There's something about the thrill of a horserace you can't shake. It's like a drug that no amount of rehab can ever cure. So, I guess being a jockey is like being an addict. We get up at unmentionably early hours to jog horses in order to feed our addiction. We fool trainers and owners into hiring us. We make believe that we're good with handling horses and we're capable of compassion. That last part is a lie.

No one in this business is capable of compassion, or kindness, or any other emotion that has anything remotely to do with owning a soul. This is a callous place filled to the gills and above with greed, grudges, and suffocating pride. People seem to be cruel just to prove they can be. The only things that are treated like they have feelings and actual needs are the horses. A well-bred, winning horse lives better than medieval royalty.

The jockeys, on the other hand, are just the grunts, a tool on top of the beast. If a race is won, it's the horse's doing. Sure, a winning jockey can be ridiculously wealthy, but they just aren't famous anywhere outside the racetrack. That's just life racing, and many are willing to put themselves through it. Why? Each jockey has their own reason, be it money, an obscure chance at fame, or the pure rush of an intense race.

Me? Well, I'm in it for the rush, and for the fact that horses are in my blood. I've been around horses since before I could recognize what the animal actually was. I'd be lost anywhere else but a racetrack. I don't care if my horse isn't backed enough to be able to stand, I'll ride him regardless. My dad didn't care if racing made him flat broke and neither do I. I'm a jockey and I don't plan on fixing that.

"Morning Jinx," a voice called cheerfully, despite the irrationally early hour. I grunted in response and dragged my dirty, worn boot clad feet down to where a tired looking trainer was checking over a large, bay race horse.

"Morning, Mr. Webster," I said, leaning in the doorway of the stall.

"Hello, Kyra," Mr. Webster sighed. He was about the only person around here who didn't call me by my unfortunate nickname. "You want to take The Comedian out for a jog?"

"You know me too well," I replied, grabbing the horse's reigns and pulling him out. He followed willing onto the track.

Life in the morning isn't too exciting for a jockey. Only when the day hits in full is when the action picks up. The races start. And along with the races comes the evitable drama. Jockeys filter in to start their day, bringing with them more and more competition and tears. There just isn't enough money to go around. If you want it, you've got to fight for it. Luck, strength, skill: that's what my dad would say.

Most riders around here—myself included—did not finish high school. For the likes of us, this is our only income. Without racing, we're good as dead. It isn't a pretty picture, really, and we don't dwell on it too much. But it comes to mind every so often when our rent is long overdue or when our ankle snaps and we're out of action. In contrary to what television and Hollywood tells you, glamour in jockeying is kept at a minimum and reality is our own crop.

"Alright, big fella, let's start out," I told the horse, swinging easily and comfortably into the saddle and clicking my heels into the animal's side. Very well used to command, the horse followed my unspoken lead and walked over in to the direction I demanded. Horses are considerably better companions than humans. They follow orders and rarely ask questions. I like that in an animal. I like that in a person.

A few laps around the track later and I was turning the reigns grudgingly back to the trainer. I rather liked the beast, calm and obedient, well suited and comfortable on the racetrack. I hoped that Mr. Webster would put in a good word for me and I will be racing him one day soon.

"Thanks, girl," he grunted before turning his attention back to the horse. Like most people down below the stands of a racetrack, Mr. Webster had better animal skills than people skills.

Kyra, Jinx, and girl, that's what I'm called around here. I'm only called Kyra when he announcer is narrating a race, and Jinx is what the inside people usually refer to me by. It's a rather unfortunate nickname for a jockey, Jinx. I obtained it after a series of careless accidents involving knocking over some supplies and setting a few horses loose. Not my proudest moment. After someone called 'Jinx!' the name stuck and I've been Jinx ever since.

Glancing up at the clock, I noticed it read five o'clock. I had four hours to jog some more horses and start exercising before my first race. Another long day was at its beginning, and no matter how much I loathed to, I had to ride it till the sunrise of the next day, hoping that it will be just a little better.


RING! "And they're off!" Shouted the announcer over the thunderous crowd. My breath was high in my throat and adrenaline coursed at dangerous levels. It was the first and—in my opinion—best race of the day. My horse, Glory Hallelujah, drew the fourth slot. It wasn't bad, but it wasn't the best. And I needed this race.

Wind whipped at my face with incredible strength as I dug my heels into the horse's side. We were in fifth place at the moment, and the only money I had coming my way was a mount fee of about five dollars. With half a mile to go, time was running short. Taking a risk I began to weave the horse dangerously to the outside of the pack. Praying silently that the horse doesn't trip, I maneuvered around and out.

Once I was where I wanted to be, I was able to make my move on the fourth placeman. But he cut me off! I emitted short grunt of frustration as I made an effort to go around him, but the jockey just copied my every action. This was getting real old real quick. The race was coming to a close and if I didn't pass the guy ahead of me in the next half-second, I was screwed.

I whipped the horse's flanks and dug my heels mercilessly into her sides. The horse snorted and charged forward at an intense speed. It took all my strength not to fall off. I squeezed into the tight, almost nonexistent space on the inside so that I was able to get around the fourth placeman without him cutting me off. It was a risky move on my part and could cost me some time in the end, but it got me fourth place. Now, all I needed was the third placeman. And at the speed I was going, I was easily catching up.

Come on, come on, I urged my horse mentally, whipping its flanks and weaving the animal to the outside. Come on! I was closing in on the third place-man…almost…passed! I flew by him and now was vying for second place. The finish line was approaching rapidly and I was running out of time. Come on, Glory, just a bit farther… damn! I didn't make it. Glory Hallelujah sprinted across the line in third place. It was better than fourth or fifth, but it wasn't what I needed.

I dismounted the horse and handed the reigns over to the trainer, watching enviously as photographers took shots of horse and jockey in the winner's circle. With a disgruntled sigh, I stalked back to the stables to pace and prepare for my next race.

"Better luck next time, Jinx," sneered an unwelcome voice behind me. Ladies and gentlemen, meet the first place winner and the devil's advocate: Morgan Freeman. Cocky, pompous, full of himself, and a downright ass, he's the worst enemy of everything that ever beheld a pleasant feeling.

"Well, Morgan," I said without turning, "my only condolence is that my face is whole." I didn't need to look to see the expression of pure fury and hatred twist into the bastard's face.

When Morgan was six, he was riding when the horse got spooked and bolted, though not before doing a number to on Morgan's head. Unfortunately, he lived through his ordeal, but not without a cost. The entire left side of his face is mangled and horribly scarred. It's a rather sore spot for him and monstrous fun to mock.

"At least I can pay my rent," Morgan spat back. He hit a point there.

That's why I needed to win these races. If I didn't, I would lose my place of residence. I was already pushing the due date and I doubt I could keep it up any longer.

"That you can, but I can get a date." With that parting comment, I disappeared into the female part of the locker room to prepare for my next race.

The day ended with a one win, a place in second, a place in third and a place in fifth. I had barley scraped up enough to pay some of my rent. I think if I beg hard enough and look pathetic enough, then I might just get another extension. Besides, I planned to disappear for a day or two. The track was closing for some renovation to the stalls and track and I took advantage of the time off to skip town and visit some family. Whether I liked it or not, I had family. Who may or may not approve of my life as a jockey.

"Headed home, Jinx?" someone asked from behind me. I turned to look up at Matilda. She was another female jockey and one of the more honest people around here, though being part of the racing scene, there's a catch. Matilda is addicted to meth. It wasn't uncommon down here, but a night out with Matilda meant some trouble.

"Nah, I'm just headed to my apartment, I haven't been able to go home in years," I sighed. My home had been a small house a few miles from the racetrack. When my dad died, I couldn't afford to keep it. And ever since, whenever someone asked whether I was going home, that was my reply.

"You've become so strange ever since Big Jack died," Matilda stated.

"I suppose I have. I blame the drugs."

"Yeah, I hear crack does that to you." To make things clear, I don't do crack.

"So, do you wanna go get something to eat?"

"Nah, I'm beat. I'm skipping town for a few days while the track is closed down for that renovation." That, and prison doesn't sound too appealing.

"Ah, I see. I guess I'll be all alone, again. I really should find a friend who won't disappear on me for family, of all things." I smirked, and dug around my locker for the last of my stuff.

"See ya around, kid," Matilda called, waving her hand. I nodded vaguely and shut the door firmly.

"Right, now where are…ah, keys," I muttered, fishing them from the depths of my pocket. I don't even know why I bother to even drive my truck. I'm a horse jockey, one of the most dangerous professions legal, and the most hazardous part of my day is starting the engine of the heaping chunk of rust, metal, and duck tape barely recognizable as a Chevy pick-up. The vehicle—if I can call it that—was falling apart. All the same, it belonged to my dad and if he loved it then I guess I'll drive it until it rolls into a smoky, sputtering grave—which should be in the next week or so.

People were still filtering out of the stands when I stepped into the parking lot. Children were running around, giggling. It baffled me why parents even consider bringing their kids to a place like this so late. My dad wouldn't allow me to stay past the first couple races. That's when more of the unsavory characters started showing up. But I guess you've got to fit family time in any way you can.

"Hey," someone shouted. I figured they were talking to one of the kids, so I didn't bother to turn around.

"Hey, you, jockey," they called again. I turned with a raised eyebrow. What could some high-class racehorse owner want with me? It was Sunday night; shouldn't he be brining the kids home?

"You're Big Jack's kid, aren't ya?"

"Yeah, you need something?"

"Nah, just ask'n s'all. He used to train my thoroughbreds. Great trainer, even greater man you're daddy was."

"Yeah."

"Hey, I have horse. A bit skittish, but good in a race. You wanna ride her tomorrow?"

"My mount fee is five bucks."

"Wonderful, I'll be seeing ya bright and early, then?"

"Of course, bright and early."

I waved my good-bye and tugged on the door of my car. This day didn't turn out so bad. I've got another race tomorrow and some more cash coming my way. Things just might be looking up to the best…for now at least.