Book Excerpt – Raisins in Milk

Raisins in Milk
by David Covin

Publication Date: Jun 01, 2018
List Price: $15.00
Format: Paperback, 238 pages
Classification: Fiction
ISBN13: 9780984435074
Imprint: Blue Nile Press
Publisher: Blue Nile Press
Parent Company: Blue Nile Press

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Copyright © 2018 Blue Nile Press/David Covin No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission from the publisher or author. The format of this excerpt has been modified for presentation here.

Raisins in Milk – Chapter 1

Mandarin, Florida
Springtime 1913

The breeze that came in from the sea was warm. It brought with it also the smell of the sea. It blew across the broad reach of the warm, clear river, like an arm of the sea itself, so wide it was. A sparkle in the air foretold a day of deep blue sky. Dawn held a darkening, the sun still below the eastern horizon.

The horse in the middle of an immense field measured eighteen hands. His head up, ears alert, black, he posed gleaming and still, the moving air lifting the hairs on his tail and rustling his long mane.

Tall, lush grass, large trees, flush with the foliage of early summer spread over the vast enclosure, bound on all four sides by solid oak posts, eight feet tall. Four rows of beams spanned each post. A heavy and vicious barbed wire topped the beams and encircled the posts. Three strong men were required to open the massive gate, locked and secured by strong chains. For a mile, one side of the fence ran next to a drainage ditch, separating it from the brown, arrow-straight, dirt road. Ruth-Ann strode rapidly, her bare toes making marks in the lane’s moist surface. Her belt, looped to hold her lunch, books, paper, and pencil, swung from her right hand. Her younger siblings were not with her. Of all the pupils in the school, she alone took the walk this morning. Five years had passed since a child had finished the eighth grade. Now, it was about to happen again. Ruth-Ann laughed with joy and excitement. She was getting two extra days of school to prepare her graduation speech.

The sun broke free from the horizon, burning red and orange. The sky purpled, shading to darkest blue. Ruth-Ann inhaled the cool air. She moved fluidly, erect like a dancer, her head high. The light caught, full, her broad cheekbones, the color of bright honey. Thick, black hair hung down her back in four braids. Average height, she appeared tall. Her strong frame carried her ample figure with grace.

Deep in the field, almost out of sight from the road, shielded by scattered trees, the stallion held motionless. Almost imperceptibly, life seemed to infuse him. His ears twitched and pointed forward. He tilted his head back, raising his muzzle. He lifted the skin of his mouth from his teeth. He dropped his head, shaking his neck. Fully animated, he snorted, and raising his hooves high in the air, pranced in a circle. Then, smoothly, beautifully, he trotted towards the fence, towards the road.

Ruth-Ann saw him coming, saw him roll his wild eye up into his head, the white gleaming malevolently, saw him break into a gallop straight at her.

She stopped. Before her eyes he grew, blotting out the bright sun. Her mind clicked. Run, Run!

Her face stretched into a mask of terror, she began to run away from her home, in the direction of the school. The package swung wildly at the end of the strap in her hand.

The girl’s movement changed the horse’s angle. His great strides sent him striking over the earth, sending clods of dirt and grass into the air.

Ruth-Ann started at a sprint but shifted down to a pace she could maintain until she reached the end of the demon’s fence. She didn’t look back. She ran.

Suddenly he was beside her. She felt the heat from him, felt the ground shaking, heard his horrible sounds. She heard the splitting, the cracking, as his heavy body crashed into the fence. She heard his mad whinny of pain and rage. She ran.

Blood streaming from where the heavy beams had cut his skin, the horse glanced off the fence, circled into a loop, and attacked it, raising up on his powerful hind legs, raking his hooves at the redoubtable structure.

The girl ran on. She felt a hand squeezing her heart, but she drove her legs on, flailing at the air with her belt and its package. She heard the horse screaming. She heard the thuds against the heavy wood. She did not see anything.

The horse, streaked with blood and flecked with foam, launched himself at the fence again and again. He knew where it ended. He tore great holes in the ground with his charges. He knew where the escape point was for his target. He wanted to be through the barrier and onto her before she reached it.

The girl could not hear herself, could not hear her painful gasps for air, could not feel the tears streaming down her cheeks, hardly felt the woodenness of her limbs, the lunch and books bumping over the ground.

Then - the fence was gone. She ran on struggling, stumbling. At last, the world before her opened up. The bizarre, chilling screams and sounds of tortured wood were behind her - receding. The feeling of freedom buoyed her and she ran faster. Until she found herself on her knees, the grass wet with dew, coarse against her skin, trying, trying with all her might, to breathe. She choked, gasped - sobbed, drew air into her lungs, desperately. Her aching, trembling body collapsed on the serrated, damp grass.

Breathing hurt. Breathing hurt. She closed her eyes. “Thank you, Jesus,” she said. “Thank you, Jesus.”

She looked down the road. She couldn’t see the fence. Nothing. She rested awhile. She looked behind her. Nothing. Slowly, she got to her feet. She was alright. Her breath was coming back. She could walk, still trembling, but she could walk. Thank you, Jesus. One step at a time. Her knees wanted to give way. One step at a time. Her lungs ached. One step at a time. Look back down the road. Nothing. One step at a time. Her clothes stuck to her. One step at a time.

Far behind her, the black stallion, his skin torn, smeared with blood and sweat, faced his nemesis - the fence. He charged it again and again, throwing his full weight against it, to no avail. He succeeded only in inflicting more wounds upon himself. Then, in a desperate fury, he turned and fired out against a post with both back hooves. Contact! Once, twice, three times he launched his full hatred against the post through his powerful hind legs. With a resounding “crack” the solid post broke at its base and tumbled over, carrying cross beams and barbed wire with it.

The triumphant horse wheeled, sailed over the downed obstacle, and gained the road. Once on the dirt surface, he shook his magnificent neck and head. He seemed to float as he cantered down the way, his mane and tail teased by the breeze.

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