weren’t going to bicker about it.”
“What’s your price, then?” he growled.
I stared into his tiny brown eyes.
“What will yours be if she tears down another fence or injures another worker? What will it cost you to keep her any longer?”
He looked at the ground.
“Take her for nothing,” he said.
“No,” I replied. “I have good use for her, and I’m not going to have you asking for her to be returned once I’ve gotten her problems worked out. I’ll give you one thousand dollars.”
“Heh. If you think you can work with that mare, you’d better have good insurance.”
I ignored his comment and wrote the check.
“How are you going to get her home?” he said.
I threw a rope around her neck.
“You forgot how you’re going to get her into the trailer,” he pointed out.
I snapped the end of the rope to another rope that led to a winch inside the trailer. Slowly I shortened it, a couple inches at a time. She threw her head and pulled back on all four legs, yet little by little she could not help but get closer. Finally I drew her in and shut the door. The floor of the trailer rattled and echoed with her hoof beats, but she could not get out. I stroked her fur in my mind, and combed her mane with my eyes. It would happen. It was only a matter of time.