By Elizabeth Speth
Once upon a time there were two beautiful horses, Cake and Newly. They lived in a gentle place, where the sun mostly shone. Winds seldom blew here. Harsh cold and snow were strangers.
Warm rain fell in winter. It filled the rivers, then turned itself into delicious, sweet, tall grass in the spring. The grass was so tall it tickled the horses’ bellies. Wildflowers drank the rain too.
They exploded in happy purple blooms, surrounding the horses and making them look even prettier.
It was a good life. Until one year the rain forgot to fall. And the not falling was so easy, it forgot again the next year.
And the next.
From time to time, the clouds would fill with gray water, and hang low over the horses’ heads. It seemed the clouds would empty onto the cracked, hard earth.
And the horses would be glad, because they were thirsty, and wanted to eat delicious grass in the spring, and not breathe hot dust in the lengthening summers.
But then the gravid clouds would pass over, and no rain would fall.
And the rivers did not fill. They shrank to tiny ribbons in the landscape, barely flowing, and the horses were thirsty. They were worried.
And the wildflowers were not lush. Not at all. Every once in a while, a tiny dot of color would muster itself and push up through dry dirt and rocks.
But that wasn’t the same thing at all. Cake and Newly did not think they looked prettier standing amongst these tiny wildflowers.
And the grass did not grow. It barely cleared the dying soil before wilting between the horses’ nipping teeth. Eventually, there was only dust.
The horses were not happy, and so they went to speak to The Woman.
The Woman was the one who brought the hay, and the grain, the carrots and the apples. She seemed to be in charge of the good things, the horses reasoned, although they did not know or care why.
They did not know or care what she did other than the bringing of the good things. But, they told each other, she might know about the rain.
“We want the rain back,” they said to her. “We are not sure what we’ve done to stop it, but we want it back. We want the flowers that make us look prettier, and the delicious grass, and we are tired of the heat and dust. We want to bathe our lovely feet again in the river, and drink the cool water.”
The Woman thought, and she said: “I will go and ask my mother, Nature, and I will see what she says.”
And The Woman did, and came back and gave the horses a carrot, and she kissed them and said:
“Mother Nature says we must go back to a simpler time. When there were fewer people, and we made more of our own things, and grew our own food and did not care for cities. We must go back to a simple time when horses worked harder.”
“What?” said Cake.
“The hell you say,” said Newly.
“My mother, Nature, says we must go back to a time when horses worked harder,” The Woman repeated. “You must pull the plough and the wagon. The earth will be back in balance, and there will be rain, and rivers, and flowers and grass.
“But you must stop lounging all day, and go to work.”
Cake and Newly put their heads together. They whispered while The Woman waited. They looked at The Woman, and they whispered some more, Then they walked over to her, heads high and eyes rolling.
“Tell your mother, Nature,” Cake said, “that we are enjoying the drought very much.”
Newly added, nodding his big head: “Yes. Tell her thank you, and to keep up the good work.”
And so the drought continued.