Susan counted out each bill carefully as she laid them into the older girl’s palm.
“Forty. Forty-one, forty-two, forty-three . . .”
She continued peeling off dollar bills until she reached fifty.
“There. So, now I own Rusty?”
“You sure do,” replied Abigail, who patted the horse on her head. Rusty had immediately sauntered over to the corral fence when the girls had arrived. She stood there blissfully unaware as her future was being decided. “I think she wants a snack.”
Abigail handed Susan a couple of carrots who in turn fed them to the Chestnut. Her munching and crunching drowned out the nearby sound of traffic on the four-lane highway that took commuters into the city. Abigail—and Rusty—lived in a little enclave of four acres, the last of the original 220 acre farm upon which a large development had been erected.
“I’ve dreamed of owning my own horse,” said Susan excitedly.
“I know you have,” replied Abigail who patted Susan on the head. “Let’s saddle her up.”
The girls saddled the horse and Susan ran into the stall where she stored her riding helmet. Abigail helped her up into the saddle. Susan rode Rusty around the corral a few times, then pulled up in front of Abigail, who was sitting on the top fence board.
“Abigail, I’m so happy! Thank you soooo much! You can come ride her or visit her anytime you’re home from college. Wait until I get home and tell my parents I own my own horse!”
“Oh, I’m sure I’ll come visit her,” replied Abigail. “Let’s go inside and I’ll write you your receipt.”
“Yeah, it’s a document . . . a paper that says you bought Rusty fair and square from me for $50.”
Abigail had already typed out a very official-looking receipt. After they both had signed, she put it in a manila folder, explaining to Susan that she would want to keep it neat “for her records.” Susan had heard her parents use this phrase and, therefore, nodded in agreement.
Susan wanted to ride Rusty home, but Abigail explained that there was “Too much traffic between here and your house, especially at this time of the afternoon.”
Susan’s brow knit slightly, but then she said, “That’s okay. I’m sure you’ll want to say good-bye. I’ll come get her in the morning.”
“I appreciate that,” said Abigail. “Come on; no sense walking home when I can give you a ride.”
“I want to go out to the corral and take one more look at Rusty!”
They did so, and then hopped into Abigail’s car. As they drove the several blocks to Susan’s townhouse, the younger girl looked out the window, hoping that one of her friends would see her riding around—in the front seat no less—with her college friend. A song came on the radio that made both of them start dancing in their seats. Susan looked at the manila folder in her hand. “This is the happiest day of my life.”
They pulled up in front of Susan’s town home, but before getting out, Susan reached across the gear shifter and hugged Abigail tightly. “Thank you, thank you, thank you!”
Abigail watched Susan run into the house. She just about collided with her brother who was on his way out.
“Guess what I did?” she said breathlessly. “I bought Rusty!”
“That’s dumb,” said her brother.
“It is not!”
“Where are you going to keep it?”
“We’ll keep her in the back yard,” said Susan tersely.
“Yeah, like Mom and Dad are going to let you keep a horse in our little yard.”
“What are you going to feed it?”
“Her, not it. Carrots and stuff.”
“Horses eat more than carrots, you dope. They eat hay and grass. And who’s gonna clean up her poop? Not me!”
Susan stormed off to the back yard and looked around. It only now dawned on her that maybe her stupid brother was right:–They probably didn’t really have room for Rusty. Susan’s mom rushed out to her, pausing only long enough to find out from her son what all the commotion was about.
Susan explained how Abigail was going off to college and about how she bought Rusty for fifty dollars. Her mother made a face—the face that said she was unhappy with one of her children.
“We can’t keep a horse in a little back yard like this!” exclaimed Susan’s mom. “Abigail took fifty dollars from you? What was she thinking? I’m calling her right now!”
Susan’s mom whipped out her cell phone. “Abigail, you took fifty dollars from Susan, knowing there’s no way that we can keep a horse here? What were you thinking?”
“It’s okay, Mrs. Jones. I’ve been waiting for you to call. I have Susan’s fifty dollars. She’s smart enough to figure out that she can’t keep Rusty. Probably has realized it already, but let’s keep the idea going until tomorrow, okay?”
“Why? What were you thinking?” responded Susan’s mother.
“I just wanted her to be able to tell her friends that she owned a horse. Even if it was just for a day. And she has the receipt to prove it.”
“Ab—” Susan’s mom cleared her throat. “Abigail, thank you. I’m sorry, Abigail, I—”
“It’s okay, Mrs. Jones. I probably should have explained to you ahead of time, but to be honest, I didn’t think she had $50! I’ll see you in the morning!”
Susan’s mom turned to look at her daughter who was frowning at the yard. Her mom came to her and put her hand on Susan’s head. “Susan,” she said softly, “I don’t think having Rusty here is going to work, but let’s run out to Southern States and talk to the man about how much hay Rusty would need. And how much that would cost. We’ll talk to Dad when he gets back, but in the meantime, I guess you own your very own horse.”