Sean Clancy's Fiction--Chapter 1

By Sean Clancy
From The Saratoga Special, reprinted with permission

"You know I don't have any money. All I got is this here horse, who I don't know if is worth a lousy cup of coffee from the track kitchen. I like his eye, I hate his tendon, and I can't seem to get a ride from any of these midgets.

The daggum webbing's busting in half, the tack hasn't been clean in six months, and that Godforsaken trailer been stuck in the parking lot since we came to this meet back in March, the weeds took over –- might as well carry it on out of there.

I got the feed man after me, the hay man won't speak to me, and the vet, hell the vet, just knows better than to come over and ask how we're doing. Last week, I asked him to come by and look at this tendon, he just walked away from me, shook his head with that DMV tag or whatever the hell initials he has after his name and walked away, by sakes, I can't stand to ask him again.

And you think we ought to go to Saratoga. I can't nab a check here in Dirtville, USA and you think Saratoga's calling our name. I'll tell you one thing, by sakes, the only thing's calling my name is the tax man, my ex-wife, and the racing office asking me when I'm gonna run this mutt. They'd laugh us right on out of Saratoga."

"Damn, Slim, you got in this bizness to work with horses and go to places like Saratoga. I got faith in you, Slim. I swear to my holiest fathers, this horse'll like Saratoga. They say it has healing powers. You know, water that makes you tingle."

"Tingle. Roy, the only water that might make us tingle is that shine that your boy down on the end mixes up in those drums. I know you tried it. Make you tingle?"

"Hell, Slim, I ain't talkin bout moonshine, I'm talkin bout that water up there. Hank says he's tasted it and that horse he had went to runnin when he got him up there to Saratoga. He came back with a new lady and pockets full of money."

"Yeah and that new lady emptied those pockets bout the first week he was back here and now look at em. He been laying out the old straw in the sun, letting it dry and putting it back in as fresh bedding every day since he's been back. Blackie says he went over there to put a new pair of shoes on that chestnut's feet and Hank told him to pull off the back ones and put em on the front, make no never mind. Blackie says he ain't ever gettin paid neither."

"All right, forget Hank. I'm tired of talking about him. What do I got to do to convince you to take a shot and go? You, me and Pegleg. We can stay on the backside, it ain't too bad, I tell you. They got bunks for all of us. We can steal sweet corn out of the field and boil it up in the cans of water. We'll live off sweet corn and that tingling water you scared of. All we got to do is get Pegleg up there and train him over that dirt, we'll pick up a jock up there, convince him to give us a shot. I think we can get Atkins to ride him. Oh, daddy, he'd ride him the best. Those jelly fingers."

"Atkins? Atkins wouldn't ride Pegleg in a one-horse race on the last day, tied for the title. Atkins. He's the best there is, son of a bitch, and you think he'd ride for us. Atkins don't wear colors like mine. And what would happen if he looked down at that leg? I can see it now, he could damn near use it as a step. Atkins. We'd be lucky to get Dillard, and he's old, drinking, and bellyfull. Scared to boot."

"Slim, you worrying too much. What happened to the dream? You got me in this game with all your tales of fast horses and big bets. Where is all that now? You just beaten down. We had some bad days but they get better. Pegleg'll come through, he's due, Slim. You ain't been wrong yet bout a horse. Some of em mighta let you down but you ain't been wrong yet."

"Not been wrong? Tell that to all those owners who won't call anymore. I done something wrong or something been done wrong to me. I bet it's the first one. I got faith in my head but the rest I don't know anymore. I try to do the right thing by this joker here next to me and all he's done is let me down. He don't like fast tracks, wet tracks, slow tracks. He don't like to be hit right-handed, left-handed, or two-handed. He don't like the gate, he definitely don't like the wire or he'd get there sooner. I don't know what more I can do with him and he's the last one I got. Try blinkers, try turf, try a bug boy, try the lead, try a buzzer, I hear em all, lemme tell you. I'd look him in the eye and plead with him if I thought he'd listen.

"You ain't listening. We got to try Saratoga. He'll like it there. Nobody down in Saratoga, it's just what he needs. I don't know what the hell we're doing here. You done said it yerself. The only thing here for us is bill collectors. I don't give a damn if Pegleg don't even run up there. I say we go for the story, Slim, just for the story anyway."

"You know you're making me crazy with all this washy talk about Saratoga.. For sakes, if you pack up the traps, get the truck started, find some way to get that leg down, and not let anybody know we're skipping town, then I'll go. We can get out of here in the middle of the night, like bankrobbers. You drive the trailer, and don't sing any of that daggum country music. And one other thing, I don't eat corn."

"Trust me Slim. We won't be eatin corn for long."

Contact Sean Clancy via e-mail at or telephone at 518-581-1947.