|Dog and Pony Show
by Jacob Blue Fox
© Jacob Blue Fox -- all rights reserved
''Ok boys this is what we have trained for! The Santa Anna classic is not only the most important race of our lives, it's also our home track and I don't want to lose today!''
The young men looked at each other like soldiers hitting the beach. Spandex uniforms stretched over their chests and a younger runner in the back pulled at his straps. Coach Allen's forehead and neck veins were a second away from an aneurysm.
''The Santa Anna Running Club does not lose at Santa Anna!''
Allen looked over to his ladies, eight in all and they were primed for combat. Mary ''Gray speed'' Coombs clutched her legs to her chest. Some would think she was afraid but she was stretching her quads. Of his men, Jo ''Big dog'' Johnson bobbed his shaved black head up and down, back and forth, loosening every kink in his neck. Al ''Colt'' Wisins stooped down to pray. A heavy gold cross hung from his neck, the only weight coach would allow him to carry. Trainers push their legs in contortionistic fashions.
''Ok, Go to your locker rooms and prep yourselves.''
The women left the gray and teal team room and the men walked to their locker room. Inside the men's locker rooms were two of the runners girlfriends, they smiled as their men lumbered to them. Al grabbed his girl and wrapped his thin arms around her. They walked into a private room and kissed each other, the start of their traditional pre-race routine.
''You ready?'' she asked Al with a cocky smile.
He removed his Spandex and began to change. Brown fur covered his lengthening legs. She watched as his fingers darkened, harden, and thicken into a hoof. Laws of physics were breaking like world records at the Olympics. Vertebra snapped and Al screamed showing his squaring teeth. In one long dragging event, his face elongated into a stallion's muzzle. Once complete he shook his body to remove the feeling of electricity from his skin and hair. In the background were the sounds of Al's fellow SCABS changing into horses and greyhounds. With a pair of very dark eyes, Al looked over to Jane as she reached down in between his hind legs.
''How come before every race all the horses have to be jerked off?'' Jo said sarcastically.
''Since the seventies they thought that if a horse masturbated before a race, that horse would run better.'' Alex Martin groaned as he canine muzzle grew.
''I know that you moron. Why not us grey runners?''
In the background horses loudly whinnied and ten minutes later Al trotted in with Jane by his side. Most of the runners were not impressed.
''So do you think you can race now, or do you need a hotel room?''
''You bet your fucking ass I'm bitter. You change into a fucking equine morph and you have women lining up for miles to be their girlfriend. And what about us Grey runners? Nothing! Not even private rooms like you guys have.''
''You mean stables?''
''Whatever. Everyone knows that there are only horse racing fans at the dog and pony shows, the grey runners are just a side show.''
''This is a team event if you win, we win. If I lose, we lose.''
Jo bowed his gray head low and did the best he could not to loll his tongue, inside he was still angry at the all-world star of the team.
Two knocks hit the door. Jo looked up and yelled to the coach allowing him in. Allen kept a hand above his eyes, trying to act like a gentleman.
''It's ok coach.''
The back of his black hair covered head brushed against his red and white jacket. For a track coach he was overweight and under exercised.
The grandstands were standing room only and betters from all over the world had their slips in hand. Trumpets blasted over the speakers and in the announcer's box Tom Brownstone coughed.
''Ladies and gentlemen welcome to the Santa Anna Classic. Up first is the equine quarter mile dash. At the far gate, with the blue saddle shirt, Diego ''Wilde'' Sanchez from the Pacific Race Club. In gate two, with the gray and teal trimmed saddle shirt, Al ''Colt'' Wisins from the Santa Anna Club.''
As expected the crowd erupted with the call of Al's name. In the background Jo shook his head in disgust, his ego was shot enough with his poor performances in the Churchill Downs Relays. Al tapped his long legs into the mud track, inside he was giddy, he was always a mudder. The trackers dipped their heads down and waited for the starter's gun. The seconds seemed like hours at a party with the marquee de Sade as the host. Slowly the starter raised his gun staring into his watch.
They were off and ''Wilde'' had the best jump. Quickly behind him was ''Colt'' and quickly Diego was surpassed by Al's late charge.
''At the post it's . . .'Colt' by a nose!''
Coach Allen jumped up and yelled to his foolish delight. Jo groaned and walked off. As he walked to the ladies two mile he grumbled. His specialty was the long distance events and they were last and usually the team had enough points to win the competition by the time his paws hit the track. He walked back to the locker room and found one of the trainers packing up his kit.
From his black rectangular case Jacob looked up and saw the runner. His navy blue polo shirt was covered in a red and blue windbreaker.
''Shouldn't you be at the track?''
''My event isn't until tonight.''
''Then get you're butt out there and support your team!''
''Don't you mean Al's team?''
''Hey I'm just here to volunteer and get my 1500 hours, but even I know there are no stars on a team. Just people who show up.''
''What do you know. DO you know how hard it is to be a SCAB?''
Jacob closed his eyes and shifted into a white Siberian tiger morph. They both took a double take and Jo bowed his head in shame.
''That's ok. I have only been like this for two weeks now. I don't think I will ever be a SCAB until I get the crap kicked out of me.''
''Yeah I know how that feels.''
Jo scratched behind his head and felt a slight divot in his skull. Flexiscrews are holding together the two plates of his occipital bone together after a bad Humans First beating.
''DO me a favor,'' Jacob's voice was deepened by his new feline snout, ''Win your race, ok?''
Jo didn't respond, he ran up the stairs and heard the deafening groan of the crowd as Mary ''Gray speed'' Coombs clutched at her right leg. Her race was over and for the first time in a long time the Santa Anna Race crew was losing in their home track. A couple more Santa Anna mishaps claimed more than the scoreboard.
''My arm is numb.''
''Are you ok coach?''
He didn't respond. Coach grabbed at his right arm then hit the ground. Jacob, who by this time was above level, opened up the coach's jacket and had the helicopters flying.
''Aw shit a heart attack. Keep awake coach.''
Jo was the first to rush to the coach's side. It was Allen who found Jo in Compton running for his life and he was the one who offered him a chance to run for money.
''Come man you can't be doing this to me Chuck.''
''I'm ok Joey. Just run.''
The helicopter landed and the coach was placed in God's hands. Jacob 's tiger-eyes turned to see Jo hyperventilating. It was Al who grabbed him
by the shoulders.
His first yell didn't work and Jo breathed even faster. In a few seconds Jo was going to be the next on the ground. His brown eyes looked on to the chopper as it flew off to Mercy.
''Damn it Jo!''
''Wha . . .'' Jo's face was like a child's when it is lost in a store.
''Jo pull yourself together. We're fifty points behind.''
He wiped his dripping nose with his canine arm and tears dripped down the sides of his face. Jacob pulled along side of him and placed a striped arm on top of Al's.
''This is your time Jo. You said you wanted respect, you said you wanted your chance. Well winning this damned race is a pretty big spotlight.''
''Racers to their positions!''
Jo wiped his nose again and shifted. He trotted to the tract like nothing happened. He shook his head once to fly away the tears. The world was a void, silence, the thoughts of his near father coach and the track were the only things in his sensual range. Not even the rabbit in the corner of his left eye was in his sights. The runners flinched and he was off. It was pure emotion, everything he staked his life on was in the race and he ran past everything. A 1990's rabbit, one of the old time reminders of the past was a witness to Jo's greatest run. In a trail of mud, Jo became a gray blur. One mile past and he couldn't feel anything. What he felt was more than a runner's high, this was a mixture of soul, heart, and determination. After every lap people kept wonder to themselves, 'When is he going to slow down?' When Jo hit his bell lap everyone knew that he didn't come up lame he would crush the world record. At the half mile marker he pasted the competition for a third time. With a hundred feet to go Jo reached down inside and found his hidden afterburners. Fifty thousand were on their feet as Jo blazed past the finish line. It didn't hit Jo until Al actually meet Jo at the half way marker and picked him off the track and held him in his arms. Even with Al holding him Jo kept pumping his legs racing the inner demons. When he felt Al holding him into his chest Jo did something he never did before, breakdown and cry.
''We're going to the hospital now.'' He comforted Jo and carried him off the tract.
With Jo still in quadruped form, Jacob came over and patted down a loose hair from his head. Jacob led the pair to his car and drove them to Mercy. Jo curled up in Al's lap and whimpered. Jacob used his youthful zestful driving to get to the hospital in twelve minutes.
''We got him to the hospital on time, don't worry he'll be fine.''
Jacob tried to hide the fact he was lying through his long canines. A small parking spot was large enough for his car and Jacob led the way again to the emergency room. Jo leapt out of Al's arms and by some psychic intuition found Coach Allen's room. Inside Al found Jo in his half morph form crying and hugging Coach Allen.
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