Sugar, fiction by Misty Skaggs

On a hill­top far­away, in anoth­er time, I had a pony. Papaw teth­ered her to one of the tall, thin maple trees sit­u­at­ed in the dead cen­ter of the bright, green acre of clover we called the front yard. And I stood, hyp­no­tized at the pic­ture win­dow, press­ing the chub­by, pink flesh of my cheeks against the warm plexi-glass. For hours, I watched her lope lazi­ly in wide, steady cir­cles stop­ping to snap up mouths full of sweet, ten­der grass. Her long pink tongue tick­led me and when she’d stomp her feet and throw up dust, I’d stomp mine, too. Mom­my said I was too young for a pony, and at four years old, I was. But she was a gift horse, an unplanned present from the absent father to his bas­tard daugh­ter. The only thing he’d ever brought me before was a Cab­bage Patch Kid with­out her adop­tion papers and half of a Reese’s peanut but­ter cup.

My young busty, bump­kin of a moth­er couldn’t quite bring her­self to refuse when Frankie brought his beat-up, pick­up down our long dri­ve­way with a sparkle in those blue eyes of his, eyes wide and clear like mine. She had a big heart and he had a palomi­no pony pranc­ing around the bed of his truck, teth­ered to a tool box. The loose ends of a big, pink bow tied in a knot around its neck got tram­pled and tan­gled in the shit around its feet. A shock of shiny mane fell across her fore­head and the choco­late brown splash­es of col­or in her tan coat caught the spring time sun­shine. And I called her Sugar.

Now, sweet­ie, sug­ar…” Frankie began when he stepped down out of the dusty, black Ford.

His snake skin boots crunched grav­el as he strode toward the two of us with pur­pose, grin­ning to reveal a row of small, white, per­fect­ly fake teeth. The stiff col­lar of his plaid, West­ern shirt was open wide across his chest and a thin, gold cru­ci­fix glint­ed through the bram­ble of hair there. Absent­mind­ed­ly reach­ing up, with a thick thumb and index fin­ger, he smoothed down his full mus­tache. It was like a blonde Burt Reynolds had swept down all the way from Hol­ly­wood, into the hills and out to the Ridge, espe­cial­ly to vis­it us. We were both blushing.

Mom­my was hard­er than her curves would lead you to believe. She put her hands on her gen­er­ous, soft hips and shot him one of her squint-eyed, scathing looks. The kind of look that makes you feel guilty and you‘re not even sure why.

I know what you’re think­ing, sweet­heart,” he con­tin­ued. “But you wor­ry too much! I broke that pony myself, just for my baby girl!”

I seem to remem­ber the pitch of his voice being a lit­tle high. But some­how still thick and rich and drip­ping hon­ey. I def­i­nite­ly remem­ber he was a smooth oper­a­tor. Con­fi­dent­ly slid­ing one arm around my itty bit­ty body and the oth­er around my mother’s waist, he lift­ed me up to run my baby fin­gers over Sugar’s coat. I buried the oth­er lit­tle girl hand in the gold­en curls at the nape of his neck. When he smiled, we want­ed to trust him.

Misty Marie Rae Skag­gs, 30, is a two-time col­lege drop-out who cur­rent­ly resides on her Mamaw's couch in a trail­er at the end of a grav­el road in East­ern Ken­tucky. Her work has been pub­lished here on fried​chick​e​nand​cof​fee​.com as well as in print jour­nals such as New Madrid, Pine Moun­tain Sand & Grav­el, Lime­stone and Inscape. On June 9th, she will be read­ing her poems on the radio as part of the Seed­time on the Cum­ber­land Fes­ti­val. When she isn't bak­ing straw­ber­ry pies and tend­ing the back­yard toma­to gar­den, she spends her time read­ing and writ­ing damned near obses­sive­ly in the back porch "office" space she is cur­rent­ly shar­ing with ten kittens.

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3 Responses to Sugar, fiction by Misty Skaggs

  1. Kathy fields Thornsberry says:

    Oh how Awsome this sto­ry is I remem­ber­ing being a lit­tle girl and him tak­ing you the pony. And he always talked about you.

  2. when is some­one going to pub­lish this girl's book? The world NEEDS it!

  3. Gloria Stepp says:

    bit­ter­sweet mem­o­ries felt

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