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.

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Palomino
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.

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