He isn’t exactly a horse, but something like it. He feels it when he dances with his wife or puts up magnets on the fridge or uses a stepladder. Something is nagging him — is it his mouth? He pokes a finger at his molars, examines his lips in the mirror, his tongue. Do his cheeks have whiskers? He checks his scalp for anything growing. Everything seems in order, human, but he can’t stop feeling like maybe he should be somewhere else. Maybe he should be somewhere else, galloping.

An appaloosa colt beneath a cherry tree with his mother, the comforting scent of her onyx mane, and then she’s gone in spots and wind, and he’s running.

“Sleepover!” His daughter shoves past him to scoop up her toothbrush. “Bye, Dad!” He squints and taps his foot a bit.

From down the hall, “I’m driving her now. Do you wanna order sushi when I get back?” And closer, “Philip?” The bathroom door opens and his wife appears. “You okay, Phil?” She pinches his earlobes and he snaps back: the blue tiled bathroom, butterfly wallpaper that had been his grandmother’s, bras on the shower rod—all beige. “What are you looking for in there, baby?” Standing behind him, she looks in the mirror too. For a moment, they are both quiet, and then she turns and leaves.

He gets branded. It hurts but it’s just the way things go. He sleeps out in the sun after; the day passes in whiffs of lavender and smoke. By the time he notices the stars above him, he’s whole again.


Melissa Watt has an MFA in Creative Writing from Emerson College.