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Some stories are really about what they’re about. Love or lust or loss. Horses and dogs and friends.

Other stories, I think, are actually about other things, deeper things. Say, for example, the process of writing. My current story is one of those, it seems to me.

EXCERPT FROM GHOST HORSES & DREAM DOGS

There was no such thing as a jockey. Not anymore. But once upon a time, Dale had been one of the best. He was built for it, born for it — the one good thing his father gave him was his genes. A lack of height, a slim build, strong for his size, bones as hollow as birds. He never had to throw up or do water loss to keep his riding weight. He was lucky like that.

Once upon a time, he’d rode the best. Mabel Gray. Thunderbolt Kid. Red Rider. Even Carlyle St. George, the big red roan with one blind eye that everyone wanted to retire, but who took the Triple when he was five. Dale had lived for the thrill of those huge creatures under him, the stretch and pull of muscle and will, that last gallop to the finish line, horse and rider moving, breathing, as one.

Now, there were only ghost horses and dream dogs left. Nothing substantial, nothing that could hold even the weight of a small man. At night, Dale dreamed he was without gravity, a bird upon their see-through backs, dreamed that he had become as nothing as they were.

In the morning’s light, like now, there were his hands. Thick with ropey veins, aging with wrinkled skin that hung as though it was too heavy for the rest of him. His growing gut; not bad for a man his age, but not great either. Every year he went without riding, the heavier he felt. His feet stuck to the ruts of the track, harder to lift. Harder to get out of bed.

Outside, the ghost horses whinnied, a sound like the wind through branches, soft and mournful. Ghost horses. No, not really. He only called them that. They were creatures made of muscle memories and tinted photographs, fashioned out of failed dreams and x-ray visions.

Still, the sound was enough to get him up and moving, even the stiffness of his knee — a bad fall from that last year of racing, the timing bad, for they were just starting to look into the health risks — dissipating a little as he dressed.

Marva, the greyhound dream dog, uncurled her body from the foot of the bed, tail wagging through the edge of the dresser. “Come on, girl,” Dale said. She was the only one who stayed inside at night. He thought it was because she was getting old, turning to dust and bunnies, losing substance a little more each day. He didn’t know how long dream dogs lived, or where their papers were held. They just showed up, most of them, ambling up his long driveway and settling on his front porch as thought they’d always lived there.

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What is your current story really about?

Kiss kiss bang bang, s.

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PS — Beautiful image by this artist.

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