The Best of Times Short Story Competition

Autumn 2008 Results

Your Majesty

Copyright © Alida van den Bos 2008

He was a magnificent chestnut horse, standing 16.2 hands high, bred in the truest of blue blood fashion; his father Aristocrat, the great racehorse by Poseidon; his dam Elisabeth III by Emperor. No wonder he was called Your Majesty.

"There you are Your Majesty, a royal breakfast for you," the young stableboy said as he put the mighty chestnut in the stable.

"Thank you my boy, donít forget to bring me a juicy carrot for morning tea," he reminded him. Ah, how good it felt to be home again after this morningís workout at the track. "Iím so hungry, I could eat a horse. What am I saying," he grinned, "isnít it funny how soon you catch on with the human language."

Heíd had a great time at the track this morning, mostly because Princess Moonlight was training again after a well earned rest. Sheíd told him about all the V.I.H. [very important horses] sheíd met in the spelling paddocks, and he told her all about the Melbourne Cup he was going to win the next day.

His jockey, Ray Higginbottom, had taken him for his morning workout. If only that black cat had not crossed my path, my day would have been perfect, he thought. He considered it a bad omen.

He shrugged, it was bad to worry just before a big race. He should be happy because he had everything he wanted: the best stable in the block, all mods and cons, septic toilet, electric lights and fresh straw everyday. Even a safe to keep his money and insurance papers. The service was first class, the food was good, what more could he want? A television set maybe so he could watch the Daily Double on his days off.

But if I place that bet with Bill Watergate at 6-4, which isnít bad considering Iím a certainty, I'll have enough to buy ten sets.

Oh colt, here comes my neighbour, Lady Penelope. Sheís a walking talking machine, nags me all the time. "Your Majesty, your mane is on two sides, your tail is rumpled, your forelock is a mess. Itís not befitting for a horse of your breeding to look like that. Your appearance should be immaculate," and so on.

She must have learned the big words from her crossword puzzles, he thought.

"Good morning Your Majesty," she started with a big smile, "You look well today."

"Good morning Pen, so do you," he replied.

"You know this crossword Iím doing? All I need is just one more word."

"All right, how many letters?"

"Itís a four letter word starting with..."

"Oh no," Your Majesty interrupted, ĎYou know I donít swear."

"Look, itís an ordinary word, starting with h, meaning the chief horse in a race."

"Eh... eh... what about hero?"

"Thatís it, thatís it," Pen said elated, "Thank you, now I can send it in."

Turning around, Your Majesty started to think. Winning the Melbourne Cup is worth a lot of money for many people. But what do I get out of it? An extra carrot perhaps? Not fair, not fair at all after me doing all the hard work. Maybe us horses should get together and go on strike, thatís what humans do, and they always get their way. Iíll ask old Boobs, he thought, have a horse to horse talk with him. He was his neighbour on the left. His name was really Bobalong, but everybody called him Boobs for short. Because he was the oldest horse in the place he was considered to know everything.

Just lately heíd become very forgetful and started to jumble his words. The managerís name was Bob Stockman and Boobs called him Stock Bobman, and this morning after his workout he said, "Hey, I did thirteen furlongs in a second, not old for a bad horse eh?" Pity, after tomorrow old Boobs would be retired.

"Hey Boobs," he called, "I want to ask you something."

"Fire away," he replied.

Then Your Majesty told him heíd been thinking of going on strike for a cut of the prize money.

"Great idea," said Old Boobs.

"But how do we start a strike?"

"Let me see, you start with calling all horses together, then you tell them you demand a cut of the prize, then you put the ultimatum to the A.J.C. If they donít agree, you strike."

"Okay, thanks, Boobs, for the advice."

"My pleasure... eh... wait a minute, thereís something else. You also need a Union, canít strike without one."

"Where do you get a Union from, Boobs?"

"I donít know, ask Pen, she might know."

"Iíll ask her later," he said and looking out the window he saw the cat again. It made him cringe. Something was going to happen, he just knew it.

Just then Nincumpoop, their lead pony, rouseabout and newspaper boy, came to his stable. "Read this Your Majesty," he said as he handed him the newspaper, The Equine News. "Thereís something very interesting on the front page."

Opening the paper, "Black Bandit Strikes Again," Your Majesty read aloud. "By Pegasus, he just got out of Long Bay jail and already heís on the rampage."

"Youíd better keep your safe locked," Nincumpoop warned.

"Thank you," he said as he walked to his safe wondering how much money he had when a dark shadow fell over him and looking up he saw the face of Black Bandit.

"Aha, I couldnít have picked a better time to call on you," he said. "No, leave the door open, saves a lot of my time. Oh, and while youíre at it, this is a hold up, so stick Ďem up, against the wall and no tricks."

Your Majesty knew he wasnít joking when he saw the mean look on his face and the big machine gun pointing at him. What a pity he thought, Black Bandit could have been a real good racehorse if he had not been so mean. He won three races and all three times was disqualified, the last time forever. He tried to get a job, but no-one wanted to give him a go so there was only one thing left for Black Bandit, resort to crime as there was no unemployment for horses yet.

Looking over his shoulder, Your Majesty was shocked to see that Black Bandit was all grey. "Goodness Gracious," he exclaimed, "is that a wig youíre wearing?"

"No funny business, here hold this bag open as I put my money in it."

"My money," Your Majesty corrected.

"Ha, not any more, but if itís any consolation, Iíll have a darn good time with it tonight."

The bag was full. Your Majesty was considering a fight but there was the loaded machinegun. He didnít want to be a dead hero. Iíll leave that to the police, he thought, they get paid for it.

"No need to ring the police, I cut the line on the way in, Iíll be seeing you sometime," Black Bandit yelled as he and his two accomplices galloped away with a thundering noise to where they had their horse float parked.

Suddenly the stables became like a market place, everyone yelling and shouting. Managers, strappers and stableboys were all centred around Your Majesty.

"We have called the police from next doorís place," Bob Stockman said, "So donít touch anything."

Nincumpoop came cantering in waving a bit of paper, "Iíve got their number," he called excitedly.

"Itíll be a great help, thanks Nincumpoop," Bob Stockman said.

Your Majesty patted him on the back, "Now I may get my money back, you showed great horse sense."

Presently two police cars drove in quickly taking charge of the situation. A special squad went inside Your Majestyís stable to take hoof prints.

"Why take hoof prints?" he asked. "We already know who dunnit."

"We need them for evidence," the inspector said coldly.

"Yes, but why arenít you chasing the horse float before they get away? They might even change horse floats somewhere."

"Itís been taken care of," the inspector said impatiently. Apparently he had not expected such ignorance. "We have to have evidence to convict the thieves," he continued.

"But there are plenty of eyewitnesses."

"Will they go to court for you?"

"Of course they will, theyíre my friends."

"I can see you still have a lot to learn. Eyewitnesses are known to suddenly forget what they have seen as soon as they have to go to court."

Your Majesty couldnít understand. "You see what you see," he argued.

The hoof prints squad finished their work inside.

"Could we take your hoof prints now Your Majesty? Itís only to distinguish them from the robbers," he explained.

"Oh, I see, of course, go ahead then."

They were just finished when the Press arrived. Suddenly there were cameras flashing, reporters asking questions in rapid succession. It confused Your Majesty, he was not used to this kind of questioning. Then he remembered reading about the Prime Minister being interviewed. Whenever a question he couldnít answer came up, heíd say, 'No comment' or ĎNo comment at this stage.'

So he borrowed the two phrases using them alternatively until one of the men asked him softly, "Whoís going to win The Cup tomorrow?"

This was a language he understood. "Me of course, who else?í he replied proudly.

The man turned around quickly and told his mate, "This is a hot tip, Your Majesty is going to win The Melbourne Cup tomorrow, heard it straight from the horseís mouth."

That was the end of the interview. The news spread like wildfire, and in no time everybody who had heard was trying to beat each other to the nearest bookie.

Your Majesty wasnít concerned so much about the loss of his money when he thought of Old Boobs offering to take up a collection for him. "No thanks," heíd said, "Iím not religious and I hate charity."

The owners also wanted him to know that if he won the Cup, theyíd give him a cut of the prize money, but he already knew he was going to win. "Tell them Iíll be there at the Winning Post!"

He slept well that night.

"I have more good news for you," the manager informed him the next morning, "Black Bandit and his gang were caught."

"How were they caught, do you know?"

"Oh yes, the police found an abandoned horse float at the Flemington racetrack, so they went to look around and found them sitting in the middle of the racetrack drinking champagne, and Black Bandit was shouting, 'A horse, a horse, my kingdom for a horse.'."

"I suppose they were acting Richard the third?í Your Majesty interrupted.

"Yes, and then the police arrested them. Anyway your owners want to know if thereís anything special you want?í

"Yes, a television set, black and white will do."

"You get that tonight, win or lose."

"One more thing, is Nincumpoop getting anything out of this?"

"Itís been taken care off, have a look."

Sure enough, there was Nincumpoop, duly delivering the newspapers. Around his neck was a chain with a large medal. He held his head up high so that everyone had to see it, except he couldnít see where he was going himself. So the papers were delivered somewhat irregularly, but nobody complained. They didnít have the heart to rob Nincumpoop of his proud moment.

Your Majesty was happy, especially when he read the paper. There were pictures of him on the front page with his famous words, 'No Comment,' in the headlines. How very clever, he thought. Old Boobs interrupted his thinking.

"You know what happened to me?" he asked. "Iím going to force the police join."

"Well, how did that happen?"

"The inspector who was here yesterday said he wanted me for traffic duty, and you know why?"

"No, why?"

"Because I was the only calm who remained one,Ē he chuckled. "To tell you the truth, I was half asleep."

"Iím happy for you Old Boobs, weíll miss you."

There was much activity now all around, everyone was getting ready to go to the racetrack. Your Majesty was getting butterflies in his stomach.

"Itís a good sign," he said. "I always win when Iím nervous."

Your Majesty duly won the big race that day with ease. The applause he got was tremendous, with a record crowd in attendance, no doubt due to all the publicity received from the robbery.

Your Majesty went on to win a lot more races before he was retired to stud. Princess Moonlight came to join him and they became the proud parents of a colt foal who looked and acted just like his famous father.

He donated all the prize money he had ever won to the R.S.P.C.H.

He had Princess Moonlight, that was enough.