“I take it she’s never seen a norse before?” their host asked, clearing the plates from their picnic.
“This is her first time. I’ve only seen horses and norses in parades and petting zoos, never in their natural environment.”
The other children giggled, and ran off to gather flowering thistles to feed the animals. “Heh… I’m not sure if a manicured pasture counts as their “natural environment” but your daughter sure seems to like them.”
Sure enough, Audriahna was teetering on her little legs, one hand with a fistfull of her mother’s blouse and the other hand pointing at the norses as she squealed “Ooooooohsssieee!”
Autumn was not an animal lover. The horses scared her enough, but the norses, almost twice as big, were terrifying. She just could not see what so many people idolized about them. Beautiful, yes. Useful, certainly. But when the host’s children called for her to come over to the fence and pet them, she hesitated.
Audriahna was on the blanket with two little girls, playing with the flowers they’d picked. Autumn considered bringing the baby over to pet the huge creature, but decided the baby was much safer on the blanket.
The norse was surprisingly gentle. Autumn did manage to touch the soft fur on the norse’s nose, but politely refused to attempt to feed the animal.
Too late, she realized that the little girl urging a flower into her hand was the same one who had been on the blanket with Audriahna. She glanced back at the blanket, which was empty. Whirling around, she spotted her baby… her toddler… taking not-so-shaky steps, practically running to the fence where the other kids were attempting to coax the norse to eat.
“No!” she yelled and everything seemed to move in slow motion. Audriahna fell when she reached the fence, but began to crawl under the lowest slat, right by the animal’s rear hoof. Autumn practically fell over the top slat, scrambled to her daughter and grabbed her out of the way just as the startled animal kicked.
This story was written in response to a Write on Edge prompt about local items, which in this case are the norses. It’s sort-of an excerpt from my 2010 NaNoWriMo novel, Dogs, Cats, and Allergies. I never actually tell the story in the novel, it’s just part of the backstory. I’m not sure it stands alone as a story… more like an anecdote. That time when a mother thinks her baby is safe, but suddenly the baby is much more mobile than she ever dreamed possible!
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