January 11, 2008

After his big media day out, a pumped up Geoff Derwent met with Maddy Quigley at the City Oval. ‘Let’s put her through her paces’. Geoff played timekeeper as Maddy organized the warm-ups and practice runs. Layla was out of her footy gear and into her sculptured sprint skin. The experience would blow the muscle from Geoff’s mind leaving him feeling awfully soft and naked. No doubt he’d get back on the horse in due course.


What happened was a transition of control from Geoff to a jet plane. At first, holding the stopwatch to his face, he observed Layla walk to the start and crouch. He could, in his maturity, appreciate her statuesque, taut, feminine form with a warmth rather than a …… and then Maddy said ‘Go!’ which triggered him to click his clock.


At dusk her distant sling from the start was slightly vibrating. All Geoff’s instincts said ‘Watch that! Keep an eye on that. It’s coming this way fast’. The middle part was beautiful, efficient, shimmering and glittering but encroaching quicker and quicker. The end was destructive. He hadn’t realized, until now being so close, the raw aggression involved. He was in awe. He’d been to the gee-gees. He’d heard them drum roll their way past the post. This wasn’t a drum roll. This was a slicing attack with a following wind that shook. Terrific. Afterwards, he had a need to be near the athlete and not be on the outer where he would probably whither from the lack of relevance. He blew the jitters from his stomach ‘Carn the Demons’.


They had three full practice runs before the darkening helped them decide ‘enough’. The two boys gave Layla a lift home. Maddy invited Geoff back to the Royal for a few frothies.



“Jeez Maddy, I didn’t know it was so impacting. Now I understand why you were so excited. I’m still as dazed as a knocked skittle but God I feel great. I’m converted. She is unreal.”



“Turn it up Geoff. I feel more like busted concrete. I tell you she’s changed my outlook on life. I’m looking at the missus in a new light.


Now Geoff, you clocked her at 11.8, 11.6 and 11.4, how’d you reckon that stacks up?”



“Well, it seemed ferociously fast to me… but I suppose I don’t really know what the standard is.”



“Well, first cab off the rank, she shouldn’t have been able to run faster each time. It’s just not right, not natural. I only intended two runs but I couldn’t believe it when you gave me the second timing so I had to have another go. Straight up, 11.8 will win The Gift and 11.4 breaks the handicap record easily. It just doesn’t make any sense Geoff. Jean-Louis Ravelomanantsoa is the only person to have won The Gift off scratch. He did it in twelve seconds. Today, Layla ran faster than anybody in the history of mankind. It’s just such…. such a tremendous privilege to have witnessed it. You know I’ve been on her all along. You see Geoff, it’s the last twenty metres where they struggle, but she doesn’t, she improves. She has the chest for it.”


[Geoff, head down and an arm comforting a blubbing Maddy]:

“Hmmmm… that could be an advantage at the end alright. Right. I see. Well, I’m not surprised. It seemed miraculous to me, my heart is still racing.”



“You see Geoff, it is a miracle. And I’m not just being Catholic about all of this, I mean it. What are the odds? A young girl rocks up for a game of footy and turns out to be the fastest athlete ever conceived. I’m struggling with it Geoff, really struggling. What have I done to deserve this good fortune?”



“Look Maddy, I agree with you. It’s as if we’ve won the lottery. Let’s think this through though Maddy. I remember seeing a scientist… Carl Sagan I believe, who asked the question ‘considering the big bang and all that followed it, what are the chances of this earth and all its beauty being created exactly like it is?’ ‘One hundred per cent’ he answered ‘and I can prove it! Just look around you.’ Maddy, people win the lottery…. and they collect.


Look Maddy, you’ve been a great friend to me at the club. Things haven’t been going so well for me. We’re still in a bit of trouble. Now, I immediately recognized the commercial value in this situation – a pretty girl running in The Gift under our colours. I said to myself ‘that Maddy is a genius for suggesting it’. I’ve already had ten grand for media interviews and photos. That’s almost got us back in the black. A Current Affair gave us five of that for an exclusive tomorrow.”



“Will Mike Munro be here?”



“Oh yeah, Mike’ll be here tomorrow. I’ll be talking to him first and then we’re bringing Layla over after the run.


Anyway, I just didn’t realize … what it was going to be like to see her in action. It was… it was … horrifyingly uplifting. I feel more at ease with the club situation now. It’s not so important. Having said that… I think if she wins… and, let’s be honest here, she’ll piss in… we’ll have to burn the money to make some room on the Oval. We’ll have every Aussie program wanting a piece of her not to mention Oprah… Oprah will devote a whole program to her… maybe more. I’m already thinking of spin-offs. Reminds me, I’ll really have to get a formal agreement with Layla… to be her agent. Jeez Maddy, the world will never be the same again when the fastest person on the planet is a girl.”



“Strange you should say that Geoff. Layla’s been an answer to my prayers as well. You know I lost the ranch that long time ago? Well, it wasn’t just the drought that got me, I had a gambling problem and I had to sell up and shift to the pub. We do alright here but I don’t think the missus has ever forgiven me. Well, the bookies are going to get it between the eyes this time, don’t you worry about that. I’ll go up to each of them after the race and say ‘turfs up boys. Account for that!’. I’ll buy Horsham with the winnings.”



“I’m not so sure that’s a good idea Maddy. Isn’t it insider trading?”



“Absolutely! We’ve got knowledge no-one else has. I’m happy to bring them all up to speed but there’s going to be a charge. A big, fat charge. Oh no Geoff, this is how the game is played. Most of the athletes in The Gift have spent their days running dead to get a good handicap. That’s not going to help them this time. I’m going to get a hundred grand on, as much as I can. What odds will she start at? Couple of hundred to one? Yeah, I’ll remortgage, whatever it takes.”



“Jesus. You’re mad. What if something unexpected happens?”



“There’s only one unexpected thing going to happen and only we know what it is. I’ve done my homework. I’ve even asked Layla if there is anything that might impair her performance over the next week. And Geoff, the tide’s out. It’s plain sailing.”



“Wow, well, gosh, I guess it’s as ethical as anything else in this world. Look, I’ve got a few bucks I’d like to lay off too. How about we co-ordinate it so we get the best bang for them. Let’s get about ten of the boys to help us hit the bookies quickly with the biggest bets they’ll take so they don’t pull the odds down on us. Let’s plan it out. I’ll tell you what though… we should buy Billy a few drinks, he’s set it up for us good and proper.”


‘Two hundred by a hundred thousand is twenty million. Oof! Let’s get more reasonable. If fifteen bookies take a grand a piece before getting on to it that’ll be two hundred by fifteen thousand is three million. Then the rest at an average of ten to one gives ten by eighty five thousand is eight hundred and fifty thousand. Hmmm gotta get lots laid at the start. Logistics.’ That’s the kind of mental tracks they were on when given a moment to think, round and round and round.



“It’s been great for the town hasn’t it Geoff. Everyone’s on board.”



“It’s been faaan-tastic. We’ll all have a day off on the Tuesday I reckon. Imagine the victory lap around Horsham saluting the crowd. Do they give out keys to Horsham Maddy? Or will we own it by then anyhow, heh heh? Oh, do you think we should put the word out to the locals to have a few bucks on? No? Perhaps you’re right. Everyone will see her run tomorrow. We’ll be talking her up. Let them read what they like into it. It’d be wrong to pressure them into punting.


By the way Maddy, how are you going to handle the race tomorrow, if you know what I mean? Surely, she shouldn’t exert herself in the run up to the Saturday heats?”



“Oh I’ve got it handled. You can bet your house on that Geoff. I’ve told her everyone will line up together to protect the boy’s pride and she can win but make it look like they had a chance. [whispering] I have her running dead Geoff, yeah.”



“Look, didn’t quite catch that Maddy. The frothies must be working themselves in. Anyhow, great job Maddy, I’d better make a move. No, I’m fine, I’ll walk home, have a think about things. It’ll do me good. Right, to Layla, Horsham, the Demons and … the universe for putting good things in the path of good people.”


Tinkle, scull and big hand shakes later the two new believers had already taken a pragmatic approach to their worship.


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