Books and Film

Learning to Fall

An excerpt from Chapter 2 of Anne Clermont’s debut novel

The truck lurched. Then again. My stomach jolted to my throat. We heard a loud bang, and the truck swerved.

“What was that?” I bolted upright, peering over at Dad in the dim light. He surveyed the traffic through his side mirrors. A car passed, then slowed and honked. The driver yelled, waving his arm about. I couldn’t make out what he was saying. I looked back to the video monitor. The darkness made it harder to see what the monitor displayed.

Something wasn’t right. I saw Seraphim shake her head, wrestling it up. Was she irritated at the lead rope attached to her halter? She started kicking, her body jerking left and right, up and down. The other two horses angled their bodies away from Seraphim, who stood in between them, turning their heads to look at her, as if trying to figure out what was going on. I leaned forward, scrutinizing the small monitor.

“What is it?” Dad asked.

“Not sure. Seraphim’s freaking out at something.”

“The truck’s swerving. Doesn’t feel right.”

I felt another lurch. “She seems to be getting worse,” I said. With that, her kicking jerked and rocked the whole truck. Even at fifty-five miles per hour, I was aware of the fragility of the truck and trailer, knowing that a panicked thirteen-hundred-pound horse could do a lot of damage to the trailer, and to the horses in it with her.

Another car passed, this time slowing to drive next to us. The woman in the passenger seat waved her hand, pointing wildly to the back of the trailer. The kids in the backseat were glued to the rear window, staring at something.

I looked more closely at the monitor.

“I think the back trailer door is open,” I said, practically in a whisper.

Dad peered ahead. “I don’t see a rest stop anywhere.”

I sat up onto my knees, staring out the back window, as if I could do something.

He merged into the far-right lane, slowing down. We passed a sign that read the rest stop was eight miles away. Too far. Much too far.

“I’ll have to pull over,” he said, and although his voice was calm, I heard it waver.

I started to unbuckle, my heart beating loud, my breath shallow.

“Now don’t you dare go into that trailer, Brynn. We’ll just stop to settle her down.”

I nodded, biting my cuticles.

“And stay away from the freeway, you hear?”

I nodded again.

Dad slowed the truck, the trailer shook with Seraphim’s kicking. A large truck zipped by, rattling us even more.

Even before the truck stopped, I was out running. “It’s all right, Sera, it’s all right,” I called. I ran around the trailer to the back, and even before I got there I saw the dented ramp, off the hinges, the trailer door unlatched swinging in the gusts created by the passing trucks. Dad joined me, grabbing the ramp, eyeing the door, trying desperately to shut it.

He eyed the broken latch. “How the hell did this happen?”

A large truck’s horn blared as it passed, making me jump. I felt light-headed. I hadn’t double-checked the latch. I was supposed to have double-checked the latch. I had been distracted by my own thoughts.

Seraphim kicked even harder.

“We have to calm her.” Dad ran along the freeway to the trailer window. “Stay to the side!”

I ran after him. Cars and trucks whizzed by less than five feet from us. Dad climbed on top of the wheel to reach the alum-window gate. Seraphim flung her head every which way, kicking and rearing. A chunk of green froth from her mouth fell on my arm.

“Can we get her out?” I asked.

“Not possible. Where would we put Cervantes?”

“I could hold him while you unload her.”

Dad shook his head. “She’s too far gone. We couldn’t control her. And if she ran onto the freeway . . .” He didn’t need to explain. Cars honked, the sound wailing past me. I turned to look behind us just as something flew toward me. I ducked my head but not before a small razor-like rock stung my cheek.

I reached up and felt the warmth of blood on my fingers.

“Brynn! You all right?” Dad was at my side, peering at my face. “We’ve gotta get off this road!” He pulled me behind the trailer and examined the cut closer, and for that moment I felt safe with his hands on me.

“It’s okay, it doesn’t hurt,” I said. Dad gave me a questioning look, but turned toward Seraphim’s window.

“Go grab the Ace,” Dad said, then turned to talk to Seraphim in a soothing voice. I ran to get our medical supplies and to fill the syringe with the tranquilizer. We’d need to administer it intravenously if we wanted the effects to kick in sometime in the next fifteen minutes. A panicking horse rarely calmed down until they sensed safety, and Seraphim was overtaken by fear. My fingers shook, and I accidentally stabbed myself with the needle. I sucked on the blood from my finger, telling myself to calm down. I had done plenty of injections over the years, and especially this past year in school. I managed to fill the syringe, then tapped the side to get the air bubbles out.

“How are we going to give it to her? We can’t get at her when she’s panicking like this. We’ll never hold her still enough to find a vein.” My voice, unnaturally high, barely rose above the screaming traffic.

“We don’t have a choice.” Dad kept his voice low. Beads of sweat had formed on his upper lip. I licked my own lips, trying to get the dryness out of my mouth.

“Keep calm, Brynn. Here’s what we’re gonna do.” He grabbed my shoulder, making me face him. “You’ll have to help me keep Cervantes from rushing out of the trailer when we undo the back tailgate holding him in. Then I’ll go in and try to give her the shot.”

I agreed, even though I knew that the chance of Dad hitting a vein when Seraphim was rearing was close to nil.

Dad placed his hand on the tailgate bar. “You ready?”

I wasn’t, but I didn’t have a choice. With my right hand I felt in my back pocket for the capped syringe.

Dying to know what happens next? Find Anne Clermont’s debut novel, Learning to Fall, on Amazon.com


Anne ClermontAbout the Author

Anne Clermont is a Canadian living in the U.S., born in Kraków and raised outside of Toronto. She spent 15 years in California before relocating to the beautiful Pacific Northwest. Inspired to write Learning to Fall in part by her own experience of running a show jumping business, she now devotes her time to writing and working as a developmental editor.

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