Issue #153: Horse and Rider Thrown into the Sea

Dear Readers–please clear the floor, direct your attention to the spotlight, and welcome James Zwerneman. “Horse and Rider Thrown into the Sea” is his first publication and we feel honored and grateful that he decided to make his debut with One Story. Set on an island based on James’s own experience living in Grenada, “Horse and Rider Thrown into the Sea” follows the daily trials of Winifred, a single mother who works at the post office and lives far out in the bush. As she tries to keep her son Jeremiah on the straight and narrow path, Winifred remains determined, under increasingly difficult circumstances, to continue to find joy in life. It is Winifred’s inner struggle that is the heartbeat of this story, along with the beautiful and dangerous island that she calls home. Please read James’s Q&A with us to find out more about how he wrote “Horse and Rider Thrown into the Sea,” and be sure to be on the lookout for more of his work. For now, let’s raise our glasses as he steps into the spotlight and takes a bow for his first published story. Here’s to a long and wonderful life of words.

4 thoughts on “Issue #153: Horse and Rider Thrown into the Sea

  1. Mr. Zwerneman got Wini & Miz K and Grenada right on. His reason for the strength in Wini is Wini AND Miz K and their religion. I think their ability to roll with the punches and learn from the punches is another factor in making this story one to read and digest. I think it was a story about surviving and enjoying the little things that life offers.

  2. This is my second issue of One Story so far, but I am very impressed with “Horse and Rider Thrown into the Sea.” The story engaged me from the beginning with the voice of the narrator, the rich setting, and believable characters. I love it when authors take on the challenge of writing in the first person of the opposite sex! I look forward to reading more of his work.

  3. What a great story. The ending is very interesting to me — very open-ended. The whole setting and use of language felt quite mythopoetic to me, and the ending fit into that — somewhere inside I knew what the ending was about and it felt just right, though rationally, I can’t say.

    Looking forward to reading more by this writer!

  4. I’ve been waiting ten years for James Zwerneman to publish a short story, and Horse and Rider does not disappoint. It was worth the wait.

    Before I launch into the many things I liked about James’ effort (and one thing I did not), full disclosure: I know James and his family. It was his father, in fact, that gave me a copy of Horse and Rider this past weekend. If Dr. John and Amy Zwerneman are the models for the missionary doctor and wife in the story, James undersells the wife. In the story, Dr.Jake’s wife is pretty; in real life, Any Zwerneman is drop-dead gorgeous. But I digress.

    In Horse and Rider, James speaks through his character Winifred, a woman, and he nails it – mostly. I lived in Grenada for a year and left two years before James and his family arrived, so I can testify that the dialogue is pitch-perfect. But seriously, James, what woman would allow a hen to reside in her boy’s bedroom? Do you know what chickens do when they aren’t laying eggs? Though you spoke as a woman brilliantly, in this one case you thought like a bachelor!

    That’s my only serious criticism of James’ work. The description of the Grenadian bush took me back in memory and that memory did not contradict the description. Zwerneman’s prose transports without drawing attention to the trip.

    Horse and Rider reminds me of Hemingway’s work both in the power of its compact sentences and how the narrative is often propelled by what is not said. James can create the dread and horror of a sexual assault by writing around the incident in such a way the event is detected by the shape of its absence.

    Oh yes, the story. What was it all about, really? Two women, one faithful and one fatalistic? Hope running headlong into reality and emerging dented but viable? Yes on both counts, and more, and therein hangs a tale that can enrich readers who could never even find Grenada on a map. But for those of us who have lived there, there are depths of meaning that make this story all the more remarkable.

    Horse and Rider never identifies the timeframe it inhabits, but the description of the small TV and some knowledge of Grenadian history would set the scene around 1979, just before the Marxist-Leninist revolution under Maurice Bishop took place. The Sir Nigel character seems a confluence of Bishop and Sir Eric Gary, the Prime Minister Bishop overthrew in the 1979 coup.

    Bishop’s New JEWEL Movement suspended the consitution, freedom of speech and assembly, due process – the works. The thugs Zwerneman identifies as the Mongoose Gang had their type in the Bishop regime (though, to be fair, Sir Eric was no bed of roses, either).

    Under Bishop, the Church was oppressed and opponents of the “revo” were in grave danger. And this is the history Horse and Rider brought to my mind. At the story’s climax, an impending storm drove a huge swarm of wood ants into Wini’s home as she was entertaining Dr. Jake and his family of four children (the exact make-up of James’ family during their sojourn in the Isle of Spice – Baby No. 5 was born in Arizona after their return to the States). Seeing them coming, Wini takes care to wrap up her oildown dinner and cover the entire household of ten under mosquito netting.

    There they gather, huddled against the intruding horde. Wini’s optimism comes to the fore: it is a big mess, and interrupts her hospitality (a hallmark of Grenadian culture). But she kows that, as bad as the interval is, it is just that – an interval. It shall pass. The swarming insects will surround the lights with much sound and fury, and mate. Then their wings will fall off and they will drop to the floor and die. And then she can sweep out the debris and uncover her food and pick up where she was, being Grenadian in its greatest manifestation, loving her guests with the best she can put before them. All she has to do is endure, and hope.

    Which leads us to the title: The Horse and Rider Thrown Into the Sea. It is the name of a song I’ve sung it many times. It is taken from Exodus chapter 15, and comes from the song of Moses after the waters of the Red Sea had swept the chariots and drivers of Pharaoh away. The defenseless Israelites, having endured centuries of oppression at the hands of Egypt before being led out by Moses, faced certain doom. But the Lord delivered them. The horse and his rider hath he cast in the sea.

    In the swarming, destructive insects I see the brutality of the New JEWEL Movement, a storm that would seek to suppress so much that was good about Grenada and her soul. In Wini and Miz K are the faithful who would endure and find victory in the end, when the New JEWEL Movement turned on itself and disintegrated in a bloody spasm and the horse and rider were thrown into the sea.

    As I said, I’ve been waiting ten years for this story, ever since 2002 when James and I took a mission trip to Grenada with ten others. James, don’t make us wait another ten years for the next one!

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