Give and Hazard All – The adventure begins with this free introduction

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Give and Hazard All – The adventure begins with this free introduction

Today, we are happy to bring you an excerpt from the latest novel Give and Hazard All, from Eventing Connect contributor, Mary Pagones. Mary is a New Jersey-based writer and editor. An enthusiastic reader of all things pony-and horse-related throughout her life, she took up riding as an adult. In addition to her latest novel, her works include:

 
Chapter 1 – Don’t Be Alarmed, I’m a Professional

Truthfully, together Phillip and I look like a PSA (public service announcement) video about drugs. I’d be the guy selling the drugs to the clean-cut honors student on the sports team. Funny thing is, I’m even more straight-edge than Phillip. I never went to college, so I never had the time or budget to seriously drink alcohol. I’d scream bloody murder if I ever heard of my boyfriend doing drugs of any kind. Of course, I turned Phillip onto the sport of eventing, my legal but very addictive substance of choice, versus the tame hunter-jumper stuff he used to ride. Some might say that means I’m still the bad guy in the weird PSA video all the same.

Phillip goes to Brown University. He’s on his last week of break so he still belongs to me: still working at my barn, keeping the horses in shape. He’ll be completely mine again in the summer. I’ll have to loan him back to his college for a few months in the interim as he jumps through the gymnastics of doing his degree. His excuse is he promised his mom he would finish out the four years. Although I kind of secretly suspect he likes studying.

I understand every crevice of Phillip’s body, know how to make him happy in so many small ways, know just the right thing to say so he gets the best out of whatever horse he’s riding. Yet I can’t understand how and why anyone would voluntarily submit themselves to school if they didn’t need to. Brown is supposed to be an awesome school, a school that when Phillip just whispers the word, people get all quiet and say, “Oh, you must be smart.” I don’t think he can give that up, frankly.

School’s not for me, though. Anarchy is the way for me, I think, smiling, remembering the white, proud A on the back of my sweatshirt pressing into the driver’s seat and the A carved into the toe of my Doc. “When You Were Young” is playing now. Jesus, I just heard it live but I never tire of hearing it. Talking like a gentleman indeed, I think, looking over at Phillip.

I feel so much older than my boyfriend, though only a few years separates us. I’ve been running my own business, O’Shaughnessy Eventing, since I was in my early twenties. Before that, I was working for the eventer Freddie Whitechapel. Then Freddie died in the accident. I never say the accident aloud. Freddie had a freak rotational fall when he was riding my Advanced horse Fleur de Sel (Pearl) over a simple table when he was on-course. I didn’t even know it at the time, but that moment changed my life. I didn’t want to be running my own barn at this stage of my career. It’s why, despite the fact I inherited some decent money from my dad after he died, I’m scraping by doing what I’m doing. Pearl is still competitive, but I’m short-staffed.

As frustrated as I get with Phillip about the Brown thing and the fact he isn’t around much to help me as well as be with me, I know that eventually his years at school will end. I tell myself to wait, to be patient.

The Subaru, despite my rock-steady hands, dips into the other lane. “Fuck,” I whisper, and carefully slow down, steer the car back to the other side of the yellow lines.
“We’re lucky we’re the only ones out here,” says Phillip, meaning that it’s easier to navigate this black ice without worrying about other cars. Plus, based upon my purely objective, scientific opinion as someone who traces his roots to Massachusetts and New Jersey, Maryland drivers can’t drive their way out of a paper bag. I’ve had enough of them crawl up the ass of my trailer, drive in my blind spot, and cut me off to know that.

The temperature is just the absolute worst for black ice, right at the freezing point, not melting but not getting dry and cold. I have my brights on so I can see the glitter on the surface, but I swerve a bit again, then almost veer off the side of the road. Phillip tenses up, holds his breath. As I get us back again to the straightaway, he mutters, “Whew.”

It looks like normal road, now. We’re about fifteen miles from home, home safe. Both of us have to get up early. I speed up, take advantage of the gritty, dry pavement. It’s a light day of work tomorrow. My clients understand that for me a Killers concert is a sacred religious event, more so than Christmas, Easter, or any normal person’s holiday. But even though it’s the slow season in terms of competition up here, horses don’t ride themselves or understand The Killers. Next morning, Phillip and I have to be in the saddle on multiple horses, and something resembling sleep would be helpful. Once again, I’m glad Phillip’s here at my barn as a rider, not just as my boyfriend.

I can see Phillip start to breathe again and I relax and finally do let myself squeeze his leg. His bangs have gotten kind of long; they’re almost falling into his eyes.

Then I have to step on the brakes, hard. Because a great big animal just darted in front of our car and I nearly hit it. Christ on a cracker, the thing’s lucky I have damn good reflexes, sharpened from riding less-than-reliable mounts over the years.

Thing? Too big for a deer.
“That was a horse,” says Phillip. And he’s right.
 


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