Sunday, August 18, 2013
Sample Chapters - Falling Over the Finish Line
Chapter 6: Gloria
“What in the hell took you so long?” Raymond shouted across the stable as Earl and Gloria walked in. “Didn’t you bring Dr. Maxon?”
“He’s right behind us, Uncle Ray. He’s just getting his things out of the truck.”
“Daddy, why aren’t you in there with Shore? Is she ok?”
“Gloria, I just looked in on her and the last time I checked, I don’t answer to you. You need to learn how to hold your tongue. Now go back up to the house and get your mother out of bed.”
“Ok, but I’ll be right back and then I’m staying here until the foal is born.” Gloria tried to sound defiant, but her father was intimidating and she knew that she was only shortening his temper.
Ray’s eyes fixed on hers with pupils resembling coals turning from black to red hot. He walked over, grabbed her by the arm and pulled her out of the stable.
“Daddy, stop. You’re hurting me!”
“Then next time you remember your place and don’t you dare sass me like that again! Now go back up to the house. I ain’t going to tell you again!”
Gloria started to trek up to the house through the cold air. She knew she wouldn’t be able to get her mother up this early. The sun had only just risen. It would be a few hours at least before her mother got up.
Gloria prepared some coffee and was finally able to wake up her mother around nine o’clock. As her mother followed her downstairs, Gloria let her know that ShoretoDream was in labor.
“Daddy probably won’t come back up to the house until after the birth.”
“Is Doctor Maxon out there too?”
“Yes, he’s there.”
“In a little while I’ll prepare some lunch for you to take out to them. If your daddy had his way though, that horse would stay in labor for two and a half more weeks.” Faye said as she poured a bit of whiskey in a mug before she poured her coffee.
Having paid close attention to the business of her family’s stable in past years, Gloria knew why her father was so upset. He had taken a chance when he decided to put ShoretoDream with King Duke to breed and it had probably cost him a lot of money. ShoretoDream had already given birth to several foals. The last foal she had given birth to was Snow Angel when she was bred with Fists of Fury. It was a difficult birth for her and Gloria’s father had only been able to race Snow Angel a handful of times.
Snow Angel was a great runner, but he was the most temperamental horse her father had ever had in his stable. He also got spooked very easily. When he was calm though, he made the Earth spin a little faster underneath his hooves. He was something. They named him Snow Angel because of his beautiful pale coloring when he was born. As an adult his coat was a shiny silver color, so the name was still very fitting.
“It’s no wonder the foal is going to be born prematurely. It’s Daddy’s own fault. Shore’s a champion racehorse, but she already had trouble with Snow Angel’s birth. He took a chance breeding her again. He got greedy.”
“Gloria, don’t you dare question your father! I won’t have it! Your father is a smart man. He’s the reason you live in luxury and don’t you forget it.”
“Yes, Ma’am.” Although Gloria knew she was right.
As a young girl, every day after school and in the long daylight summer days, her life was horses. She spent her childhood mucking out stables, brushing manes, and learning everything she possibly could from her father, no matter how reluctant he was for her to learn any of it. He was not only the sole owner of Weldon Farms Stables, but he had also started and built the family’s farm from the ground up. He had expanded the business so much that they had to move several years ago from their small, modest house and farm into the mansion they now occupied that sat on many acres of land. He was a very wise horseman, businessman, and trainer.
Her father and Doctor Maxon would be spending the day with ShoretoDream. Gloria had chores to do, but she knew the horses needed their workouts as well. Since she could walk, she followed her father watching him closely as he trained thoroughbreds. He was one of the best in the business until the past two years. Since the start of the season in 1944, the Weldons still had horses in the Triple Crown races, but only a few had managed to place. What was worse was that the Reeds had come in second place in the derby that past summer and were ready for their first big win.
Faye filled a coffee urn and put it on a matching silver tray with two coffee cups. “Take this down to your father and Dr. Maxon. You do your chores and then you come straight back up here to get their lunch and take it down to them.”
“I’m going to finish sewing your dress this morning too, so you can try it on this afternoon.”
The tray was heavy and Gloria had to concentrate on keeping it steady all of the way down to the stable. She walked in and set it down on the desk in the office where her father and Dr. Maxon were sitting.
“May I pour you a cup of coffee, Dr. Maxon?”
“Please don’t trouble yourself. I’ll have a cup in just a little while.”
Gloria nodded and smiled to him as she poured her father a cup adding a touch of sweet cream and a lump of sugar exactly the way he liked it.
“Here you are, Daddy.”
Dr. Maxon smiled, “Raymond, you and Faye are raising quite the proper young lady. My compliments to you both.”
“Thanks, Doc. I hope you and Wendy received your invitation to Gloria’s birthday party this Saturday.”
“We wouldn’t miss it for anything. It’s all anyone is talking about.”
“I hope so. We’ve invited the most elite families from three counties, especially the ones with eligible young sons. If we can have Gloria find a well-to-do young man, we won’t have to waste money sending her to college.”
Gloria couldn’t stand when her father spoke about her as if she wasn’t standing in the room. She hated even more that instead of celebrating her birthday, her parents were throwing her an elegant party to give themselves an opportunity to find a rich son-in-law. She wouldn’t be surprised if there was an auction block in the middle of their dining room for her to stand on all evening.
“I have no doubt that Gloria won’t have any trouble finding a suitable young man.”
“Thank you, Dr. Maxon. If you’ll please excuse me though, I have chores to start before I bring out lunch.”
Gloria wanted so much to ask Dr. Maxon about Shore’s progress that he must have seen it written all over her face and also that she was holding back so as not to upset her father. She was relieved when he offered the information without any prompting before she left the office.
“Gloria, you’ll be happy to know that ShoretoDream is doing very well. You will have a new foal by supper time most likely.”
“Thank you, Doctor Maxon.” She smiled. “I’m comforted in knowing she is in the very capable hands of you and Daddy.”
Gloria walked out of the office and let herself relax. Just those brief moments in the office of acting so proper exhausted her. She wasn’t sure how she would survive an entire party. Gloria stopped and thought for a moment. Her father was preoccupied with Shore and her mother would be busy sewing her dress. She decided that no one would notice if she didn’t go back up to the house or if her chores didn’t get done that day. She went to the last stall by the doors of the stable, furthest away from the office.
She took the saddle off of the wall and started to put it on Snow Angel, but he started to fight her from putting it on. She held his saddle and took him by the reigns and led him as quietly as she could out of his stall and out of the stable doors. She walked him around to the other side of Earl’s tiny house and began to put his saddle on there. He didn’t seem to mind it as much after she took him outside.
“What are you doing?”
Gloria spun around. “Earl, you nearly scared me half to death! And keep quiet,” she whispered. “I’m taking Snow Angel for a walk out in the woods.”
“If Uncle Ray finds out, he is going to ring your neck.”
“So don’t tell him. He won’t notice we’re gone. We’ll only be an hour. If Sam or any of the grooms come before we’re back, tell them not to say anything either.”
“Don’t wander too far. You know if Uncle Ray asks me anything that I’m no good at lying to him.”
“I have to be back in time to bring down lunch from the house, so I won’t go far.”
Gloria had the saddle securely on Snow Angel, so she put her foot in the stirrup and hopped up. She guided Snow Angel into the woods. She looked behind her and saw Earl watching her with a worried look on his face. She smiled and winked at her cousin to reassure him, but he just shook his head and got back to work.
Chapter 7: Ben
“Benjamin? Are you out here?”
“I’m in the stable, Pop!” Ben called to his father.
“Do you know where your brother is?”
“He’s not in his bed? That’s where I saw him last. I was up before the sun this morning, so I came straight out here to start today’s work.”
“Well at least we know he came home last night.”
His father’s tone made Ben realize that Pop was just as fed up with David’s escapades as he was. It relieved Ben a little since his father usually made excuses for David. Ben had begun putting the saddle on FlashbyBoy.
“Pop, I’m saddling up Flash, but he doesn’t seem to want to run today. David pushed him pretty hard yesterday. He ran him too hard in my opinion. I think you should just let him walk and trot around today.”
At that point Ben heard the truck pull up outside. The truck door slammed shut and David came walking briskly through the double doors. “Morning, Pop. I found out that the Weldons’ horse ShoretoDream is giving birth today. You know the one they matched with King Duke? What everyone has been saying is right: Raymond Weldon is going to run his farm into the ground. With this early birth, he doesn’t have a chance next year.”
“If the horse hasn’t even delivered yet, how could you possibly know that?”
“Oh I uh… I overheard it in town. That’s where I went after I woke up this morning. Ben, you make sure that horse is properly saddled today. It started to come loose yesterday.”
Ben knew there had been nothing wrong with the saddle, but David needed something to criticize him about in front of their father. Ben started to respond, but Pop jumped in first.
“Flash is taking today off from training.”
“Taking off? Pop, I’m the one who has been training him and I know what he needs, not you. We have stakes races to enter him in before The Bluegrass Stakes and the Derby. If he doesn’t run well, we’re going to lose our shot at it.”
“I know you’ve been working hard on training him, but boy don’t you forget who runs this farm. If you don’t want your ass and your suitcase to be thrown out onto that dirt road at the end of the driveway, then it will do you well to remember that.”
“Sorry, Pop. But we can’t let him just stand in the stable all day.”
“Ben is taking him out today. After you work out Golden Girl and Free Runner, get all these stables cleaned out. I’m giving both FlashbyBoy and Ben the day off.” Pop walked away before David could respond.
David glared at Ben. “Make sure you get Golden Girl and Free Runner saddled before you take Flash out. And I don’t care what Pop said, you run that horse today.”
“No problem.” Ben replied simply to appease his brother.
“I mean it, Ben. That old man is losing his senses when it comes to training horses.”
Ben and David heard Pop’s voice from outside of the stable. “I haven’t lost a single sense, especially not my hearing! And saddle up your own damn horses!”
David turned and walked into the equipment room and Ben heard the loud bang of something being thrown at the wall. He stroked Flash’s head to make sure the sound hadn’t bothered him and then walked him out of the stall.
Ben mounted Flash and walked him out of the stable. “Well Flash, we both have the day to ourselves. Let’s go for a walk. You lead the way.”
They walked along the edge of the woods that lined their farm. After about a half of a mile, Flash turned and walked on the trail through the trees leading away from the property. Ben knew where Flash was going. He wanted to walk through the woods because about another mile through the trails was a clearing, a creek where Ben had walked Flash to before. In the summer time, Ben would go there and swim at night to cool off after a long day, but on that December morning, it was going to be much too cold for that. He would just enjoy the beautiful view while Flash wandered around and drank from the stream.
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