First published in The Berkshire Edge. Copyright © Judith Shaw.
Early summer in the Berkshires, with hay ready to cut and the smell of meadowsweet in the air. It was the perfect day for a carriage drive.
I needed one.
I’d just had a fight with Ron about taking his Epi-Pen with him when he mowed paths through the hayfields. It was a losing battle. He was convinced that if he ran into yellow jackets on the tractor, he’d have plenty of time to get back to the house and jab himself in the thigh with the adrenaline syringe.
“No worries,” he said. “I know exactly where it is.”
It was a worry all right, but obviously not his. I was the one who drove him to the emergency room after his last yellow jacket encounter, and I didn’t want to do it again.
I grabbed Grayson out of the paddock, threw him into crossties and attacked him with a currycomb. Thankfully, he’s not a nervous horse. I switched to a stiff brush and then to a soft one. By the time his hoofs were picked out I had calmed down.
I needed to be calm. Harnessing and hitching are technical and require all my focus and attention.
We trotted up the long hill toward the top meadow, and suddenly all was right with my world.
Coming out of the woods into bright sunshine, I brought Grayson back to a walk. The meadows were too pretty to rush through. Wildflowers grew through the tall grass: Red clover, cowslips and purple vetch spread out in sheets. Swallows and bob-o-links swooped and fluttered above the hay.
The top field undulates, making it impossible to see very far ahead, but I saw something in the near distance that stopped my breath. At first I couldn’t work out what it was, but it resolved into a bent knee swaying feebly above the grass.
A loop played over and over in my mind’s eye: Ron, on his tractor, mowing paths through the hay and disturbing a nest of yellow jackets. Ron, covered with angry wasps, falling off the tractor and trying to crawl home for his damned EpiPen.
I put Grayson into his biggest trot and flew up the path, all the time screaming Ron’s name.
Two heads popped up, attached to two naked torsos. A couple of teenagers were making out in the hay.
I pulled Grayson to a stop. Totally taken aback, I mumbled something brilliant like “Excuse me. I didn’t know you were here.”
The boy sat up. “Is someone lost? Can we help?” The girl sat up too, all bare breasts and smeared mascara. She looked shell-shocked.
“It’s my husband. I’m afraid he’s had an accident with the tractor. He’s allergic. . . .” I realized how silly I sounded and shut my mouth.
“We haven’t seen any tractor around here,” the boy said, “but we can help you look.”
“Never mind,” I said gracelessly. “Sorry to have interrupted.” Then, realizing what I’d said, added, “Why am I apologizing? This is my meadow!”
It wasn’t my best ever exit line, but it would have to do.