Friday, January 31, 2014
Even though it doesn't have a title yet, the sequel to Falling Over the Finish Line is almost completely written. Here are two sample chapters, which will be subject to further editing, but I wanted to share a small portion of the work in progress with all of you who have been so supportive. Thank you so much! I look forward to any notes or feedback you have after reading them.
Also, SPOILER ALERT: Don't read the following sample chapters if you have not yet read Falling Over the Finish Line.
“Earl! Earl, come quick!”
Gloria felt another sharp cramp in her stomach. Everything in her body tightened and she started to panic.
“Gloria, what is it? What’s the matter with you. Why are you yelling like that? Holy crap on a stick! What the hell is that?”
Gloria looked down at the mess on the floor and then quickly looked up at Earl. “Don’t you dare faint!”
“I ain’t gonna faint Gloria, but… but… did you piss yourself?”
“Earl, it’s happening. My water broke. I think it’s time.”
“You mean you’re gonna have the baby? Now? Here? But Ben ain’t here. I thought the baby wasn’t coming for another two weeks. Gloria, you gotta at least wait until Ben gets home!”
“Earl, I can’t just wait! You have to drive me to the hospital!”
“How am I supposed to do that? Ben has the truck and he’s over at Churchill Downs for the races.”
“I forgot. We’ll have to borrow Jack’s car. Go and check to see if the keys are in it. And quick call Ed Maxon and tell him to go to Churchill and find Ben.”
“Well, which do you want me to do first?”
“Check for the keys. Then call Ed. Tell Ed to let Ben know that I’m in labor and to get to the hospital.”
As Earl ran out the front door, Gloria picked up her hand bag and started to make her way to the door, but stopped just two feet shy of it as another contraction snuck up on her. She leaned over and braced herself on the couch’s armrest. As the contraction subsided, she was able to sit on the couch. Earl came running back into the house.
“The keys are in the car. Gloria, don’t go pissin yourself on the couch next! That’s where I take my naps!”
Gloria was losing her patience and as the next contraction started to come over her, her voice grew louder. “Earl, go call Ed!”
Earl ran into the kitchen in a panic. Gloria tried to listen to what was going on, but Earl wasn’t saying anything.
“Earl, what are you doing? Are you calling Ed?”
“Gloria, I’m calling, but he ain’t picking up the phone!”
“Try calling Mr. Quincy!”
Gloria held her stomach and tried to stand up again. For the past month she felt so big that when she stood for too long she feared her legs would give out. She decided to stay on the couch until Earl came back out to help her.
“Gloria, he ain’t pickin up neither!” Earl came through the swinging kitchen door; walked through the dining room and into the living room. Gloria was sitting and waiting for the next contraction to come.
“Earl, could you hand me one of those sheets of paper on the desk over there and a pen?”
Gloria quickly scribbled a note to Ben telling him she was going to the hospital to have the baby. He would see it if he arrived home before Earl could get word to him. Then Earl ran over and helped her as she slowly and carefully stood up from the couch.
Earl helped her out to the car and got her into the passenger seat just as another contraction started. Earl climbed into the driver’s side and started the ignition. Within a few seconds he was pulling out of the dirt driveway onto the small back road.
“Earl, I’m scared.”
“Gloria, there ain’t nothing to be scared of. You and me, we’ve seen lots of births before, there’s nothing to it.”
“They were horses! I’m not a mare giving birth to a foal!”
“Well, I reckon it ain’t much different!”
“It is to different that’s why you have to get me to the hospital!”
“Don’t yell at me. I’m drivin as fast as I can!”
After a few seconds of silence, Earl mumbled, “The mares don’t go yelling at everybody neither.”
Gloria rested her elbow on the passenger’s door of the truck and leaned over to let the warm air blow in her face as she closed her eyes and rubbed her forehead. It was unseasonably warm for the fall, but Gloria leaned on the door and enjoyed the feel of the breeze. She tried to let her mind wander to distract herself from the pain and then the frustration.
She loved her cousin Earl, but the pain was making her easily aggravated. He had been her best friend ever since her parents took him in. Eight years ago Earl’s parents died and he came to live on Gloria’s parents’ farm. Her father, who was the most prestigious man in horse racing at that time, gave Earl a job as a stable boy and had him live in the small shack-like house next to the stable.
It was fitting that the house was used as slaves’ quarters in the early eighteen hundreds, since that’s how Gloria’s father treated him. Earl never questioned it though. He didn’t know any better and was thankful to have somewhere to live. Gloria knew that Earl was much happier now though working for her husband Ben and living with them in their house. He finally saw the proper way in which employees should be treated if they worked as hard as he did.
1947 was a heck of a year up until then. In the winter and spring, Gloria and Ben fell in love and got pregnant. By late spring, just as the horse racing season was about to kick off, they had a falling out with Gloria’s abusive parents, moved in together, and got married.
Ben became the biggest name in horse racing that year. He was the first horse owner in history to run two horses in The Bluegrass Stakes. To top it all off, his horses came in first and second place. However, winning throughout the rest of the season wasn’t easy for Ben. He had an excellent showing at The Kentucky Derby, but after that he struggled for the only wins he had.
Gloria wondered if the immensity of everything that happened weighed on Ben. He was under a lot of pressure all summer and it was going to build even more with The Pimlico Futurity coming up. Gloria hoped that together they could get through it like everything else as long as they had each other. And soon they would have another member of the family.
The pain in Gloria’s stomach brought her back to the present. All she could do was hold her stomach and groan. She tried to breathe, but it was hard.
“Gloria, we’re gonna be there in a few minutes. Are you alright?”
“Yes, but I’ll feel better when we get there and when Ben gets there.”
“As soon as I get you inside and settled, I’ll go myself and fetch Ben.”
“You don’t even have to wait until they get me in a bed. Just take me inside and then get to Churchill Downs as quickly as you can.”
Ben watched the horses come around the last turn. His horse Golden Girl was in third place. Ben’s faithful jockey, Francis Quinlan was pushing her to break out of the pack as the horses began their charge down the home stretch.
Jack shifted in his seat next to Ben. “Do you think she’s got enough to catch Irish Luck?”
“He should have kept her on the outside. I told him to keep her on the outside before the race started. She might still have enough though.”
Ben watched as Golden Girl’s pace quickened. She was gaining on Duchess in second place.
“She might be able to get in front of Duchess. Come on, Golden Girl. That’s it.” Ben said under his breath.
Golden Girl moved up alongside of Duchess who was only a head length in front of her with 400 yards to go. Then with 200 yards to go they were neck and neck.
Their heads bobbed next to each other in an opposing rhythm and they were both gaining fast on Irish Luck in the lead. With 100 yards to go Golden Girl and Duchess moved up to only a half length behind Irish Luck. It was going to be close as they came down to the wire. Ben held his breath.
Suddenly the people around him started to jump out of their seats as the horses were about to take their last strides to the finish line. Everyone in the crowd either cheered in celebration or yelled in frustration as Irish Luck crossed the finish line. A split second later both Duchess and Golden Girl crossed the finish line at the same time making it too close to tell who took second place.
Ben watched the other four horses cross and then stood up from his seat. He began making his way down to the track with Jack close behind him.
It was late September and the stands were only sparsely filled. The crowd was the usual size, especially since it wasn’t a graded stakes race day.
“I think she might have taken second place. She still ran a good race, Mr. Reed.”
“Jack, I told you before that you can call me Ben. You don’t have to call me Mr. Reed. And you’re right. She ran a good race, especially since I wasn’t racing her for the purse. I just need her to get competitive practice before November when I run her in the Pimlico Futurity.”
“She’s going to have some tough competition there. You think she can keep up with those horses?”
“She’s got the potential, but she’s going to need intense training until then. I’ve been so focused on FlashbyBoy this season that I haven’t been training her as hard as I should have.”
Ben walked away from the grandstands and made his way toward the gate that led onto the track. “Jack, can you go and pack the gear and the trailer while I get Golden Girl?”
“Sure thing, Mr… Uh, sure thing, Ben. We’re not going to stay for the other races?”
“I probably should, but I need to get home to Gloria. She’s getting close to having the baby and I don’t like being away from her for too long. Go ahead and get everything ready.”
“Yep, right away.”
Ben watched as Jack went to do what he was told as always. He was a good kid and a hard worker. Every day since Ben hired Jack, he became more sure that he made the right decision. He needed the extra help. The stable had become too much for only he and Earl to handle, even with Quinlan’s help.
He needed to hire another trainer as well, but that would have to wait. It wasn’t a lack of money holding him back. He did well for himself this past season, even with everything that happened, but he was just too busy to find the right person to help him train.
Jack was a guy who just moved to town in the spring and was having a tough time making ends meet. He had been going door to door to see if anyone needed any handyman work to be done around their houses or on their farms. When he knocked on Ben and Gloria’s door, not only did Ben’s heart go out to the poor kid, but he also happened to need some help. He asked Jack to start first thing the following morning.
Jack was a kid after Ben’s own heart too. He was only two years younger than Ben if even that much. Although for some reason he seemed so much younger to Ben. Every morning Jack walked into the stable two steps behind Ben before the sun came up. He drove to Reed’s Racing Stables every morning in his beat up little car and parked it on the grass just off the side of the driveway.
Once Ben asked Jack where he was from. He said he was from Arkansas, but wasn’t very specific. He said he lived there with his mother until she kicked him out of the house when he told her he was dropping out of high school. Ben wasn’t sure if Jack could read very well, but the jobs Ben hired him for didn’t require reading, so Ben couldn’t tell. And he knew it would be impolite to ask.
Ben walked over and took Golden Girl’s reigns as one of the track workers walked her through the gate. Ben stroked her head and praised her for a great run. Then he looked up at Quinlan.
“What happened? I thought you were going to keep her to the outside.”
Quinlan was still catching his breath as sat up on the horse’s back. “I tried, but she didn’t have a good start and I couldn’t find room to move over.”
Ben thought he saw room for her to move to the outside a lot sooner than she did, but he didn’t feel like arguing the point.
Then the announcer’s voice came over the loud speaker.
“And the winner of race number three is the number five horse, Irish Luck by two lengths. In second place was the number four, Duchess. In third place was the number two, Golden Girl. There are eighteen minutes to post for race number four.”
Ben tried not to be disappointed about Golden Girl coming in third place. Instead, he stroked her head until the announcement was finished. Quinlan dismounted and told Ben he was sorry.
“It’s alright. She still ran a good race. She looked strong at the end too.”
“She felt strong too.”
“Come on, we’ll go help Jack get the equipment packed and get Golden Girl here into her trailer.” Ben said as he led Golden Girl by the reigns in the direction of the stables.
While they were walking, Ben looked up thinking he heard his name being called in the distance, but couldn’t see anyone in the sparse crowd looking at him or trying to get his attention. He continued to walk Golden Girl.
“Ben!” He knew he definitely heard someone calling him that time.
“Ben! Over here!” Ben looked up and saw Earl waving his arms as he ran towards him. Earl finally stopped in front of Ben out of breath. “Ben… I’ve been…looking…all over…”
“Earl catch your breath. Is everything alright? Is Gloria alright? Where is she?”
“I took her…hospital…having the baby.” Earl said as he gasped in and out beginning to catch her breath.
“She’s already at the hospital?”
“I took her there right after she peed on the floor.”
Ben was confused. “She peed on the floor? Oh wait, you mean her water broke?”
“I don’t know. But whatever she broke, I’m gonna have a hell of a time cleaning it up when I get home.”
“Gloria’s having the baby! Earl, I need you to do me a favor. You don’t even need to worry about the mess.”
“Thank goodness. Sure, anything.”
“I need you and Quinlan to find Jack and help him pack up the horses and get them home. He should already be getting everything ready.”
“He is. I saw him when I first got here. He was the one who told me where you was.”
“Great. You go help him get the horses and the gear home and then meet me at the hospital. I’m going straight there right now.”
“Don’t worry, Ben. I’ll take care of it. Don’t you worry.”“Thanks Earl, I’ll see you soon.” Ben said as he handed Earl Golden Girl’s reigns and ran in the direction of the closest exit.