This story was one of my assignments when I participated in a creative writing course. I don't remember exactly how the words we had to use were selected, but perhaps we had to choose a place, a date and time, weather, a profession, and a verb and an adjective. They're shown in italics.
I hope you enjoy it.
After the story, there's a special (very short) fun video clip. It's guaranteed to make you smile while giving important financial advice. It stars our grandsons, so it must be good! Please share.
Despite a howling gale, I’m standing on the shore taking in deep breaths of ocean air. White-capped rollers crash on the rocks, enveloping me in their cold, salty spray. I’m already invigorated and refreshed although I’ve only just completed the tiresome journey from Toronto.
My life started here in St. Anthony, Newfoundland, but I don’t know exactly when. Officially it was 2 am on May 6, 1958, when I was found on the stone steps of the orphanage.
Having no parents has its disadvantages, but I count myself lucky that I was delivered to this small and friendly town. I did well here and was a good student at school. But when I reached the higher grades I started to skip classes. I couldn’t see much of a future. I reckon I gradually lost hope, as many young Newfoundlanders did back then, and I left for Toronto.
I remember my first walk down Yonge Street. I felt invisible—there were no greetings, no eye contact—just bumps from strangers hurrying to somewhere else. The bud of hope I’d been nurturing began to wither as I ate in soup kitchens and slept in crowded, sometimes dangerous, shelters.
Craving companionship, I began visiting a drop-in centre. That’s where I met Greg. On a wet March day, smelling of damp wool and stale cigarettes, he said he’d heard there were jobs at Woodbine Racetrack. I didn’t know a thing about horses, but Greg said it wouldn’t matter—there’d be living quarters and you’d get paid something which was better than nothing, wasn’t it? I agreed to go with him.
As we walked towards Stan’s barn in the backstretch, people nodded and smiled. The atmosphere reminded me of the friendly community of St. Anthony.
The racehorse trainer was in a stall, saddling up one of the sleek thoroughbreds. Smells of fresh hay, damp straw, steaming manure, and potent liniments wafted around us.
Stan barely looked our way. He said he was looking for energetic young lads with a strong work ethic. He asked a few questions about such things as early mornings, hard work, and reliability. Then he told us how to sign up as hotwalkers, and that we could sleep in an empty stall—maybe something better would come up later. He explained that hotwalkers lead the horses around the shedrow until they’re cool after they’ve worked or raced.
All these years later and I’m still working for that grumpy, self-opinionated bastard. But I know his ways, and he likes my work, and he’s taught me a lot. I’m now his Assistant Trainer.
In recent years I’ve been returning to St. Anthony in the off-season. I love the people as well as the breathtaking scenery. It feels like home. But I’ve come to love the small world of the backstretch too—the camaraderie, the disparate personalities, the excitement and, of course, the magnificent horses.
A gust of wind has nearly blown me over and the salty spray is seeping through my jacket making me shiver. It’s time to meet up with some of my buddies in the coffee shop and show them some photos of the Winner’s Circle—with me in them.
Copyright Vicky Earle 2023
Bell Financial Video
I hope you're smiling!!