StoryADay May, One-Liner Wednesday: Palfrey

This post is part of StoryADay May ( #StoryADay #StoryADayMay @storyadaymay #freeshortstory #OneLinerWednesday


“I won’t lie,” said the smiling farmer.

Caroline took a step back. In her experience, I won’t lie was only second to I’m in business for the glory of the Lord as a red flag for flimflammery.

The farmer patted the neck of the big black horse he was showing her and said, “This horse is past running for the Derby.”

The Kentucky Derby, he meant, which was a race for three-year-olds. This horse looked like it could never have run the Derby, since the first Derby was held in 1875, and this horse looked like it would have been older than three years then.

“He’s a good horse, though,” the farmer went on. “A gelding, as you can see.” He turned the horse so Caroline could look at the undercarriage.

Caroline had been raised in the city, and wasn’t accustomed to viewing the genitals of non-human animals. She didn’t see anything dangling, though, so she was willing to accept that “hung like a horse,” with this horse as the referent, would be fighting words.

She went over the checkpoints she had memorized from her research on how to tell the age of a horse: He was thick and saggy, he had so many gray hairs around his eyes and mouth he looked like a reverse raccoon, his eyes were sunken, and his teeth stuck out like tweezers.

Old. Like, real old.

She had always said that, if she ever won the lottery, she would buy a condominium in Hawaii and live the rest of her life in paradise.

Instead, winning a small fortune had triggered her childhood fairy tale fantasy of being a princess in a castle with “a palfrey as dark as night” – whatever a palfrey was. In her teens, she had learned that a palfrey was just a saddle horse, but palfrey sounded more princessy.

So she had found a small castle some eccentric had built in Kentucky, had hired people to cook and clean and garden (I have people for that, she never said aloud). Now she was shopping for palfreys.

This was the first black saddle horse she had been shown. She and her horse guy had driven an hour and a half to look at him, and she couldn’t say she was overwhelmingly thrilled although, from the looks of this horse, he actually could have been a princess’s palfrey in the thirteenth century.

She had also researched prices, and knew the farmer was asking far above value.

When the farmer quoted his price, her horse guy laughed and said, “You ought to pay her to cart this glue stick away.”

The farmer glanced at Caroline, who gave him her well-honed thousand yard stare that had turned career prosecuting attorneys to jelly.

The horse guy and the farmer negotiated and swapped stories and jokes, neither one expecting the sale to happen.

When the pleasantries seemed to be over, Caroline offered a pittance, and the farmer, astonished to be getting anything, accepted.

In the car going back to the castle, the horse guy teased her.

“I’ll be surprised if that horse survives the move. He’s forty if he’s a day. You better have a vet and a bulldozer on speed dial.”

“Are you my horse guy?” Caroline asked coldly. “Can you take care of an elderly horse? Because there’s somebody out there who can, and I’d rather not go looking for one.”

“Sure I can! Of course, I can! You want an old horse, I’ll give you one that’s good and old! Tell you what: We’ll find out how old that horse actually is and if he doesn’t live at least ten years beyond that, I’ll eat my hat. And you can pick the hat.”

Palfrey (the horse) was gratified that no hats were eaten on his behalf.

MY PROMPT FOR TODAY: The John Gardner quote



I was born in Louisville, Kentucky, but now live in the woods in southern Indiana. Though I only write fiction, I love to read non-fiction. The more I learn about this world, the more fantastic I see it is.

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One thought on “StoryADay May, One-Liner Wednesday: Palfrey

    • Author

      Marian Allen

      May 30, 2024 at 9:28am

      I grew up reading fairy tales with princesses on palfreys, and, although I was never a horsey girl, I would put myself to sleep imagining the perfect palfrey.

      Permalink  ⋅ Reply
  1. Dan Antion

    May 30, 2024 at 9:24am

    Excellent. I’m at the point where I appreciate living longer than expected and still being loved.

    Permalink  ⋅ Reply
  2. acflory

    May 30, 2024 at 5:19pm

    I’ve always loved horses…as objects of beauty, but I’ve never wanted one because they’re also very big and the ground looks a long way down when you’re sitting on one. Love this story though. Glad you gave the ‘glue stick’ a home!

    Permalink  ⋅ Reply
    • Author

      Marian Allen

      May 31, 2024 at 9:50am

      I’m with you on horses. But they’re beautiful, and reading Black Beauty marked me for life.

      Permalink  ⋅ Reply

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