Wonder Horse
(Old West)

by Cyc

She was perfect. Lightly made with absolute confirmation, a fine head, intelligent eyes and an unblemished black coat, this filly was one in a thousand. One in a hundred thousand, Ezra corrected with a smile as she flashed her tail at him, eager to get out of her stall. As soon as he saw her, he knew he had to have her. She was the one; she was perfect. Of course, her previous owner had not been very keen to part with her -- even if she had been won fair and square. Ezra flexed the fingers of his right hand where the knuckles were swollen and bruised. He would have to break his current run of sore losers or perhaps invest in one of those derringers with the knuckleduster grips...

"Damn, move your lazy hide!" Chris Larabee's unusual show of temper as he hauled the raw-boned, sorrel gelding into the livery disturbed Ezra's train of thought. "Damn horse, move it!" Chris continued to shove the animal around the stable, too engrossed in his current Herculean task to notice Ezra's presence.

It was not that Old Red, the livery's rental horse, was mean-spirited, Ezra considered as he watched Chris finally manoeuvre the aging gelding into his stall. The horse never made any attempt to bite or kick Chris. He just sort of... stood there, as if breathing was enough of an effort for him. The thing was, the horse was as strong as an ox and could still move quickly enough when the notion took him, and even though he stood in a lot of holes, no one could say the horse was doing it deliberately. Old Red was just very lazy and very sleepy. He also had the kind of gait that made you saddle sore just by watching him.

"Enjoy your ride?" Ezra couldn't resist asking as Chris pulled his saddle from Old Red's back.

Typically, Chris' only response was a scowl.

"Nice day for it," Ezra pressed on with a sunny smile.

"What do you want?" Chris grumped as he removed his bridle before hanging it up and putting a penny in the livery boy's box.

"That's very generous of you, Mr Larabee," Ezra said, leaning on the filly's hindquarters to draw Chris' attention.

"Ain't the boy's fault the horse is stubborn," Chris muttered as he prowled towards Ezra, his gaze narrowing as he studied the filly.

"Nice, isn't she?" Ezra grinned, backing her out of the stall to give Chris a better look.

Chris again, made no response; he just looked her over, nodding to himself until he straightened up to pet her nose. "Whose is she?"

"Yours." Ezra smiled until Chris squinted at him suspiciously. "That is..." Ezra fluffed, "you can ride her until your horse is well."

"All right." Chris nodded appreciatively. "How much are you chargin'?"

"Just a--" Ezra fumbled for a price. "Same as the livery."

Chris scowled again, petting the filly's pretty nose again. "Hardly seems fair."

"Well, seeing you ride her around town would be a good advertising strategy." Ezra made a silent prayer of thanks that his brain had decided to kick in again.

Chris nodded, checking down her front legs once more. "You got a deal."

"Good." Ezra smiled, then wandered out of the livery wondering how he had managed that one


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