That’s when I had the dream. I know everyone has dreams, but I never remember mine. Not a feeling about what I dreamed, not a glimpse, not anything. This one came to me so vividly, I sat up. That was a mistake. The pounding in my head made me cover my eyes and drop back to the mattress.
Wastrel trotted to me out of a bright mist, whole and sound, not broken and bleeding like the last time I saw him moments before he was put down and I was put in an ambulance. The big bay snorted and shook his head and nuzzled my side. I felt his warm breath, the tickle of his whiskers. He didn’t smell like the usual clean wood shavings and liniment; he smelled like heaven.
Okay, so who knows what heaven smells like? For some, it might be bacon frying or a chocolate milk shake, lilacs, freshly-turned earth or new-mown grass, a just-washed baby, the air on top of a mountain or the sea. What Wastrel smelled like in my dream was all those things rolled into one. So, that’s what heaven smells like.
He danced around me. I reached for him and he moved away, just as we had always played together out in the paddock before I’d bring him in to work. He swished his tail and returned, almost within reach, but not quite.
Wastrel had been my favorite ride of all time. On him, my connection was pure and open, and we could do anything. Only thing was, Wastrel didn’t enjoy jumping. Not the man-made competition jumps, anyway. A fence across a field, a log out on the trail, a ditch along the road, he sailed over all. But point him at a course in a ring, and he balked. Observers couldn’t see it. Only he and I knew. I tried to explain to his owner, but he pushed and pushed for the grand-prix prize. Wastrel could do it, and he did do it for me. Many times. But he'd grown tired of it.
That day, our ride was going smoothly, well under time and no faults, until he launched himself at the square oxer in the middle of the triple combination. It was perfect, we’d hit the ideal take-off point. The next moment, all I knew was splintering wood, and the muted roar of the crowd, and the ground coming up, and the shock of it going wrong. He tried to keep me from getting hurt; I tried to help him get free. His freedom was hard won. He never got up again. I often wondered if it had been deliberate.
In the dream, I sensed I'd been right. He was happy and intact and never had to jump unless he wanted to. In heaven, the fields were always green and the ponds clear and the trees shady. Somehow, he communicated that.
Wastrel led me to a wooded hillside. There was Winterlight’s manure pile. It didn’t smell like heaven, not at all.
“Yes,” I said. “We’re going to clean that up today.”
He climbed to the top and whinnied, then struck and dug at the heavy pile with his forefoot, spewing wet straw and manure through the crystal air.
“Okay, yes, I get it.”
Why would a dead horse be worried about an oversized manure pile at a farm he'd never visited while living?
Dreams are weird.
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