January, an excerpt from the short story in Ripple Meets the Deep

by Jason Tinney

A group of young professionals with Christmas presents gathered at two round tables.

The women, three of them, were all put together but the four men were dressed down in khakis, button-down shirts with loosened ties and fleece zip-ups. They went to the bar and inundated the bartender with drink orders: beers, gin and tonics, tequila and fruity, exotic shots that required lots of vodka—drinks specifically designed for getting drunk.jan 1 web photo jan notebook

Sam focused on one woman, a striking, tall blonde. She removed her red, velvet jacket to reveal a pleated, charcoal miniskirt and tight black, turtleneck sweater which amplified her breasts.

“January Jones.”

Sam hadn’t noticed the man sit down next to him. “Excuse me?”

“That woman you are staring at, she looks like January Jones,” the man said, not looking up from his newspaper.

He was a large man; everything about him was large, his voice, his girth. Even his gray suit seemed large for such a large man. With his palm, he pulled back his thinning gray hair exposing a deep widow’s peak. He shook his Baltimore Sun and expanded it full length, high above his brows. His eyes scanned left to right, moving down vertically, giving each article a quick glance before advancing to the top of the next page. He breathed heavy, sighed and snorted; sweat rose on his forehead and sometimes he panted. He readjusted his body upon the stool, trying to find the most comfortable position. Occasionally, he’d wiggle in his suit jacket and pull at his shirt collar. He’d cough, phlegm swimming in his throat for a moment until he could reach for a napkin, wipe his mouth, then manage to lean up and over to throw it in a trash can behind the bar…

“Who is January Jones?” Sam said.

“Actress,” the man said. “She’s on that TV show, Mad Men.”

“Never seen it,” Sam said…

The bartender came by and asked Sam if he wanted another Woodford.

“Yes, please. Thank you.”

The man looked up from the paper. “Derby bourbon, Woodford—bourbon of the Kentucky Derby…My family used to be in the horse racing business. My daddy trained and bred thoroughbreds. Maple Run Farm, in the Worthington Valley—not far from here. Up the road from Sagamore where Native Dancer is buried.”

“Native Dancer?”jan 2 Native Dancer TStone Sagamore

“Magnificent horse. A lot of great thoroughbreds trace their bloodlines back to Native Dancer.”

Sam offered the only thing he knew about horse racing: “I’ve been to the Preakness a few times.”

A cheeseburger arrived in front of the man without him ordering. “Preakness. Circus. Half the people there don’t even know a horse race is happening. Just drinking and dressing up for a show. Drunken idiots running across the tops of toilets in the infield.”

The man lifted his bun and dumped a side of jalapeños on the burger; then he drenched it with ketchup. He cut the sandwich in half. “Limestone,” he said, “good for making horse’s bones strong and that bourbon you’re drinking.”

The man bit into half of the divided cheeseburger. He wiped away the ketchup dripping from the sides of his mouth.

“Limestone shelf runs through Worthington Valley,” the man said. “My daddy told me if we couldn’t breed horses, we could always make whiskey.”