is a very quiet sport. Nobody shouts "they're off," and there is little
applause. And in this silent tension, Rommel came clear away as the trap
sprang. "By Jesus, up and away like a cock angel," somebody near me
couldn't help exclaiming. And I was thinking, I'm a jinx no more.
Just after that,
something terrible happened. Rommel was in front at the first bend, a good two
lengths clear. And then, just as he reached the sprint box from which they
start the 300-yard races, he stopped dead for an instant.
didn't you see the aul' hero," Michael was saying in the Greyhound Inn half
an hour later, "the way he almost got in front again on the last straight!
But there was no way through for him."
to do something about that bloody hare," said a sympathizer from behind his
stout. "It was going slow, do you know that? The poor bloody dog stopped
because he was windin' himself up to spring on the hare. He thought he was
going to grab it."
" 'Tis the
lights," said another apologist. "They had him all confused."
"Let me get
you a drink," I said to Joan Brennan. I had considered other speeches, but
this seemed the best.
"I'll have a
gin and tonic," she said, "and a firm promise you'll not be within 20
miles of Waterford track next Saturday night."
So the last
evening I spent with Michael was driving north up the valley of the Blackwater,
the road a luminous green tunnel with oak boughs locking overhead and the
sunlight filtering through. We were still debating the mystery of Rommel's
weird failure. "He could have thought that the sprint box was the finish
line," Michael offered. We pondered this in silence awhile. "Anyhow,
the hell with it," said Michael suddenly. "We'll see how he goes at
Waterford next week. He won't be racing too many times after this. He's getting
on a bit."
We left the main
road and swung down a lane where the green gloom deepened. "What will
happen to him?" I asked, knowing the usual fate of a spent greyhound, the
hole dug ready, the crack of a .22 in the morning.
"He's been a
great old hero," Michael said. "We'll let him finish his time out easy
on Brett's farm. It's all been arranged."