Sport of Kings

An essay by Rick King, as provided by Judith Field
Art by Luke Spooner

I woke up, rolled over and collided with something solid. Stretching out a shaking hand, I opened my eyes. I was facing the oak tree in the front garden. Rainwater dripped onto me from the branches. A moment of calm, then images of the night before tried to shove their feet in the doorway of my memory. I groaned, and tried to get up.

Francine, my fiancée, stuck her head out of the bedroom window, her mouth pursed up like a cat’s backside. She was saying something I couldn’t hear, all I could lipread was my name, Rick. Touching my ear, I looked up at her and shrugged my shoulders: no hearing aid. I clenched my right fist and rubbed it in a circle on my upper chest: “Sorry.” Francine didn’t understand sign language but it couldn’t do any harm. Bit like praying, really.

I’d only recently got this new hearing aid, and it wouldn’t stay in properly whatever I did. In these days of health cuts, would they give me another? The best cost thousands, if you went private. I’d been paid last week but was still overdrawn. And only another £500 to spend on the credit card.

Francine tiptoed round the puddles. I lip-read “pissed,” “knob head” (she had her own sign for that), and “AGAIN.” I turned away. She walked round till she was facing me.

Billy’s stag night. You’d better not act like that on yours. And I suppose you didn’t hear all that thunder. Silly bugger, picking the most dangerous place to lie, under a tree. Why didn’t you come in?”

“I couldn’t find the keyhole.” I could just about hear my own voice, sounding as though it came from the other side of the house, via socks stuffed in my ears. “Stop shouting–it’s impossible to lip-read. Shut up and let me get some sleep. See you tomorrow. Unless I die first, please God.” I staggered into the house. Then I remembered.  “Jeez, I can’t even do that,” I said, shaking off Francine’s hand clutching at my arm. “I’ll have to see if the hospital will give me another aid, spin them some sob story.”

“Oh no, not today,” Francine said. “Tomorrow you can go and get an ear trumpet for all I care, but in half an hour you and I are off to Aintree. It’s the Grand National, and I bust a gut getting these tickets. Remember?”

I held my head and groaned.

“Get out of those wet things, have a shower, put on something smart,” Francine said. “I’ll see if I can find your hearing aid in the garden. Hurry up, the cab’ll be here soon.”

I pulled random items of clothing out of the wardrobe onto the floor, looking for something that complied with the “no dress code but smart is preferable” nonsense on the Aintree website. Francine’s fancy hat was on the bed, “showcasing her favourite race day outfit” (website again). Someone should tell her it made a short girl look like a hallucinogenic mushroom. Someone.

Francine came in, holding out her hand. “It was in a puddle by the tree. Hope it never got struck by lightning.  Have to let it dry naturally, like that mobile phone you dropped down the bog. Maybe we should stick it in some rice.”

“No time–I want to be able to hear the racing commentary. You know how it is–the horses go past in a whoosh,” I swept my arm round, the sudden movement making me stagger, “then you don’t see them till the end.” I wiped the aid on my sleeve then inserted it, poking the soft dome on the end of the tube as far inside as it would go. It made me cough. It’d be a miracle if it worked.

“WELL?” Francine asked.

“It’s OK, stop shouting.”

“Great, maybe it’s our lucky day.” She shoved the hat onto the back of her head so that it looked like a halo and went downstairs.

Sport of Kings

So the aid’s picking up a radio play that just happens to have characters with the same name as these horses, I thought, and who just happen to be talking about racing.
The other spectators were either silent, or discussing the horses. Hearing voices was a sign of madness, I told myself. Francine wouldn’t want to know me if I’d lost my marbles. She’d find someone else. I shuddered, trying desperately to think of another explanation.

To read the rest of this story, check out the Mad Scientist Journal: Summer 2014 collection.

Following the honeymoon of a lifetime on a private island in the Indian Ocean, Rick King, aged 25, lives with his wife, Francine, 23, in a five bedroomed house in an acre of its own grounds. He recently came into a lot of money. He says it was the lottery, but the week he suddenly started spending, the papers say the jackpot winner lived in another part of the country. If you ask him how he suddenly came up in the world, he makes like he can’t hear you.

Judith Field was born in Liverpool, England and lives in London. She is the daughter of writers, and learned how to agonise over fiction submissions at her mother’s (and father’s) knee.

Her fiction, mainly speculative, has appeared in a variety of publications in the USA and UK. She speaks five languages and can say, “Please publish this story” in all of them. She is also a pharmacist, freelance journalist, editor, medical writer, and indexer. She blogs at

Luke Spooner a.k.a. ‘Carrion House’ currently lives and works in the South of England. Having recently graduated from the University of Portsmouth with a first class degree he is now a full time illustrator for just about any project that piques his interest. Despite regular forays into children’s books and fairy tales his true love lies in anything macabre, melancholy or dark in nature and essence. He believes that the job of putting someone else’s words into a visual form, to accompany and support their text, is a massive responsibility as well as being something he truly treasures. You can visit his web site at

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