“I’m sick of this shit!” Tracey screams flinging her arms in the air. Her baseball cap is snug on her head, and in her agitation she reaches up and tugs it down even further. Now it presses the top of her ears outwards, and she resembled an elf, or maybe even a pixie. Regardless, her face holds the color of blood. “I’m done!” She fumes with concrete in her tone, “You can go.” She says to me.
“You’re fired!” Tracey shouts throwing a hand out towards me.
“But—“ I begin.
“Get out!” she rails.
Tracey turns on her heel. She shouts out to Dick who is watching with open amusement. ”Take her home. She’s done.”
I stand in her dust. My head hangs and tears gather in my eyes. I just wanted to say goodbye to the horses, to the dogs— to the life I had a minute ago. I didn’t expect this. I was naive in my expectations of how this would play out. I was living in the moment. I had finally worked up the courage to tell her about Dick’s attack on Janine. I didn’t consider the consequences of my big mouth.
Gone in an instant— my job, my transportation, my floor to sleep on, and the food on my plate. With all that gone, the only thing that really mattered was— I would never see the horses again. I would never again lay a hand on Charlie, my honest hardworking steed, Fleet, the spunky colt, Jupiter, a gentle giant, and the list of loss is too long to face. I stuff down the ragged sobs building inside.
I can feel Dick’s eyes on me. I feel his satisfaction as he watches my pain. I refuse to feed him my sadness.
I numbly climb into the passenger’s side of the truck.
I stare ahead ignoring Dick. I focus on holding back my sorrow and watch the road being eaten up as we drive.
“I told you.” Dick said with a smile in his voice, “You shouldn’t push Tracey too hard.”
I said nothing.
Dick continues to prattle, “You can’t say I didn’t warn you. It’s too bad you couldn’t keep your mouth shut.”
I tune out his voice and stare out the side window. I watch the trees and fields whip past. I wipe the tears that escape my control.
At the condo Dick waits in the truck not wanting to make the extra steps into the building. It’s better that way.
I enter the condo and close the door behind me. Tabby and Zack are at school, and the only sound I hear is the gentle hum of the fridge. I lean with my back against the door and let out a sob. I suck in a quick breath, and fight my feelings. I’m not finished yet, no time for tears now. I need to get out of here.
I dial Carlin’s number at her barn. I hope she is somewhere she can hear it. The phone rings.
“Hello, Hillcrest Stables,” answers Carlin.
My friends voice triggers a release on my emotion, “Oh Carlin,” I cry, “ I know your working, sob —but ddo you think you can come and pppick me up?” I clench my fist hoping the idea of holding can bring my sadness under control.
“Crap Deb, what happened?” She exclaims.
I snuffle, “Tttracey fired me after I told her abbbout Janine.”
“Jesus Deb! That sucks,” Carlin sympathizes, and then she hesitates, “Sorry— of course I’ll come get you. It’s just so unexpected.”
“I know, I’m ssorry. I hate to bbug you, but I have no one else to ccall.” I hiccup through my words.
“It’s ok Deb, I don’t mind. I’m just trying to gather my thoughts, I’m scattered all over the place as usual,” Carlin responds. “Umm, I’ll just clear it with my boss. I’ll call you right back.”
The phone clicks and I swallow hard. I gather up my stuff, shoving my memories into my suitcase and zip it up. The phone rings.
“Hello?” I said.
Carlin rushes her words, “I’ll be there right away, give me ten minutes.“
I steel myself to leave the building and endure Dick’s presence.
I sit at the bottom of the steps to the condo in the shade of a palm tree. The cement is cool. A tiny lizard scurries under my leg, a cute little green guy. I wonder if he is going home? I think about my home in Canada, my parents knew my job with the Fatterods was strained. In the last letter mom sent, she reminded me that I could always go home and work for dad on the farm until I found something else. He’ll pay you, she wrote. I didn’t want to go home. It would be like going backwards. I heave a sigh and get to my feet.
Dick is sitting in the truck. He motions me over. No horn honking for a change.
I reluctantly make my way over to him.
He hands me a cheque. “Here’s your pay up to date,” He clears his throat and gives me a shit eating grin, “I added two weeks severance pay.”
I feel my grudge against him ease. “Gee thanks Dick, that’s very generous of you.”
“Well, it’s the least I can do. It’ll take some time to find another job,” Dick surmised.
Now, before you feel your heart softening towards Dick, let me tell you— the cheque bounced. It bounced like a kangaroo on steroids. I never did get paid— but really, after everything else I should have seen that coming, his promises are farts in a windstorm. Nonexistent.
Carlin zooms up beside me in her bright red Camero. I heave my life into her car.
We zip down the road. Her white blonde hair flits around her face and I can’t see her sparkling blue eyes behind her dark sunglasses.
“So what happened?” She asks.
“I told Tracey about Dick assaulting Janine.” I said, “Shit, I really shouldn’t have. It’s none of my business.” I slap my leg with frustration, “But Janine asked me to tell her, and I like Tracey. She should know. I wanted Tracey to open her eyes and see what kind of scuzball she is married to.”
Carlin glances over, “So what happened between Dick and Janine?”
I sink down in my seat, and rub the side of head. I feel a headache coming on. “I guess Tracey, Joe and Dick were on the patio having drinks while Janine went into the condo to change. Dick came into the room where Janine was changing and pushed her down on the bed.”
“Holy shit,” gasps Carlin.
“Yeah, Dick was on top of her when Joe showed up. Lucky for Janine, Joe was coming in to use the bathroom. From what Janine said, all hell broke loose after that. In the meantime Tracey is drinking on the patio oblivious to what’s going on inside.” I shake my head, “Poor Tracey. If only the condo wasn’t so soundproof. She would have heard the commotion and walked right in,” I guessed.
Carlin cocks her head towards me, “You would still have a job,” she declares.
“Yeah,” I said wistfully.
“What then? How did you get in the middle of this bullshit?”
I look to the sky, “I’m a sucker.” I said, “Joe and Janine left the Fatterods immediately and came to the barn. They begged me to tell Tracey. They didn’t want to do it at the condo because Joe thought he’d kill Dick if he spent one more second in the same room with him.”
Carlin shakes her head, “It’s no wonder you got fired. No wife wants to hear that shit. Especially Tracey. She’s all about the horses, and Dick has the horses.”
The horses. It hurt to even think of them. Tears well up in my eyes.
Carlin casts me a look, “You okay?”
I shake my head unable to answer.
She pats me on the arm, “It’s going to be okay, “
I nod, and tears seep out, “I didn’t even get to say goodbye to them.”
“To who?” she asks.
“To the horses.”
She lifts her sunglasses to look at me. Her eyes shine watery blue. “It sucks Deb.”
I stay one night with Carlin. She isn’t set up for a roommate.
Allison invites me to live with them until I find a job. Her husband John, and his partner have moved into a new office. They offer me a temporary position answering phones. It’s trade for room and board. His partner Vince, has connections in the police force, they do a background check on Dick. Apparently he is from a wealthy family in another state. Dick is the classic black sheep of the family. He had several criminal charges against him that quietly disappeared. Eventually his parents had enough of his nonsense and kicked him out. Before he left the state, he and Tracey stole a couple trailer loads of horses from the family stable. The family didn’t press charges because of the bad publicity. Dicks family history certainly explained why Dick is such an arrogant lout. No wonder he felt above the law.
My ties to Dick didn’t end with being fired. Stories began to circulate in the horse community about me, stories I had no idea about. A couple weeks after I was fired, Carlin and I went grocery shopping. I bumped into the two little girls I used to entertain at the barn, Beth and Lauryl.
Beth runs up to me and hugs my leg, she is a koala on a tree branch. I laugh.
Lauryl is on her way to me when their mom Vanessa appears around the corner. Her face collapses in horror when she see’s her girl’s with me.
She hollers, “Beth and Lauryl get your butts over here right now!”
Lauryl looks at me, and then at her mom’s hostile face. She slowly turns and traipses off towards her mom.
Beth reluctantly lets go of my leg and follows her sister down the aisle.
Vanessa shoots me a dirty look and they disappear around the corner.
I feel the size of an ant, a crushed up ant, unrecognizable in nature.
“What was that about?” Carlin asks.
I shrug, “I have no idea. I smell bad?” I suggest without a smile.
The office job is getting old fast. I consider going backwards— going home.
The phone rings in the midst of an ordinary Saturday at Allison’s house.
Allison answers it and passes it to me.
I take the phone assuming it’s my mom. I wonder if somehow she senses my consideration of returning to the nest.
“Hi Debby?” said a women.
“Yes?” I answer trying to place her voice.
“Oh, wonderful,” she gushes. “I tracked you down. It’s Judy, the real-estate agent. I met you a few times at Dick and Tracey’s.”
“Oh yes, I remember.” I said, “How are you?”
Very well my dear girl,” She replies, “Listen, I’ve been thinking about you ever since I heard Dick and Tracey fired you for stealing tack. “
“What?” I exclaim.
“Oh no! Don’t be concerned. I didn’t believe it for a minute. I saw the way you work, and I consider myself to be a very good judge of character. As a matter of fact, I am calling to let you know I gave your name to a polo player who is coming down from Kentucky for the season. His name is Hilary Boone and he needs a groom. I gave him your information. I gave you a superb recommendation… don’t be afraid to ask for the big bucks.”
“Really? That’s so generous of you,” I marvel, “You have no idea how much I appreciate this.”
“You are so very welcome. I’m glad to right one of Dick Fatterod’s wrongs.
Hilary Boone called me the same day and offered me a job at Gulf Stream Polo Club tending to his ten horse stable. I didn’t dicker on my wage.
Out of the office and into the barnyard, exactly where I wanted to be— I began to pay rent for my space in Allison’s house.
The job is ten miles away. I have no car, but I do have a bike, which Allison so graciously lends me.
I leave the house at six am on my trip to the stable. The moon still hangs high in the sky. There is very little traffic. Within the first six blocks the quiet is broken by the sound of heavy bass playing from an oncoming car. It slows as it meets me and pulls a U-turn after I pass. The blue sports car shoots by me and jams on the brakes blocking my path. I stop dead in my tracks. Two guys get out of the backseat of the car.
Oh shit! I think, and swing my bike around to sprint away.
Headlights from a couple cars appear behind me.
The guys jump back in the car and peel out.
Several times that day men yell out their windows, or wolf whistle while I’m on my way. The next day, and everyday after that I put my hair up inside a ball-cap, and wear baggy clothes to disguise the fact I’m a girl.
My new boss Hilary had a kind face, a gentle manner, and a soft southern accent. He isn’t much for small talk. Just the facts’ Madam, tell me nothing else, just the facts. I soon find out the most important fact of all, Hilary lives by the principles of respect and honesty. He is nothing like Dick at all.
I care for ten horses, I feed, water, exercise, clean stalls and groom for the games. An important part of my job is preparing Hillary’s horses for the polo competition on the field. The job has learning curves— sometimes I am off the rails and other times I swing around them like I’m doing the jive.
After a month of working for Hilary I erase Dick from my mind. I know I will never get paid. It’s better for the soul, to just let it all go.
At our third polo match we are parked with the horse trailer at the edge of the polo field. I prepare the horses for the game. I wrap legs, braid tails and begin to tack horses up for the competition.
I kneel on the ground rolling a polo wrap on a horse’s leg. I’m in a rush to get it done. There is so much left to do.
I notice a movement from the corner of my eye. I glance up and see Vanessa’s husband Ralph, whom I had met at the Fatterod stable. He is hovering close to me.
“Hi Debby,” he said, “Do you remember me?” He asks.
“Yes,” I answer flatly. I remember Vanessa, his wife chasing Beth and Lauryl, away from me in the store.
He kicks at the sand by his feet, “First of all —I’d like to apologise for our behaviour. We shouldn’t have believed that you are a thief.”
“Well, thanks. Better late than never,” I reply dryly, curious as to why he is here.
“Debby, we need your help. Vanessa and I are in trouble. We lent Dick quite a bit of money and now we can’t get it back,” Ralph confesses.
I keep my eyes focused on wrapping. “I’m not sure how I can help,” I said.
“We were hoping you had some dirt on him since you worked for him?”
“Not really,” I answer.
“Please,” he begs, “We lent him the money we had put aside for Beth and Lauryl’s schooling—We really need it back.”
I stop what I’m doing and look up into his face, “You gave Dick your girls tuition money?” I said in disbelief.
He runs a hand through his hair and shakes his head, “Stupid. I know.”
“Jesus.” I said as I huff out a breath of air. “All I know, is that Dick stole the horses he has from his family. But they didn’t press charges so you can’t even do anything with that information.” I shrug. “I’m sorry that’s all I have.”
He nods slowly, “You were our last hope.”
My heart is heavy, “I’m very sorry Ralph. Dick is a — a Dick. My last cheque from him bounced too.”
Ralph rubs the side of his face and groans, “Thanks anyway.”
He walks away, a beaten man.
My heart sits heavy in my chest thinking of the bright bubbly girls, and Dicks devious ways. I sit back on my heels and sag.
“He sounds like a piece of work,” Hilary comments from around the corner.
I didn’t even know my boss was listening. “He was,” I agree.
A few weeks later the barn next to mine is looking for a polo groom. My friend Carlin happens to be looking for a new job. Carlin has an interview with the Polo Player. The barn has a stable-hand residence with two beds and a bathroom on the end of the barn. Carlin gets the job. Hilary pays the other polo player a little extra money every month. Shazam— Carlin and I become roomies. I retire the bike.
It’s funny how life works, sometimes we lose something we love, we get back something better. At least for a little while. When the Gulf Stream Polo season is over Carlin and I go our separate ways. We are forever bonded by the time we spent in hellacious South Florida.
Hilary takes me to his stable in Kentucky. His family owns Wimbledon Farms in Lexington, an elite thoroughbred farm. The polo season is still a few months away, and although I will be grooming for him during the Lexington polo season, I will be out of work for a few months in the meantime.
I decide to go home for a few months to visit my family, work a higher paying job and pay off my car. I need a car in Kentucky to get around. There are no residences for the stable hands at Wimbledon Farms.
I never went back. I paid off my car, fell in love, got married, and had kids. There was no more Kentucky for me.
As for the people in my Great Big Florida Adventure— Carlin got married to a man in Florida, and had three kids.
Tracey and Dick were officially divorced about two years after I was fired for confessing Dicks indiscretions.
Tracey and her daughter now run a stable.
Zack is a home loans bank officer.
Dick has mysteriously vanished. I can’t find him on the Internet anywhere. So he is appropriately obsolete. Or swimming with the alligators— wink, wink, nudge, nudge.
On a sad note, I discovered Hilary Johnson Boone the Third died in a car crash at the age of forty. He left behind a wife and three kids. He was without a doubt the best boss I ever worked for in the horse industry. He was a good man. He is proof money doesn’t necessarily make you an arrogant Dick.
The best compliment Hillary ever gave me was a quote from Yogi Bear, “I would say you’re smarter than the average bear.”
High praise, high praise indeed, coming from a man of few words. Blessings to you and yours Hilary.