Frilly Miss

Frilly Miss

My wife, Mary, and I are attending the races at Bay Meadows Racetrack. Since the weather is cool for northern California, we sit in the restaurant area and watch the races through the partition glass. The track will be demolished in a year—maybe two—so I am feeling nostalgic today. I don’t like the thought of condos replacing this picturesque, palm-lined track.

The third race is scheduled to start, and I have returned from the betting window. Mary is studying the racing chart even though I have already placed our bet.

“Temperance pays five to one,” Mary says. “Is that the horse you bet on?”


“So who did you bet on?”

I hand Mary our ticket. “I bet on Frilly Miss.”

Frilly Miss is a chestnut mare, and her odds are ten to one. I have placed twenty dollars on her, so the payoff will be huge if she wins.

“I asked you to bet on Temperance,” says Mary.

“You only suggested it.”

“So instead of taking my suggestion, you bet on a horse named Frilly Miss.”

“It’s not like I named her,” I protest. “I only put money on her. Frilly Miss is a mudder and the track is kinda wet today.”

We watch as handlers load color-clad horses into the starting gate. Temperance, a spirited palomino, does not want to enter her box. She is pacing about and tossing her head as though trying to throw the bit.

“You may as well have named her,” says Mary.

“What do you mean by that?”

“Only a chauvinist pig would name a horse Frilly Miss.”

I lean back in my chair, gathering my thoughts as we wait for the race to start. Since I am an author, I am able to phrase a tidy apology. “I’m sorry,” I say. “It was a Freudian slip. I would never deliberately support a horse whose name is demeaning to women.”

“Are horses your only exception?”

“What are you trying to say?”

“Just look at the low-life characters in all those books you’ve published. There’s Tom, a commitment-phobic who sees women as disposable pleasures. There’s Pomeroy, a raunchy oaf with no more finesse than a caveman. And Sam the Poontang man—my god. Just his name says it all.”

“I’ll try to be more sensitive,” I say, but Mary has heard this promise before.

Temperance is now locked in the starting gate along with the rest of the horses. A hush of anticipation has settled over the crowd.

We hear the tattoo of pounding hooves once the horses explode from the gate. As they gallop into the turn, Temperance leads by a length and a half. Frilly Miss is running dead last, which affords me a small consolation. Perhaps Mary will forgive my transgression if I suffer some instant karma. When the horses enter the backstretch, however, this hope begins to fade. Temperance is still the leader, but Frilly Miss is making a bid. She is running near the center of the pack and is eating up more ground.

“Temperance is fighting her bit,” I observe. “Her jockey needs to give her more head.”

“Mansplaining is not going to help you,” says Mary. “You’re only making things worse.”

When the horses enter the far turn, Frilly Miss is a length behind Temperance. As they thunder into the straightaway, they are running neck ’n’ neck.

“Go, Frilly Miss!” I holler. My outburst seems like sacrilege, but the racing gods still hear me. Despite her demeaning name, Frilly Miss wins by a nose.

I go back to the ticket window and collect my two hundred dollars. Not wishing to press my good fortune, I bet modestly on the next race.

Mary is filing her fingernails when I sit back down beside her. Hoping to gain her good graces, I give her all our winnings.

She looks at me over her glasses and says, “This does not get you off the hook.”

“So when will you forgive me?” I ask.

“I’ll forgive you when you evolve,” she snaps as she hands me back the money.

“I promise never again to bet on Frilly Miss. There—I’m evolving as we speak, but flowering takes time.”

Mary pockets her emery board and picks up the racing chart. “All right, Mister Work in Progress. I’ll forgive you for today. So who did you bet on in the next race?”

I pocket the money and then show her the ticket. “Missing Link,” I say.


About the Author

James Hanna is a retired probation officer and a former fiction editor. His work has appeared in over thirty journals, including Sixfold, Crack the Spine, and The Literary Review. His books, most of which have won awards, are available on Amazon.


Photo by Gene Devine on Unsplash