by | Jul 25, 2015 | Fiction, Flash fiction | 6 comments

Here’s the story I wrote to accompany Elizabeth Wonacott’s installation of horse paintings at the Healdsburg Center for the Arts. The story is in a little booklet with poems and other stories inspired by her paintings.



By Laura McHale Holland



Ned shoves a box of kitchen utensils into the back of the Volvo wagon, closes the door and gazes at the fuchsia bougainvillea climbing his home-made trellis one last time before he walks to the driver’s door.

“That’s all of it then,” his wife, Rosie, says when he gets in.

“Guess so.” Ned starts the engine and steers the car down the drive and into the street.

Empty nesters—he riddled with arthritis, she with glaucoma—they just sold their home of 40 years and are on their way to Morningside Estates, a community for senior citizens.

Rosie waves to a neighbor walking two spotted chihuahuas as they drive by. “I’ll tell you something, Ned, I’m not going to miss those yappy little dogs,” she says.

Ned rounds the corner and heads toward the highway. “Never was much of a neighborly neighborhood, if you ask me,” he says.

“How could it be with everybody at work all the time?

“A ghost town, really.” They reach the highway. Ned turns right.

“Lots of poppies this year, oh, and look at Debbie Swan’s lavender!”

“It’s a purple lake, Rosie, a purple lake.”

“And beyond that, the open range, love, with wild horses running free.”

“What? Oh, yeah, the riding academy. I always liked that palomino.”

“It’s the open range today, not some two-bit riding school.”

“Like our future, open range.”

“Like the free range chickens we never raised.”

“And the horses we never rode.” Ned’s eyes tear up.

“Can we stop at Trader Joe’s up ahead? I want to pick up a few things.”

“You don’t have to cook anymore, you know.”

“We’ll still have a kitchen. Besides, I never made an olallieberry pie.”

“I never rode that palomino either.” He does a U-turn and floors it.

She braces herself, hands on dashboard. “What are you doing?”

“I’m gonna ride that horse, honey. I’ve got to ride that horse.”


Note: The photo included with this post is not Wonacott’s work. It’s by Molly Gossens, and I’m using it under a Creative Commons license.

Share this:

The Kiminee Dream: Now Available!

My new novel is coming soon. Mark your calendar!

Influenced by folklore and magical realism, The Kiminee Dream is a lyrical story with characters equally charmed and challenged while living where the ordinary and miraculous coexist seamlessly. If you like depth as well as whimsy, arresting twists, and details that rouse your senses, you’ll love what is both an eloquent exploration of acceptance and a tender tribute to the people of Illinois.


  1. Barbara Toboni

    Sweet story, Laura. I feel like I’m traveling in the car with them. You really have a good sense of scene.

  2. admin

    What a great compliment to receive. Thank you, Barbara. It’s a little gift in words. I appreciate that you took the time to share your thoughts here.

  3. Sue

    Hello my friend,

    Ned’s right for quickly turning around to ride that Palomino! I would certainly do the same thing. There are a lot of “I’m going to” that I’m thinking about before I ever get to a Senior Citizen Living Center. I’m gonna:

    1. Visit you
    2. Go to Wales
    3. Go to Germany
    4. Go to Ireland
    5. Climb the stairs to the top of the Sears Tower and John Hancock
    6. Go to all the museums again
    7. Go see Streisand (if she goes on tour again), Midler, Groban, the
    Beach Boys, etc.
    8. Go to Banff
    9. Get another dog
    10. Take a very long drive in any direction

    And more. It’s not a “bucket list”; it’s what I want to do. By the way, YOUR voice is wisdom. HUGS!


  4. admin

    Thank you, Sue. I love your list. Some of your items bring back fond memories, like No. 10: one summer evening when we were teens, Kathy and I drove off to mail a letter and kept going. We eventually turned around in Terre Haute, Indiana … When I get to Chicago again I’d love to climb the stairs to the top of Sears Tower and the Hancock Building with you. I’ve been to the top of both but took elevators, and that was back in the 1970s. Oh, and the Art Institute and the Museum of Natural History—magical places. I’d love for you visit me, too. And get that dog now. Their capacity to love their humans despite all our flaws is so powerful, so rich.

  5. Beth Ann Mathews

    I so enjoyed this story. With so few and well-chosen words you show us the the older couple through their curt yet revealing exchanges, then end with a surprise. Lovely and inspiring.

  6. Laura

    Thank you, Beth. It’s such a delight that you happened upon and older post and shared your thoughts with me. I enjoyed the opportunity to participate in the Healdsburg Art Center’s project. Paintings can inspire great stories and poems.

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Sign up here to receive your free copy of Just In Case

Subscribe to Laura McHale Holland’s newsletter

Thank you! Watch your inbox, your welcome email should arrive soon.