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FICTION: Muddy Heart


“Muddy Heart”

The paramedics did not know when the artery burst. They did know it was the femoral, and they had less than five minutes to keep the man alive.

A crucial minute had already been spent locating the wound. This involved taking off the now worthless attire meant to protect the rider. The helmet was easily removed, as was the mandatory flak jacket, but slicing the chaps stole precious moments. That is when they realized the femur had split, clear through its artery.

A pool of blood accumulated in the mire, under the right thigh, where the rider lay. His mud splattered face had turned a spectral shade of white.

By this time, those at the nearby trainer’s stand had gathered around the extreme edge of the track, along with the out-rider who diverted traffic. One medic was holding the rider’s leg in the air. Another was applying pressure using a solitary hand; he went for his belt with the other, only to realize any further effort would be in vain. The man was gone.

“What the hell happened?” asked the one who replaced the rider’s lifeless limb in the muck.

“That fella got drug clear ‘round the racetrack,” one spectator gravely replied.

“Yea, if that horse don’t turn on a dime coming off the track, he’d still be draggin’ him,” added a second. “Looked like a doll bouncin’ around there.”

“Where’s the trainer?” inquired the other medic.

“Ah, that guy…?…Hardly ever see him. He trains from his car, at the barn.”

Meanwhile, the loose horse had galloped back home to his trainer’s distant barn. It was no surprise to his handlers; the horse had a reputation for losing riders.

The trainer strained to get out of his car and in a huff said, “I knew I shouldn’t put that kid on my horse. But we still got another one to go. Get that tack off the horse and put it on 62.”

“What about the jockey, boss?” asked the groom. “You wanna go see if he’s ok?”

“What for? Only thing gonna be ailing him is his heart. He ain’t coming back. Go tell that boy on the backside I’ll give him fifteen to get on that last horse.”

The groom was surprised, as his boss never paid the going rate of fifteen dollars; he hated to come off twelve. Shuffling back to his Cadillac, the trainer became pleased with his assumption that the boy who fell off his horse would be too afraid to chase his twelve bucks. He could pay the other guy fifteen and still be nine dollars ahead. The trainer smiled.

Robert Lages grew up in Vienna, Va, and currently lives in Allentown, Pa. with his wife Johanne and daughter Emma. He has been exercising thoroughbred race horses the past 32 years in the mid-west and on the east coast. Lages started attending Mercer in 2009.

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