[emaillocker]Flight BA4356 had three passengers left to board at Gate 22. They had been called over the loudspeakers twice already, to no avail. In a little booth not far from the gate, just out of sight, a tall blonde woman was hammering frantically on her keyboard.
“Q, I am so sorry, but – ” began her friend Kay.
Q didn’t take the interruption well. “No, I am NOT boarding the plane until I have finished writing. Clenching her coffee, she snapped, “This is the most important thing right now. I cannot fly until it is done.”
It was mid-January already, two weeks since Wolf’s Son’s death, and so far Q had been unable to reply to the email from Tarik, the racehorse’s owner. Her head still felt clouded and foggy and her heart numb. Amy and Kay shifted nervously, avoiding looking into each other’s eyes or at Q, who now sat with her head in her hands, silently praying.
Kay was exasperated. Why did this have to be right now? Only minutes before their take-off for South Africa?
She could see Q was on the verge of tears. “Q,” she said more firmly, “I’m sorry, but we have to board, the gate is closing in ten minutes.”
“I don’t know how to write what I want to say. I have to concentrate!” Q said. They left her alone for the moment.
Q was sweating. To the beat of her heart drumming in her ears, she anxiously turned the paper cup in her hands. Compounding the pain of Wolf’s Son’s death was her belief that she couldn’t write and no one was going to help her. Incapable, hopeless, the self-descriptions flooded her brain as she tried to formulate her response.
She read Tarik’s email again.
I hope you had a wonderful Christmas.
Here is the LAST update on Wolf’s Son. It’s better that you don’t tell this to Q until she returns. She has enough to worry about as it is.
The race on the 25th did not go well. Wolf’s Son resisted going into the starting box, was scared and panicky. He was pushed in by six people, fought back and finally gave up, thrust forward and hit the front gates, dropped back and they started the race immediately because he was last to go in.
During the race, it was obvious that he had a problem because the jockey was forcing him hard just to stay with the group. At a dirt track with this group he would have strolled to the front. The jockey must have sensed the problem too but he couldn’t stop Wolf’s Son because he was the super favorite. At the last turn, speeding up, the centrifugal force was too much and Wolf’s Son collapsed. The weight-carrying main bone on his left front leg was broken. It must have cracked at the gate.
We took him back to the barn and gave him sedatives. He was in too much pain, we tried everything to keep him alive and you know what… he tried very hard to stay alive.
He collapsed again in the barn. The vet said we had to get him up or he would die. We did everything to stand him up but it was impossible so I told the vet to make the injection. The moment I said it Wolf’s Son jumped up and stood still. We tried to come up with a treatment method. There is a famous vet in Italy, for three hours I kept calling him but his phone was switched off because it was Sunday and Christmas day. There was nothing to do so I had to OK the lethal injection, pressed the phone button last time and the Italian vet answered. He said not to do anything because secondary bones also show the same symptoms if they are broken. He told me to take x-rays, and if it was secondaries he would fly in the morning, operate and save him. We took dozens of pictures but the internal bleeding was so much the x-rays did not show anything. All night we tried, took pictures, hoped the swelling would go down… but it didn’t happen.
At 11 o’clock in the morning he couldn’t even keep his head up so for the third time I said OK to the injection. This time Wolfie agreed too because he was too tired.
So there will be no Dubai, there will be no other place for that matter.
I made a huge mistake. I should have waited for Dubai, I should have waited for Q. He was a champion, he was people’s hero and he was my baby… Right now I am confused. I am not sure if I am doing the right thing by forcing these wonderful animals to pain for our own pleasure.
But Wolfie liked running so much… I don’t know.
The last two days have been nothing but tears, but life goes on. Tell Q I love her and we miss her here.
And a final minor detail… My Jeep got stolen when I came back to Istanbul yesterday. To that I am only laughing.
May God protect you and your family, Tarik>
Why didn’t they call me, why didn’t they fix him, why didn’t they try harder? The thoughts pulsed through Q’s mind for the thousandth time. They could have re-set the bone, hung him up in a sling, built a swimming pool and an elevator to train his muscles until the break was mended.
Torn between her own pain and anger at Wolf’s Son’s death, and compassion for Tarik, Q rose to her feet, yanking the computer plug out of the socket in the wall. This just isn’t working, just not! Q slammed her laptop shut, grabbed her bag and stood. Kay and Amy let out a sigh of relief.
Then, to their horror, Q headed over to one of the computer stations and got out her credit card, apparently to begin the sign-up process for an online account.
Kay motioned to Amy to take care of her hand luggage while she carefully headed into Q’s direction.
“Q, can I help you?” she asked, suppressing the need to add, “you do know we really need to go or we’re going to miss the flight, right?”
Q eased her grip on the laptop. Tears were making their way slowly down her cheeks.
“Yes, please,” she said quietly. “I am stuck with the wording.”
“Let me have look,” Kay gently offered. She quickly read it, then gave Q a bright smile and said, “It’s good as it is.”
Q sighed and hit the ‘Send’ button.
The girls sprinted down the hallway to the gate and made it on the plane with just seconds to spare.
Out of breath, hair wildly mussed, Q slumped into her seat. Desperately wanting to forget anything to do with Wolf’s Son, she reached for her headphones to escape into the world of a movie.
The first image she saw on screen was of starting gates flying open, horses leaping out, jockeys urging them forward, trying to be the first one at the rail before the bend. Suddenly, a beautiful chestnut horse veered sharply to the right… came crashing down… sending the jockey flying. The filly lay still on her side… her leg broken. Stunned at the scene, Q froze in her seat.
This was the very last scene Q wanted to see. She couldn’t hold back the tears as she watched ‘Dreamer’ – the story of a racehorse that broke a leg, and a little girl who still believed.
Oblivious to the rest of the aircraft’s passengers around her, Q sobbed until the end of the movie, interrupted every so often by flight attendants. The man on her left asked if there was anything he could do.
Q answered in a choked voice, “No, you can’t help me. No one can.”
The phrase that had been haunting her since childhood popped into her mind: I will always lose what I love. The grayish-blue seats in front of her, the small screen and even the rattling of the dinner trolley being pushed down the aisle disappeared into a faint blur as Q watched parts of the movie over and over again, lost in the memory of Wolf’s Son.
– by Ingela Larsson Smith & Tobi Elliott[/emaillocker]