“My name is Sylvia. I- I’m looking for work,” she stammered. “I have experience with horses and am a really hard worker. Is there anything I can do for you? Really- I’ll do anything you need here.”
She knew she sounded desperate, but she didn’t care. It was the truth, and maybe he would take pity on her. The trainer was still looking long and hard at her. She did look trustworthy, he thought, and he did need another groom to replace that bastard he’d fired yesterday.
“Have you worked at a track before?” he asked in a gravelly voice, suspecting the answer before she gave it.
“No, no I haven’t. I’m a fast learner though, and I'm very capable. And, like I said, I know horses even if I don’t know races . . . yet.” Sylvia replied. She had her fingers wrapped tightly around the cedar horse ornament, praying he would give her a chance.
He nodded once. “Alright. Well, yesterday I fired a groom for showing up hungover and worthless. You can see how it goes takin’ care of the horses he had here. My name’s Jensen if you need anything major. Jose can get you started.”
He called Jose over, the man who Sylvia had spoken to earlier. He explained the situation quickly in what was most-decidedly Spanglish, and Jose got the picture.
Sylvia squeezed the ornament in thanks to whatever higher being had had mercy on her request.
Jose grinned at Sylvia and waved at her to follow him to the first stall on the right.
“Estos caballos for you,” he told her, gesturing toward the first three stalls.
Sylvia tripped over her “gracias” as she watched him carefully to see what she would need to do. He rolled over the wheelbarrow, patient and resigned to its less than desirable task of carrying soiled shavings and horse shit, and squeaked open the latch to the first stall. Sylvia watched his technique as he scooped the first pile for her, noting the subtle flick of the wrist that ensured a clean swipe. Believe it or not, mucking stalls cleanly and efficiently is an art form of its own.
Jose held out the pitchfork to her, pointed out where the fresh shavings were located, and left her on her own. She understood without being told that she was to come get him again when her three charges had clean stalls.
Realizing she still had her bag on her shoulder, she plopped it down on the ground outside the stall. Hell, it’s dirty anyway, she thought. It certainly wasn’t the most glamorous job at the track, but Sylvia didn’t see it that way. In fact, she was so happy with her new lot that she might as well have been scooping up singing marshmallows into a wheelbarrow pushed by leprechauns.
This first stall contained a brilliant chestnut filly who watched Sylvia curiously as she worked. Once the stall looked fresh and luxurious enough for royalty, Sylvia rewarded her own hard work with a warm hug to the filly. She stroked the gleaming hair for a few seconds before turning to clean the next stall.
This stall contained the 17 hand dark bay who had shared his quarters with her last night. He greeted her with a wet snuffle on her hand, and Sylvia smiled. There was something about this giant that went straight to her still wounded heart.
To be continued . . .