IF YOU WANT TO BE LOVED, LOVE
- “If you want to be a horse, be a horse.” Her father said this when he talked about the family infrastructure, how weak it was. When she was little, she wanted to become strong as a horse to make him happy, so she tried to become one, but it never worked.
- Later, there was the shock of loving a man with the soul of a tree. She had always wanted to be a bird, at least in her dreams. But when she was with this man, she didn’t want to be anything, she only wanted to fly to him.
- The doctor told her that if she wanted to be loved, next time she needed to love. She didn’t understand what he meant, so she stared into his eyes. They looked like the eyes of a sad, old horse. A horse that knew it was going to become glue for some child’s special art project. This was the day she fell in love with her doctor.
- “If you want to be a horse, be a horse,” she said to her son when he tried on his Halloween costume and stared in the mirror as if he had failed. “How can I be a horse?” the child said. “Stand there like this,” she said, “as if you are stuck in the middle of a field, but it doesn’t worry you.”
- When her father walked into the ocean, her mother started painting birds. It felt like a dream, her mother waving a paint brush at 6:00 a.m. Blackbirds and sparrows all over the kitchen walls and her mother up early enough to catch a worm. She said, “Your father never believed we were strong enough. Can you imagine how much he would have hated these birds?”
- When she became an artist like her mother, she gave up the idea of being okay. She stood like a not-stuck horse in her kitchen and remembered her mother surrounded by birds. Her son, who had been a successful horse on Halloween, watched her with love in his unknowable eyes.
Meg Pokrass is the author of nine collections, and her work has appeared in over a thousand literary journals. Her flash fiction, “Back on the Chain Gang,” will appear in The Best Small Fictions 2022. Another flash fiction story, “Pounds Across America,” will appear in a new Norton anthology, Flash Fiction America, edited by James Thomas, Sherrie Flick, and John Dufresne, in 2023. She is the Founding Editor of Best Microfiction.
Cover Design by Karen Rile