Beating Dead Horses

Closed gates of a cattle ranch

My birth father left me a leather switch. It’s the kind used for striking livestock. I think he used it on my grandfather’s ranch.

When I’m simmering at that man for moving out me and Dad, us alone, without partner or genetic parent, I hate that switch. It’s a horrible heirloom. Is that brick-red discoloration on the leather knots dried blood from a broken animal? What meaning is in a switch from a ranch where I’m not allowed to go?

Other days, I’m angrier with our big city neighbors. Those nosy no-goods tsk at Dad when he goes out to date, which is an ordeal with enough drama on the San Antonio singles scene. Those flaring hot days are when I hold the switch tight in my fist, tensing against the useless judgement of near strangers.

I relax as the switch raises over my head. I take in the snapping force of its fall. The feeling helps to stop thinking about them.


This story first appeared in Ad Hoc Fiction Issue 169.

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