Shown: "Timpanac" and Santa "the Saint" Castillo-Reyes
The Mana Farms story line frequently contains mature language, topics, and situations. The characters within are fictional beings with weaknesses and faults, and I cannot promise you that you will like them for what they believe, say and do.
The first book in the MANA series will be published with a tentative release date of December 1 2011. Join the community of MANA readers! Start from the beginning. (New readers, it is strongly recommended you begin this series from the very first story...which can be found here: [link] ) Thanks!
They didn’t serve breakfast in Hell. Or lunch. Most days, not even dinner could be counted upon. Desserts were obviously reserved for heaven. And snacks probably were handed out to those waiting in limbo with the little paper numbers shivering in their hands.
What Hell did have was a coffee maker, a toaster, and a small stainless steel freezer-refrigerator combo stocked with multicoloured popsicles and eggs and hidden in a dark corner of the kitchen where the damned didn’t have to see it. If you were lucky enough to have a spouse or a lover willing to mostly starve alongside you in Hell, you might have some cooked chicken and pasta on the days where dinner made an appearance. In that case, you were lucky. And luck was everything in Hell.
Santa Castillo-Reyes reached out a long sinewy arm and snatched the two slices of toast from the air as they popped up out of the toaster. She swung them by their hot burnt little corners and tossed them onto a waiting plate. She stared at them for a moment.
Also Hell does not have butter. But you get used to it.
The two slices laid there on her rust red ceramic plate as naked as the cup of straight black coffee to the right. She’d already long forgotten childhood treats like milk and sugar, which was a mercy, because even the memory of cream could stick to your thighs and cause enough drag that your horse lost by a nose. Nope...,she thought quietly to herself as she sipped at her coffee, my luck, if I have any, does not come from any tolerant, compassionate husband to plan and prepare my meals. She listened to the quiet stillness of her home in the early morning. She could hear the gentle little cadence of the fountain dribbling up and over outside her heavy wooden front door, and the ticking of the antique clock on the shelf, and the hum of the refrigerator. If photographs could hug and kiss, she’d have more than enough family to hold. If books could speak, she’d have had all of the conversation she ever needed, but as it was Maxwell’s books were quiet and at least half of the brown folk in those stills were gone. Laurence had helped her bury her dog in the backyard. Santa was alone. Whatever luck it was she had, it came of a different source.
She got up quickly and washed her plate, placing it on the rack to dry. She watered her plants. She walked by and arranged one the books, this one a textbook on American Sign Language, just so. Turning, she glanced at the clock over her shoulder; it was three thirty in the morning, the sky still inky black and heavy with stars. Here, a little higher up in the hills, clear of the smog in the Los Angeles valley, Santa could see them. She’d flown all the way from upstate New York overnight to be here to see them. Today was the Bing Crosby. Saratoga could go suck balls.
She walked down the tiled floor of the grand hall and picked up her gear bag, never unpacked, at the door. Del Mar was a little over an hour away and she needed to be there early, but she paused, her hand hovering over the handle. Then she leaned forward and lowered her brow to the back of the heavy wooden door and the handles of the bag slipped through her fingers and down to the tiled floor again. She stepped away from the door, and looked around her again, took in the contours of the books arranged in stacks just leaving the vaguest of paths through the living areas of the home. She closed her eyes, and her own photographs were gone now, and the roosters were removed from the tops of cupboards and counters and shelves bending under the weight of things and she took a deep breath in. There was the faintest scent of cigarette smoke still in the wood and plaster of the walls that no sweet breath of breeze blowing through open windows had managed to erase. It lingered there with traces of the morning’s coffee and old books and the sharp green of cilantro growing over the sink. Soon she was wandering again, her fingertips lightly tracing the skin of the halls until her hand rested on another door. She took a breath and opened up the bedroom. For several somber minutes she stared at the empty untouched room. Then and only then did she shut the door and leave the house.
Timpanac loved California. He’d always been a road warrior, small but game, intrigued by different places. He was the only horse in the entire Mana string that pricked his ears when he saw the jet on the runway. Where are we going today? those upright ears asked. He seemed to love flying the way some dogs love to hang their heads out the open windows of cars. He liked the smell and taste of new grass in some new patch on some new backside, and in post parades on a different track, he’d often arch his neck and look down at the dirt, prancing and pawing over its unique surface in a sort of wonder. He loved spring in a track, liked to skip over it like a child figuring out how the bounce of others on a trampoline could send them backflipping even higher into the air. Santa smiled to him, patting his neck. California was warm, Del Mar, just sitting off of the ocean, was full of salt and a summery breeze. The celebrities were painting the boxes in great splashes of expensive colour, and fans spilled into the apron like champagne running over the rim of a glass held high in the hands of horseracing. On the track, Timpanac was skipping, his tail swishing, his breath going huff huff huff. If horses could giggle that was it for Timp. Del Mar had a wonderful spring today and Timpanac was loving it.
Assured that Timp, her beloved little grey, was just fine, Santa turned around a little in her saddle to get a good look at her competition. Many faces that would have been familiar were racing in Saratoga this weekend. The jockey colony at Del Mar was, thus, a little thin on talent. Brett was in New York. Eddie was confined to a wheelchair. Rex Leroi was up in the race callers box to listen and watch. Santa knew all of the faces in the post parade, but, she thought a little sinfully, none of them were good enough. As for the equine competition, none of the other horses had Timp’s rich densely populated dapples, none of them but Timp were galloping on the backside giggling to themselves saying “My what a splendid track we have! Have you felt this track?!” Santa chuckled to herself and slapped Timpanac on the neck again. “Ready to go, Timp?” “Yes, yes, yes!” he breathed in sync with every stride.
Maybe the race commentators on the television screens buzzing over the air in every live track in every racing state were right. Maybe she should have been thinking about Martin StLouis’s accident less than twenty four hours ago. Maybe it was stupid to fly redeye and get into California just past midnight to race in a race without any sleep at all. But they didn’t know Timpanac. They didn’t have their thighs wrapped around his laughing, shivering ribs. And they didn’t know Santa and that the Bing Crosby was just as much her race now as it had been last year. The sun was out, the breeze was blowing, and she could smell the cigarettes in the air.
Timpanac lunged out of the gate cleaner than he had ever broken before, he was eager, cackling at the track and the other horses like a mad scientist waiting for the bolt of lightning to strike. In all of his previous races, the little grey had always been patient, obedient, and the epitome of professionalism just as they said Mr. Tseng had always been. Cornelius would wave his cowboy hat at the horse and say, “Ain’t never seen a horse that ice cold since Tseng.” Timp was a listener; hovering around the back of the pack, waiting for her signal, her cue to fuck all of them, and blow them away along the rail. But today he was stalking the leader, just off of his saddle cloth, seeming to take a ridiculous shameful pleasure in the constant nervous glances of the jock under his arm, and the eye rolling of the rank horse in front of them. Santa had never seen the little grey horse like this before, but she wasn’t afraid or concerned. Today was Bing Crosby day. Timpanac was allowed to laugh all he wanted.
They hit the turn and Santa let the reins slip a little out of her fingers and if Timpanac could grin then that’s what that enormous opened mouthed gulp of air was. His chest heaved, his hind legs buried themselves into the track and pushed, his head lowered and Santa leaned down into his mane until she was lost in it, lost in the smell of him and the sound of him, the world suddenly blurred.
The field was gone. Timpanac who loved to chase and tease and steal victory away by a nostril hair, was abruptly lengths ahead and the crowd of Del Mar was roaring their approval at him, waving their arms, screaming YES into the bright clear California sky in almost orgasmic surrender. Santa could sense the poles whipping past and in the final furlong she raised her head out of his billowing mane and realized what she had to do. She took her whip and placed it between her teeth, raised her hand...the entire grandstand rising up for the salute that had been her custom since she’d won her first race. There was no question she had spoiled her fans the last seven months, they rose to their feet seeking the inevitable “L”, the assured salute to Laurence Leclerc that had dominated her repertoire since they’d discovered the courage to flirt, but what the world got was not the “L”. This was the Bing Crosby. Santa’s right hand fluttered into a multitude of rapid gestures, smooth, practiced, planned. If they slowed it down frame by frame, the learned or informed could have seen the letters and read the words: “FOR YOU.”
Santa held herself together until the laughing, playing colt finally stopped on the far back of the first turn, then she bent over in the saddle and cried. Most of the other riders rode by, giving her a silent nod, perplexed but clairvoyant enough to know that they could have never won that race, not even if the Saint had been aboard a nag. Wherever her luck came from, it wasn’t simply in the horse, it was in the race itself.
The crowds in the stands waited impatiently for the girl and her horse to reappear on the turn and make their way to the winner’s circle. The fans watched with their hands on their hips or over their eyes, staring out at the girl and her horse standing still on the backside. For a moment the cameras had been fixed on her, and she looked as though she was crying, but then the cameras were abruptly pulled away to reveal the results on the board which were left there, leaving the stands in startled concern.
Most of them in the race today hadn’t been with her the year before. Freddy Sanchez, Louis Shore, Bill Garcia, and Tulio Valdez were at Saratoga. Eddie Ne was there too, confined to his chair. Gwyn Jones was in a rehabilitation center. Rex Leroi was likely talking to a camera and a pretty girl with a microphone. The only person who understood had been JP Rose, another woman, riding up beside her on the soundly defeated number three, reaching out and patting her on the shoulder, the last of the other jocks on their way back.
“You need to get to the Circle, Santa,” her friend reminded, “regardless of what race this was.” Santa nodded and followed her and when she finally arrived in front of the stands there was no hiding the red in her eyes.
In the locker room, Rex Leroi was waiting for her. He may have had every tattoo covered by that fine suit of his, and put on weight, and his hair may have had more luster now that he was eating again, but he was still a red, angry little man with a thick drawl that was at once Texan and absurdly laced with a fake french accent. He sidled up to her gear and rested one foot on the bench beside her. There was still a long white line down the edge of his face. He traced a finger obsessively over it.
“Rex,” Santa began, “I do not want to talk to you.”
“Relax, sherry, I know how sensitive you are about me taking his job and all.”
“Rex, I’m so fucking serious,” Santa began through a whisper of tears, “you mention him, and I will cut you. I will fucking cut you.”
“I think you just confused the hell out of Leclerc unless,” Rex cocked his head at her.
Santa glared at him and he grinned away at her fully aware that there was no sharp object within reach. If there had been she might have already shoved it into his eye socket or reopened that long white line on his face.
JP leaned over and slapped the man in the back of the head. “Rex, get your shit out of here. You don’t ride anymore.”
“Well if I don’t belong in this room anymore then neither do you, rich little white girl. Miss Johanna Pauline Rose of Connecticut of the one time eeeequine olympeeics contenders. Don’t you just get sick of it, Maria, don’t you just get sick of rich little white girls climbing off of their blue blooded jumpers and buying themselves little racing saddles to stick their tight little white asses in? I know it pisses me off something else.”
Santa glared at him again.
“Oh yeah, I suppose I did forget that you like to make friends with them rich whities. Have to wonder if it’s to make up for being a poor brown eeelegal, the kind that go around lookin for homes to livin that ain’t really theirs.”
Santa reached over and grabbed him by the neck, swinging him hard into the metal lockers. Years of practice had made this a signature threat of the Saint, it’d been done enough times to her in the beginning that she could do it herself well enough.The room grew quiet. “Isn’t that much different, Rex, than taking a job that isn’t really yours,” she sneered into his face as it turned a darker shade of red and then purple.
“Santa,” came a soft voice from behind. One of the racing stewards had stepped into the room, “let the idiot go. Don’t make me fine you.”
“Sorry, Pete,” she murmured. Slowly the fingers around Rex Leroi’s collar relaxed.
“And, Rex? If I don’t see a saddle in your arms, I don’t want to see you harassing my colony,” Peter snapped before turning around and walking out himself.
Rex took a few steps in his direction before he stopped and glanced at the Saint again. His blue eyes were sparkling. “We’re both scavengers, Maria,” the ex jockey mumbled, straightening his collar back out again. “Is all I’m saying. Ain’t nothing wrong with respecting your own species.”
“Yeah, I’ll respect my own species when I know his real name as well as he knows mine.”
Rex Leroi cracked a very wide grin, “Well then, to Kings and Saints, instead.” He reached up and compulsively traced a finger down that long white line on his face and disappeared out the door.
JP collapsed onto the bench beside her. “I really hate that man. Thank god, he doesn’t ride anymore.”
“I don’t know,” Santa sighed, “I think he’s worse with a keyboard under his fingers. Every time I think about it...”
“Don’t think about it,” JP cut in abruptly. Santa glanced at her. Her friend was looking her very seriously in the eye. There was a warning there; a sort of compassionate admonishment. Thoughts like that led to late drunken nights, and mornings spent curled up in sheets crying and JP would have to use that key Santa had hidden out in the garden, and go in there, and pull her out of bed.
Santa looked at her in a sort of wonder. JP gave her an uncomfortable startled look in return. “What?”
Santa shrugged, “Nothing. Just realized you were here is all.”
“Girl, you are strange.”
They sat there together pulling off gear, flicking sweat at one another, JP cracking the occasional dirty joke before she threaded her hair back into a tight blonde braid and stood up to leave. “You going to play with us tonight? We’ll head to the Pamplemousse to honour the occasion, ante is two hundred bucks. You shouldn’t be home alone on Bing Crosby.”
“God, JP, I haven’t slept, I went straight from that plane to the house to here. I’m beat.”
“At least call Laurence.”
“Laurence? Shit no. I love him, JP, but he can be insecure, you know?” Santa changed her voice to mimic his hopelessly french tainted one, “What was dat? Que? Quoi? Quelle this and that...excuse me...dis an dat and is dere someting I should know and blah blah french french blah.”
JP snickered into her hand, “You sound like Eddie. I miss that little shit.”
“You and me both.”
“Best screw of all time.”
Santa laughed out loud at that. “You’re disgusting, JP.”
Johanna shrugged. “What? I’m just saying. Shame on Rex for thinking we rich white girls don’t know how to do it right. This one at least. Anyway, call Laurence. You’ve got his panties in a twist for sure.” She reached down lifted her bag off of the floor and saluted the Saint. “You’re such an odd couple.”
“Yeah, yeah, I will. Don’t rip the boys off too easily tonight.”
“What me? I’ll lose a game here or there, don’t you worry, just to keep them from quitting on me and calling me a cheat. I’ll even let Billy grab a tit for his pride. The horror...rich white girl kicking their lousy latin asses at poker. No offense, Santa.”
“None taken. Their latin asses are lousy. Why do you think I’m dating the whitest Canadian there is?”
“Shut the fuck up, Santa!”
“Go to hell, Gabriel!” JP and Santa replied simultaneously.
JP winked at her, “Call Laurence.”
“Call that pasty white smudge of snow!”
“Call him!” she ordered again, pointing two fingers at her blue eyes and then back at Santa.
“Get out of here!”
And out she went. Later, curled up in her sheets, her eyes swollen from crying Santa fumbled across the bed, reached over to the nightstand and grabbed her cell. She dialed a number and listened to it ring a few times before he picked up at the other end.
“Trixie’s massage and pleasure house.”
“Hey, bitchtits, saw your race today.”
“Hell yes. It was fan-fucking-tastic even with all that girly boohoohoo nonsense at the end.”
“I felt like he was there.”
Eddie laughed long and clear from New York. He knew well enough. “Yes he was, Santa. He was the guy running behind your horse crashing cymbals and blowing horns and scaring Timpanac shitless down that stretch. I have never seen your horse run like that.”
Santa giggled with him. “Laurence is in trouble.”
“Yes, he is,” Eddie agreed.
Santa rolled over and stared at the empty space in the bed beside her. She could almost see him stretched out and blowing a satisfied smoke into the air of his home, his old trombone winking at her from the closet. He was laying there in her mind, giving her that look and signing, “DAMN GOOD RACE LOVE.”
NEXT ON: Coming soon!
HAHAHAHA...yes, dear readers, that was a massive massive ever so massive teaser for book one.
Ohhh so much just went on my brain oozed out of my ears. I am so SOO glad I waited to read this till I had the time to just merge myself into the story. I sense so much happening here...I love the way you do that, make me think one thing then with just the next line I doubt myself and think something else.
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`anmari has been spreading her infectious positivity throughout our community for over 6 years. Throughout this time Ana has been at the core of all things devious, passionately developing an eclectic gallery, helping organise devmeets, participating in chat events and also recently completed dedicating her time as a Community Volunteer. We are absolutely delighted to bestow the Deviousness Award for May 2013 to `anmari, congratulations! Read More