The horse’s tongue grazes the back of my neck. It’s soft, slick, with muscle behind it. But Jupiter’s always liked to lick the sweat off me on summer days. Kurt says Jupiter licks him, too. Says it’s because Jupiter considers us part of his herd, or he’s asserting his dominance over us or something. But I just think he’s sweating too much and needs the salt. I guess that makes me his salt-lick-slash-shit-shoveler.

I bend my knees a little, pitch the shovel forward across the stall floor, and walk to the wall. Jupiter waits a second before he follows. I hear him scoot forward, and then his tongue is under my ear, making me jump a little. I tell him “Hee-ahh,” all long and slow like the month of August. Jupiter obeys by keeping his tongue to himself and letting me finish mucking his stall. That’s when I hear a horse—probably Hester—at the other end of the barn let out a low hoot, a stomp like a two-step, and then the melody of a conversation.

“Sullivan’s all talk.” I recognize the machismo right away; I’d recognize it underwater and in space. “He won’t really tell your mama. He probably wants to read it as much as you do.”

“I don’t know. He’s not that into end-of-the-world stuff.” My brother’s girlfriend’s voice, Serena. She’s the only one I know that can make two syllables out of the word ‘world.’

“But he is into knowing what everyone in class is talking about. Trust me. He wants to read it, too. And that’s too bad because you’re going to give it to me when you’re done, aren’t you?” I can only assume my brother tickles because Serena laughs and nothing he said was funny. I hear a quick grunt and then the unmistakable click of a kiss breaking apart. “Does that convince you?”

I can’t hear Serena’s answer; she’s all whispers. It takes two or three of their clicks for me to think to tell them I’m here. But then I get a better idea.

As quiet as I can I pull the latch on Jupiter’s stall—its creak blends into the other barn noises: whinnies and water pumps and bats in the rafters preparing for their evening chase. Kurt and Serena are still talking softly. I look at the horse standing a few feet away, twitching its ears at me. It’s the one time I can remember when he doesn’t charge me after I open the door. I offer up my arm, and he starts licking. Slowly, slowly, I inch Jupiter out of his stall and into the thoroughfare. Once he’s out it’s like someone’s riding him, I guess because he wants washing. He walks right onto the thick mats that line the shower stall. A surprised shout echoes off the roof.

“Damn it, Jupe, stop licking me for a minute.”

“How’d he get in here?” Serena says, sounding unphased.

“Hold that thought. I’m just going to put him back.” When Kurt turns the corner, flushed and missing his shirt, I make sure I’m giving him my widest grin. He skips right into a run. Then it’s my laughter bouncing around the barn, and I’m hiding in the orchard out of breath wondering how long I should wait before I go back in.


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I am a writer for an e-Learning course vendor near Chicago.

8 thoughts on “Jupiter”

  1. A joy to read – the details of this scene, from the character development (including Jupiter’s) to the setting, make what is quite a simple story come alive and feel authentic and compelling. I love the line about the bats getting ready to come out, that and “I’d recognize it underwater and in space.”

  2. OK, first of all, I’m dying to know what they were reading that would get Serena in trouble.

    But mostly, I love how you breathe life into your writing with all the little details. Everything you write is so authentic.

    1. Thanks! My friend and I were just talking about books we had to hide from our parents, so I was imagining a Flowers In The Attic/Hunger Games kind of thing that I’m sure exists by now.

      The minimalist in me is thinking about cutting that dialogue. Not sure it does anything except make more questions to answer. I was hoping it would reveal a little about Kurt and Serena’s new relationship.

  3. I loved the laughter in this, the lightheartedness of the ending. The amazing phrases that jumped out at me were

    I’d recognize it underwater and in space
    the melody of a conversation
    whinnies and water pumps and bats in the attic

    1. Thanks! I’ve been thinking a lot about my younger self that had room in his brain to stir up a little trouble and have a little fun every once in a while.

  4. I felt like you were telling a personal account until I read this week’s fiction prompt in the story. It was that engaging. I giggled a little loudly too. Hehe

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