Welcome to the Baltimore Tales Website; Igor’s Hump – Part 1

Periodically I will be posting in this section excerpts from my novels or short stories, explanations of my research, how or why I went in a particular direction with a character or situation, and answers to questions posed by visitors to the site. In addition, at times, I will offer posts on Baltimore and Maryland historical esoteria that relate to my stories. And finally, I will write of my experience in attempting to attract a literary agent and/or a publisher, advice on how to get started writing fiction and other items that I think both writers and readers will find of interest.

Here is the first hors d’oeuvre from my short story, Igor’s Hump:

Pimlico’s stewards rated the course sloppy and Jack rated the track’s parking lot the same. It forced him to do an old man’s shuffle through the rain, dodging potholes full of black water as he went. A flash of Annie surfaced, as it did quite often these days. Two years had crawled by since his wife had passed, leaving him alone; yet, he could still hear her voice. With an inner smile, he recalled that there were plenty of times when she gave him a sloppy rating as well.

Come to think of it, that’s the same adjective Bates used on him in a recent work review. Given his recent lack of success with the horses, maybe the word was accurate. It felt like he had reached some sort of psychic junction around the term. Maybe there was a horse named “Sloppy” running today. Maybe today was his day.

These mental mosquitoes found their way through the screen door of Jack’s consciousness and buzzed around with the usual items on his pre-track checklist. Cash? Check. Racing Form? Check. Glasses? Check. Pen? Check. Advil? Shit.

His gait eventually moved him across the slick macadam lot and put him under the canopied walkway that ran to Old Hilltop’s dowdy, yellow grandstand and its broad bank of glass doors. As he approached the entry, he watched his reflection grow larger – an older man, dressed in casual clothes. The image also seemed to be listing to the right.

Jack used to tell people that his starboard lean was due to the worn red soles of his once-white, once-lucky bucks. Annie, ever in pursuit of the truth, would point out that it wasn’t the shoes – it was his walk that wore them down that way.

With a few more steps toward the reflecting doors, he became taller, but that’s where the positives stopped. His favorite jeans were worn at the knees, the pocket of his yellow slicker had a tear in it and his old Orioles cap with the ornithologically correct bird was frayed around the bill. What’s more, his clothes seemed baggy in some places, tight in others. He could no longer deny that he was a couple of ticks past middle age now.

Reaching for the portal, Jack got a good look at himself despite the smudges, fingerprints and other unidentifiable gunk that naturally adheres to the door of a racetrack. He saw a gray man – gray temples, gray chin, gray around the eyes. And that was how he felt most days. But, Jack wasn’t all gray. His eyes were the same young, bright blue sparks they were when his crew cruised the weekend teen dances that dotted Baltimore in the ‘60s. There was something else in his eyes too, now that he had a cosmic hook around the word “sloppy” – the possibilities of a new hot streak. And that thought was all it took to lift his mood.

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