I have a real treat today, the rough draft first chapter of my husband's new book (could it be that a short story is more likely?) Your comments are welcome.
This story starts with two friends that live across from Churchill Downs. These friends would walk to the bus stop every morning and as they walked, Tom and Jere would watch the people working on the horses - wouldn't know much about what was going on but wanted to be a part. This went on til they were old enough to apply for a hot walking job, the first job most people get. The duty of a hot walker is to walk the horses after exercize, the race track lingo is coolinem out. So their 16th birthdays come, and along with the excitement of driving, they can get a license to work with the horses and learn about what they have been watching all of the year walking to school.
Tom asked Jere, how do you want to handle our first day?
Jere: I guess we do exactly like they always looked - busy.
Tom: OK. Jere asks, what time? Well we go to school about 7, that's the time. See you tomorrow.
Jere went home thinkin' this is summer vacation and I ain't gettin' up early. The boys went to bed with a lot of stored excitement. Going to the land of horse racing. They had watched it for years but didn't know what to expect. The clock went off like any other day for school.
Tom called Jere's house. Hello. Hi Mrs. Smith, is Jere up?
Mrs. Smith: Well Tom I don't know I'll go see for you. She goes to his room and finds he's still sleeping. Well Tom he's still sleeping.
Tom: Please Mrs Smith give him the phone for me.
Mrs. Smith: Ok Tom, he's not gonna like it. He likes his sleep.
Jere gets the phone from his mom and Tom exclaims, Jere, what the hell's wrong with you, we got to go to the track today!
Jere says in a sleepy voice, this is rhe first day of vacation you know, catchin' some winks.
Tom: Don't you want to learn about what goes on across the fence we walk by every day?
Jere: Yeah, I guess come on over and I'll get ready.
Tom runs out the house, down the block to get Jere's ass out the bed. All the thoughts going through his head on what to expect once they're on the inside of the fence. He knocks on the door.
Mrs. Smith comes to the door, Hey Tommy, how are you? She always called him Tommy since he was 4, the first time he had knocked.
Tom answered, yeah I'm fine. I was wondering if Jere was up yet.
Mrs. Smith: Well I haven't heard him moving in there but go and check.
Tom went back to Jere's room where Jere had hung pictures of horse racing and jockeys that were some of his favorites. Pat Day was at the top of the list and always in the top 10 in the nation in wins. Early Fires was there also - Jere liked him because he was a strong finisher, “stick jock” he would say. Tom's room was much the same, and these two would banter back and forth about horse racing for hours, boring their friends when they hung out.
Tom: Jere you not up yet? Come on man, get your ass out the bed! Don't you want to go in the gate?
Jere looks up from under his pillow that he was using to shade his eyes from the light. Well I guess I am now, Jere thought.
Tom: Well all right then, get your damn clothes on and let's go.
Its about 9 now and as they get out the door and look across the street, the two boys didn't see as much action as usual. They walked the short distance to the front gate, their hearts pounding in anticipation.
Tom says, Those guards look mean.
Jere: Yeah well let's just keep walkin' and see what happens.
Tom agrees and they proceed. There were four guards standing, talking, laughing and joking with each other.
Jere: They're not gonna notice us at all. Just a little further and we're in.
Then the bomb. Hey boys! You have a license? Jere replies, No sir, this is our first day, we want to get a summer job with the horses.
Bob the guard: You got to get someone to give you a visitor pass.
Tom: But we don't know anybody.
Bob: OK I will announce that you are here and looking for a job. Have a seat.
Jere and Tom looked at each other and thought all the years of waiting to get in the stable area, and here we sit like two vagrants caught trespassing.
Jere told Tom, You get me outta bed for this, man this is bullshit.
Tom replies, Shut up you're just lazy. We talked about this day for years and this little bump ain't gonna stop us.
By this time their voices were getting loud. Just driving in the gate was Shug McGaughey, very well known trainer, and the boys recognized him. Shug rolled down his window and asked the boys if they were looking for work. Tom was caught speechless and Jere spoke, Yes sir, our summer vacation starts today.
Shug replied, Well you guys didn't waste any time didya.
By this time Tom found his tongue and says, You are Shug McGaughey.
Shug: Well yes, how do you know me?
Tom: Me and Jere follow the races a lot and you win a lot of races.
Shug: Ohh I win my share.
Jere pipes up, We need a pass to get in, can you help us?
Shug: Yeah I'll get you in and do one better. I have room for one person. It's not easy work and the foreman don't cotton to slackers.
Tom pipes up, Well you'll want me then.
Jere gives a look at Tom, Shut up man.
Shug interrupts and says, Flip for it, and the loser doesn't have to worry. I know a guy that needs a man too. Shug sticks his head out he door and says, Hey Bob give these boys a pass. When you get your pass, go to barn 33, that's my barn, and Hank will tell you what time to be here.
Tom and Jere couldn't believe it. They were finally going inside the gate of Churchill Downs, the race track that held the most exciting two minutes in the WORLD. The guard handed them the passes and they started walking.
Jere says to Tom, Do you smell somethin?
Tom replies, Yeah, what is it?
Jere: It's horse shit man! We never smelled this from the outside. Hey Tom look, it's a goat. Wonder what they have a goat for?
Tom: Mascot maybe.
Jere: What barn is it?
Tom: Don't know, look for a number, there on the end . 5. Damn this place must be big.
They walked along not really noticing the numbers, but taking in all the new sights. Looking at the horses in their stalls. Before they knew it barn 33. There was an elderly man sitting in a chair at the other end of the shedrow.
Jere walks up, Hi is hank around?
The old dude clears his throat, Yeeaa, he's over yar on the other side getting a horse ready for the first.
Tom: Wow let's go see.
Jere: Getting ready?
Tom replies, Guess they have some sort of ritual.
Jere laughs, Yeah they got a witch doctor runnin' around chantin' or somethin'.
They both laugh loudly and Hank standing in front of the stall whistling sez roughly, What the hell is this? Keep it quiet! Tryin' to get the horse to piss, he's been in ice two hours and y'all startled him. Now he might not pee and that could cost him the race! Who the hell are you two?
So the boys closed their mouths and watched. Hank started whistling again, and the horse, after sticking his head out to take a look around, went back in the stall, walked around in a couple circles, stretched out and peed. Tom and Jere watched, amazed at how long he peed. Hank, after the horse was done, wiped his brow in a joking way and said, Boy if he didn't pee he'd have to carry all that in his race, no way he wouldda had a shot in hell to win. Now who and what do y'all want? Hank then looked over at the groom and said, Hang the bridle on him, two minutes til you go over. All right back to y'all.
Jere: Mr. McGaughey told us you have a spot for a worker.
Hank: That's right.
Tom: Well one of us is him.
Hank: You ever handle a horse?
Tom: No, never have - but I'm big and strong, and I think I can learn.
Tom and Jere were good size boys. Jere had brown hair, green eyes, about 200 lbs., and Tom was the same size with blue eyes and black hair. The girls liked both of them. Hank keeps going on, I can't have a green horn. I got to talk to the boss.
The group walks over to where the old dude was sittin'. Hank says, Duck, you seen the boss yet?
The old dude says, He just walked in the office.
Hank opens the door and said to Shug, Do I havta break in another greeny this year?
Shug: Yep, it will be good luck like last year. You said the same thang last year about the green help and I think its gonna keep you sharp.
Hank: Ahh boss I'm sharp.
Shug: I know Hank, but I want one of these young lads to work. You got a coin?
Hank replies, Yeeaa I got one. He reaches in his pocket, comes out with his lucky silver dollar. Alright who's gonna call it?
Tom: I'll call it.
Jere didn't mind, its a 50-50 shot, and Shug had said at the gate - whoever lost would have a job anyway.