An Excerpt from Greg Freeman's Short Story:
(Thoroughbreds, Short Story)
The Adventures of Nigel Goodall
A Broken Glass, A Broken Promise
Moments later, Martin came face to face with Alistair whose formidable physique contrasted sharply with his gentle, boyish facial expression. "Hello, you must be Nigel's father." Offering an outstretched hand, Martin replied, "You must be Alistair. Come in." "Thank you. Autumn is definitely in the air. It's gotten a bit chilly." "Come with me. The fireplace is lit in the library, and Nigel has gone into the kitchen to put the kettle on." Martin and Alistair sat opposite each other, hitting it off as they made small talk about first editions. Minutes later, Nigel emerged from the kitchen with a tea tray. "Do you still take sugar and just a little bit of milk, Dad?" "You remember!" Martin said with astonishment as Nigel poured him a cup. "I still remember. And I trust you have become acquainted with Alistair?" "Yes, we were just talking. Coincidentally, we both collect first editions." "Yes, but my five or six books pale in comparison to all of these!" Alistair laughed, pointing to a case filled with coveted titles by Woolf, Orwell and Fleming.
Martin resumed discussing di Napoli's racehorses to which Nigel replied, "There isn't much to tell. It's not like he's an Arab sheik or something. His stable is racing a four-year-old gelding in France, and he has two colts and a filly in training. The filly looks fabulous." "But what did you mean about his misfortunes?" "Well, Apollo's racing stable is solid enough these days. His trainer has an eye for diamonds in the rough. But there's not much to be said about his breeding programme even though he consults with a supposed professional - a Mr. Sloan, I think." Immediately, Martin arched an eyebrow. "Sloan? Are you referring to Alec Sloan, the Kentucky bloodstock agent?" "Yes, that's him." Martin remarked, "Mr. di Napoli's interests would be better served by meeting some of the old-timers around Newmarket."
"Do you still have Grandfather's mares?" Nigel asked. "Yes, two of them. Bella is fourteen. Chloe is twelve." "Whose foals are they carrying this year?" "Sadly, they're both open." "What? Have they gone barren?" "No, I just couldn't afford to breed them this spring." "I don't understand. Yearlings from those mares should fetch good prices." "Son, they have sold well, but I've had to restructure my finances during the past few years. Your education at Oxford wasn't cheap. And I have struggled to contend with some personal debts." "I'm sorry. I had no idea." "You know how expensive stud fees are, and it makes no sense to breed mares of their caliber to anything less than the finest." "Yes, I suppose you're right."
"Would anyone like a glass of wine?" Martin sighed, taking up the tea service. "No, thanks," Nigel replied, noting that his father had already consumed a glass or two since his arrival. "Alistair?" "None for me, Mr. Goodall." As Martin departed for the kitchen, Nigel casually walked around the library, a room filled with evocative nuances and unfamiliar objets d'art. Then he spotted the letter on the writing desk. As he read his father's handwritten words, words written just to him, he deduced from the presumably untouched glass of wine anchoring the letter that his visit might have very well thwarted his father's final act. Overcome with guilt and a sense of fear as he read the sincere conveyances of a desperate and contrite man, Nigel wiped his tears and hastily placed the letter back in its place.
"I brought a bottle and some glasses in case you two change your mind about a nightcap," Martin announced upon entering the room. Stunned, Nigel turned away and placed another log in the fireplace. Unsure of the contents of the letter but aware of its impact on Nigel, Alistair pretended to be immersed in a Sotheby's auction catalogue. Sensing something amiss, Martin instinctively glanced at his desk, immediately realising that his pen was out of place.
"You read it, didn't you?" Nigel said nothing. "Son, I have been in a miserable frame of mind. Life has not seemed worth living, but your visit has changed all of that!" "Do you still plan to kill yourself?" "Of course not, Nigel. Like I said, you coming here has changed all of that." Reassuring his distraught son, Martin pulled him close. "Dad, we have been separated for years. Don't make it forever," Nigel pleaded between sobs. "I promise I won't," Martin declared. "I promise." Minutes later, the two had composed themselves, and embraced once more. Alistair poured three glasses of wine, and stood before the reconciled father and son. "Perhaps we should have these after all."
Taking their glasses, Martin and Nigel sat in the chairs nearest the fireplace. "I might have a solution." "Nigel, I cannot accept a loan." "I am not offering a loan. I have a proposal. Have you heard of Arcos?" "Arcos?" "Yes, Arcos. He is an exciting young sire in Sussex." "The name rings a bell, but I know nothing about him." "Well, let me explain. Apollo bought Arcos six years ago at an auction in France. Arcos had previously placed in two major races there, but was injured during a morning workout. His owners were too impatient to wait for his full recovery, and they sold him to Apollo, who foolishly stabled him next to a mare in heat. The randy devil managed to get into her paddock. Shortly thereafter, Mr. Sloan advised Apollo to sell Arcos and a couple of old mares. Meanwhile, the colt from that accidental mating has been taking the New York tracks by storm. As a result, Arcos' sale yearlings averaged nine times the stud fee last year."
"Nigel, I'm perplexed. What does Arcos have to do with anything?" "I left out an essential detail. You see, I bought two shares in Arcos when his new owner syndicated him. If I transfer both shares to you, you can breed the mares to him without paying stud fees." "No, I cannot let you do that, but perhaps we could own the broodmares and syndicate shares together." "Be business partners, you mean?" Nigel asked. "Yes, business partners." "I like the sound of that. Maybe we can get another great winner or two out of Grandfather's mares yet." "Yes, that would make him proud, wouldn't it?"
Author: Greg Freeman. Excerpt Published September 25, 2021.