"Twas the night before Xmas
And all through the house
Not a creature was stirring
Not even a mouse..."
That's because the cat ate them. He's over in the corner gift-wrapping the bodies. I'll try to act surprised in the morning. And such is life on a farm...my farm anyway. So after the turkey and gravy, my traditional purple mashed potatoes and too much cheer, I relax by the fire and dream improbable dreams. Things like cheap hay, self-cleaning stalls and mares whose ovaries produce more than mediocrity and despair. But no, I get this instead:
nce upon a time, in a faraway land, a young lad named Jack was sent on an important family matter. Wearily trudging through the countryside, Jack hoped to trade his last bag of magic beans for a $5000 claimer. Jack’s mother, who trained some runners at a local track was having a terrible season. In fact, she was down to her last horse, a sad looking gelding named Fast Rudy, who had never been able to get in a race because of a red spot on his butt. It really wouldn’t have mattered in most cases, except that it had been overlooked on his registration papers, a discrepancy that the evil Sheriff of Nothinghappening happened to notice, who coincidentally moonlighted as a racetrack identifier, duly appointed by the governor to rob the poor and stop those 2-5 favorites from walking away with a race. He also had a ‘thing’ for Mrs. Jack, who was widowed after her husband stepped on a land mine in Cambodia. There was also this bony appendage on Fast Rudy’s head, but so far everybody accepted the notion that it was simply a training device – like a run-out bit, only bigger and uglier.
|Fast Rudy's Odd Appendages!|
Fast Rudy had been a tremendous disappointment for Mrs. Jack. The best he could do was run for a $2500 tag, but even so, he couldn’t pick up a check if he couldn’t run. Plus, he was coming back from a training injury, had coughed all summer and was on the steward’s list for erratic running. By now, it was December and Fast Rudy’s prospects for picking up any kind of check were almost as good as his chance for getting a meal. Zero. But for some reason, Mrs. Jack still believed in him.
Meanwhile, Young Jack was having his own problems. The search for a $5000 claimer ended at a small shack. The owner, a wizard named Obi Wan something or the other, gave him the grievous news. Voice crackling like a broken welder, the old fellow spoke: “Yes son, all of them have gone. Gone away to run for big money at a place called Santa Anita. Can I interest you in a Millennium Falcon? Low mileage, recently overhauled. Your girlfriend would really like the color."
“Santa?” And I don't have a girlfriend."
“Just a coincidence,” the old wart answered. “What about the Falcon?” This thing'll get you lots of girlfriends!"
Depressed, Young Jack moved on. Someone was following him, though. After a few miles, the stranger caught up with him. “Hey, pilgrim,” the tall man said. “John Ford is shooting a movie around here, and well, I can’t find him anywhere. Ya happen to know where the Monumental Big El Dorado and Rio Bravo Big Monumental Valley is?”
“Well, no. I’m trying to find a race horse.”
“Ah, hell, give Mickey Rooney a call. He’s done a lot of those pictures; little guy, lives in LA.”
“Okay. Say, where’s LA?”
“I’m sorry sir, but they haven’t been invented yet.”
|The fairytale unravels...|
Young Jack’s thoughts were immediately interrupted by the appearance of old man Scrooge himself. Bundled against the cold by an over sized down jacket, only his lips peered out at Young Jack. “So, you want John Gotti burned, huh? You must be Lucky Lasagna from Jersey.”
“No sir, I need some hay. I have to feed my horse. A ton in exchange for these magic beans. Oh, and I need some liniment.” Young Jack held out his hand, showing the six multi-colored beans.
“Magic?” old Scrooge inquired, his face creeping out of his coat. “Just what kind of magic, dear boy?”
“With these beans,” Young Jack whispered. “You can meet Julia Roberts.”
“Really! She your girlfriend?" Scrooge said. His smile gave away the value of the trade. “All right young man, I’ll give you nineteen bales of hay and a half bottle of liniment.”
“They’re heavy bales, my boy.” Scrooge countered. Take it or leave it. If you don’t buy it, I’ll sell it to the Russians. They’ll buy anything.”
“But sir, Russians haven’t been invented yet.”
In the meantime, Mrs. Jack was trying to figure out what to do next. The race meet was scheduled to close on December 24th, a mere five days away. The final race of the card, The Last Gasp Handicap, run at 22 furlongs, looked to be the spot that Rudy had always needed. With a purse of five golden rings, three French hens and a bird in a pear tree, a victory would save Mrs. Jack from the poor house. Eat the birds, hock the rings. Real simple.
But there was still the problem with the red spot on Rudy’s derriere. Once again, she confronted the assistant identifier, a one-legged hunchback related to the wicked Sheriff by marriage. His name was Quasi-Forget It. And boy, did he smell bad.
“Forget it!” he said bluntly. “No, no, no, never! Not in a million, zillion years!”
“Is that your final word?”
“No, this is. Forget it!”
Crushed, Mrs. Jack led Fast Rudy back to his stall. There were no oats for his dinner, no hay and hardly enough straw for his bed. Knowing how hungry he must be, she went to the adjoining tack room and searched vainly for something to feed to him. In her haste, she dislodged something from a shelf that fell into Rudy’s feed tub. Soon, she heard the horse thrashing about his stall, a sure sign of colic. Rushing to his door, she arrived just in time to see him fall to the floor.
“Oh, my gosh! Rudy’s sick!” she wailed. Glancing around the stall, she finally found the source of Fast Rudy’s distress. Lying in his feed tub was a half eaten fruitcake. And was it ever hard.
Summoning Dr. Gauze, the kindly veterinarian, the prognosis seemed grim. “When you eat fruitcake, you pay the price,” he said. “It doesn’t look good.” He left Mrs. Jack with three cases of bute, a gallon of Banamine, electrolytes, a flu shot and a can of hoof dressing. He promised to stop by later. Fast Rudy only groaned. "Say, did your boy ever find a girlfriend? You know, he's gettin' on 25 years now...should have a girlfriend. Looks kinda funny otherwise...you know, light in the loafers."
Tears rolling down her cheeks, she slowly walked back toward the tack room. Her progress was stopped by the sight of Young Jack pulling up with a cart full of what appeared to be blue hair. Young Jack looked miserable as a toad.
Young Jack’s face drooped even further.
“What’s in the cart, son?”
“Hay, or at least it used to be. It got rained on. I’m afraid that’s all I have to show for the magic beans. I thought we could at least feed Rudy, but now¼where is he?”
As Young Jack jumped off the cart and ran to the stall, Mrs. Jack was interrupted by her favorite jockette, one S. White and her seven agents. While the group of bickering agents surrounded Mrs. Jack, S. White slipped into the stall where Young Jack was sitting, Fast Rudy’s head cradled gently in his lap.
“Poor Rudy,” she said, her eyes beaming down at Jack. “Maybe this will help.” Leaning down, she kissed Fast Rudy on the forehead. As Jack’s eyes me S. White’s, the world seemed to come to a stop. For a brief second, they were in Paris, sitting
at an outdoor cafe, drinking red wine and eating escargot, not realizing that they were snails.
Outside the stall, Mrs. Jack had finally beaten off the seven agents with her broom. S. White wished Mrs. Jack well, slipped Young Jack a card for a motel in Stockton and disappeared into the darkness, leaving Young Jack with some throbbing things and a very sick horse.
But things change fast in a fairy tale. Four days later, Rudy was able to pass the fruitcake, and while one stall cleaner ended up hospitalized, the horse was on his feet, the fire once again dancing in his eyes. And to everyone’s astonishment, the red spot on his butt was gone – vanished!
“Quick!” Mrs. Jack shouted. “Let’s get him to the identifier before it changes. We only have an hour till race time!”
Arriving at the test barn, they were once again confronted by the wicked little assistant identifier. “You again?!” Forget-It yelled.
“But the spot is gone!” Young Jack countered. “Ask Frosty.”
Forget-It spun around, not knowing that Frosty, the overweight, albino steward had been standing there the whole time.
“Well?” Forget-It inquired sarcastically.
Frosty, sweating profusely, looked closely at Rudy’s butt. No red spot could be seen. “Boy, it’s warm,” he said. “Don’t you guys think it’s warm? I think it’s warm. Whew, it’s almost hot¼”
“What about the damn spot?!” Forget-It yelled.
“Oh, that thing. Anybody got any ice. Ah hell, it looks fine to me. The horse can run. I gotta get out of here. It’s too hot to stand around and worry about it.”
“Just a coincidence,” Forget-It sniffed.
“Waaaal, pilgrim, I reckon you got a race. I could sure use a cigarette, but I guess they don't have any in this movie. How come you don't have a girlfriend, pilgrim? Most of my movies had one, but shoot, I always ended up with a noisy sidekick and my horse...he was a goodn'
Young Jack spun around, but all he saw was a tall guy who walked like he had something wrong with his hips.
Finally, it was time to run The Last Gasp Handicap. Fast Rudy drew the number one hole. Around the racetrack, a thick and menacing fog had settled on the course. In the distance, lightning flashed. The horses nervously pawed the ground. S. White coaxed Rudy into the starting gate, an immense steel and wood structure that stretched across the entire track, quickly removed once the horses were released. S. White shot Young Jack a quick little smile and mouthed the words, "Last Chance." Young Jack just nodded. Hell, he knew what the race was called. "What!?" he finally shouted. She just shrugged.
The starter, one Claus Krinkle waited patiently while each horse settled in, waiting for a fair start. “There they go!” the announcer yelled as Krinkle sprung the gate.
Fast Rudy broke on top and quickly took command of the lead, Donner was second with Cheese Blintzes a close third. As the horses disappeared into the fog shrouded backstretch turn, the racetrack suddenly went dark. Out in the middle of the track sat the starting gate, its electric motors frozen in the fog and pitch-black night.
“They’re going to hit it!” the announcer yelled, his voice unheard by the loss of power throughout the track. The crowd gasped as the horses rounded the final turn. Fast Rudy, at the head of the pack, could see the impending disaster. Somehow, someway, the red spot re-appeared on his butt, like the trailing light of a caboose, shining brighter than ever before. Illuminated in the ghostly red light, the horses followed Rudy safely around the crippled starting gate and once again vanished into the fog. As the crowd roared its approval at the outcome of the race, the fog began to lift, the lights returned to brightness and the sound of pounding hooves gently faded away. To everyone’s astonishment, the horses were gone, somehow lifted into the night on the wings of the fog. As the crowd peered overhead, a small red glow emerged briefly from the clouds, only to vanish once again into the dark sky. On the ground, the tote board flashed its message: IT’S OFFICIAL! ♫
|And the red spot slipped over a distant horizon...|