I’ll be away for the next week, so forgive me for not updating Gangrey. But make sure you check on how Kruse and I are doing as the water recedes from Mississippi at and
As said via cell-phone as we prepared to leave town, him by plane, me by 24-foot RV, I WILL write circles around him.

Death of a Racehorse

They were going to the post for the sixth race at Jamaica, two year olds, some making their first starts, to go five and a half furlongs for the purse of four thousand dollars. They were moving slowly down the backstretch toward the gate, some of the cantering, others walking, and in the press box they had stopped working on the kidding to watch, most of them interested in one horse.

“Air Lift,” Jim Roach said. “Full brother of Assault.”

Assault, who won the triple crown … making this one too, by Bold Venture, himself a Derby winner, out of Igual, herself by the great Equipoise … Great names in the breeding line … and now the little guy making his first start, perhaps the start of another great career.

They were off well, although Air Lift was fifth. They were moving toward the first turn, and now Air Lift was fourth. They were going into the turn, and now Air Lift was starting to go, third perhaps, when suddenly he slowed, a horse stopping, and below in the stands you could hear a sudden cry, as the rest left him, still trying to run but limping, his jockey — Dave Gorman — half falling, half sliding off.

“He broke a leg!” somebody, holding binoculars to his eyes, shouted in the press box. “He broke a leg!”

Down below they were roaring for the rest, coming down the stretch now, but in the infield men were running toward the turn, running toward the colt and the boy standing beside him, alone. There was a station wagon moving around the track toward them, and then, in a moment, the big green van that they call the horse ambulance.

“Gorman was crying like a baby,” one of them, coming out of the jockey room, said. “he said he must have stepped in a hole, but you should have seen him crying.”

“It’s his left front ankle,” Dr. J.G. Catlett, the veterinarian, was saying. “it’s a compound fracture; and I’m waiting for confirmation from Mr. Hirsch to destroy him.”

He was standing outside one of the stables beyond the backstretch, and he had just put in a call to Kentucky where Max Hirsch, the trainer, and Robert Kleber, the owner, are attending the yearling sales.

“When will you do it?” one of them said.

“Right as soon as I can,” the doctor said. “As soon as I get confirmation. If it was an ordinary horse I’d done it right there.”

He walked across the road and around another barn to where they had the horse. The horse was still in the van, about twenty stable hands in dungarees and sweat-stained shirts, bare-headed or wearing old caps, standing around quietly and watching with Dr. M.A. Gilman, the assistant veterinarian.

“We might as well get him out of the van,” Catlett said, “before we give him the novocaine. It’ll be a little better out in the air.”

The boy in the van with the colt led him out them, the colt limping, tossing his head a little, the blooding running down and covering his left foreleg. When they saw him, standing there outside the van now, the boy holding him, they started talking softly.

“Full brother of Assault.” … “It don’t make no difference now. He’s done.” … “But damn, what a grand little horse.” … “Aint he a horse?”

“It’s a funny thing,” Catlett said. “All the cripples that go out, they never break a leg. It always happens to a good-legged horse.”

A man, gray-haired and rather stout, wearing brown slacks and a blue shirt, walked up.

“Then I better not send for the wagon yet?” the man said.

“No,” Catlett said. “Of course, you might just as well. Max Hirsch may say no, but I doubt it.”

“I don’t know,” the man said.

“There’d be time in the morning,” Catlett said.

“But in this hot weather–” the man said.

They had sponged off the colt, after they had given him the shot to deaden the pain, and now he stood, feeding quietly from some hay they had placed at his feet. In the distance you could hear the roar of the crowd in the grandstand, but beyond it and above it you could hear thunder and see the occasional flash of lightning.

When Catlett came back the next time he was hurrying, nodding his head and waving his hands. Now the thunder was louder, the flashes of lightning brighter, and now rain was starting to fall.

“All right,” he said, shouting to Gilman. “Max Hirsch talked to Mr. Kleberg. We’ve got the confirmation.”

They moved the curious back, the rain falling faster now, and they moved the colt over close to a pile of loose bricks. Gilman had the halter and Catlett had the gun, shaped like a bell with the handle at the top. This bell he placed, the crowd silent, on the colt’s forehead, just between his eyes. The colt stood still and then Catlett, with the hammer in his other hand, struck the handle of the bell. There was a short, sharp sound and the colt toppled onto his left side, his eyes staring straight out, the free legs quivering.

“Aw–” someone said.

That was all they said. They worked quickly, the two vets removing the broken bones as evidence for the insurance company, the crowd silently watching. Then the heavens opened, the rain pouring down, the lightning flashing, and they rused for the cover of the stables, leaving alone on his side near the pile of bricks, the rain running off his hide, dead an hour and a quarter after his first start, Air Lift, son of Bold Venture, full brother of assault.

And some other goodies, new and old, for your Sunday reading pleasure:
Dan Barry, Rick Bragg, Kate Boo, and Jack Hopkins.

Alex Zesch passed along this smooth piece from the Jacksonville paper.

What are you reading?

A Decision

This started on Sunday:
Portland attorney Darian Stanford must choose: He can keep his paycheck at a prestigious law firm. Or he can pursue principles at the DA’s office. Does he make money — or a difference?

Fun in Middletown

And Dave Richardson lets him have it:
“This week’s contender for the title of World’s Dumbest Criminal: the genius who allegedly broke into the same house for possibly the third time in a week – and looked right into a Web camera left there by the owner to catch him.
“The smart person in this case: the Times Herald-Record’s own night copy desk chief, Don Bruce, owner of both home and webcam, who watched the crime unfold live at his desk Wednesday night.”

Dwight Gooden Feeding Frenzy

So, Dwight Gooden ran from the cops Monday, and folks here and in New York (and lot of other places, I guess) are nuts about it. It’s a nice chance to compare how different folks handle the same story. Here goes:
Daily News.
Hartford Courant.
Newark Star Ledger.
St. Pete Times

And today:
Ny Post
NY Daily News
St. Pete Times

And, for the sake of a break, a story about a thirsty cowboy: from The Well Of Bermo, Niger — Every sunset, when his favorite cow ambles to his bush camp, Bermo Bello leaps up like an overeager suitor, scurrying to meet her with a twitter in his voice.
On this evening, Houley, once a great beauty, stands, her great curved horns held high, listening but not approaching. Bello calls to her in his own special way, a honeyed stream of croons, smooches and clicks that tumbles out like a gift.

Zack’s Farred Up

Zack McMillin let’s Roy Peter Clark have it (from a WriterL discussion on narrative length):

During one of those unavoidable by-committee meetings that accompany a large narrative, one of our designers, upon hearing that each installment would run 35-50 inches (I think that’s 750- 1,500 words), made quite a show. “35 inches? 35 inches! That’s a lot to ask of any reader.” That the narrative focused on chess did not exactly temper his fears. “Read it,” I told him. “It will seem like 15 inches.”
With apologies to those who actually took real physics at university (I took Physics for Poets at Vanderbilt), time is a relative thing when we are engrossed in worthwhile narrative.
There are 12inch stories in our newspaper that read like 50, and when Erin Sullivan writes a 50inch story for us, it reads like a 15incher. While I admire Roy Peter Clark’s effort to quantify reader investment, it strikes me as folly, as futile. It reminds me of the grammar check on MS Word — OK in some contexts, but there’s no way to create a program sophisticated enough to judge all the intabgibles.
Louis Menand, in a review of Lynn Truss’s work last year (here)
, put together one of those amazing pieces — much like a recent contribution from Hank Stuever (here) — that is best summed up by this: “Yeah, what HE said.” So, what Louis said.
By the way, when the narrative finally ran, to much praise from all over our community (and outside of it), that designer was among its biggest fans. Fifty inches, it turns out, isn’t always 50 inches.

Sunday Reading Room, Again

Kruse asks if Corey Kilgannon’s The Endless Night works: “One night, hanging out with teenagers, apropos of nothing much. Does it work?”

Elizabeth Gilbert on the worst wedding toast ever.

Bruce Feldman on what happens when a freckled 15-year-old named Brittany collides with an upward-reaching football program.

David Finkel on a Bush-loving family.

Michael Brick on dinosaur bones in Brooklyn.

Julie Cart and Maria L. La Ganga on a conservationist’s suicide.

Tomas Alex Tizon on Hawaii’s hole in the wall.

Hank Stuever on missing CDs.

Trucker Love

NEW: Here’s the end.

Figured I’d throw this on for your thoughts and advice. On Tuesday, I pitched a short serial out of the 2005 National Truck Driving Championships this week in Tampa. The bosses gave me Wednesday to report and said they’d decide if we wanted to do it again when I had written the first piece.
So I went in early and reported broad and at the end of the day I could have gone three ways with this story: father and son truckers reconnecting at the championship; the oddity of a husband supporting his trucker wife; and, finally, a love story.
I went with this.
My question: Does it work? Lenth? Cliffhanger?
Help a brother get better.