Millionaire's Shot

By: Bev Pettersen



Then. “Go, Grace!” she called.

She swung, pulling back her mallet and lobbing the ball high in the air. It dropped twenty feet in front of the goalposts, a sphere of white rolling benignly over the grass.

Freckles was already moving in pursuit with Grace leaning over his neck and urging him on. But Jocelyn’s polo pony was much faster. Jocelyn overtook Grace in five strides, guiding her horse into Freckles’ shoulder and bullying them off the ball. The crowd groaned. All day, they’d been cheering on the kids, and Grace was the youngest rider of all. They would have loved to see her score the winning goal.

Boos and jeers came from the vocal tailgate section. “Give the kid a chance,” someone called. “It’s fun day,” a deep-voiced man hollered. And the Pony Club children were chanting some sort of ritualistic tune that Grace often hummed.

Freckles seemed to understand he was in the spotlight and he was a proven performer. He lowered his head, collected his weight, and whack! He body-slammed Jocelyn’s horse so hard in the shoulder that the animal flinched, then shrank back, wanting no more competition over a plastic ball.

Freckles shifted, smoothly positioning Grace so she could hit the ball with her right hand. He even slowed to a trot as if realizing there were only a few seconds left on the clock and this was a critical shot. Grace took aim, swung and the ball bounced between the white posts. The goal judge waved a flag over his head, signifying a goal. The crowd erupted.

Alex and Santiago galloped up beside Cassie, both of them grinning.

“Nice pass, sweetheart,” Alex said, leaning over and tapping Cassie’s helmet. “Did you two practice that?”

“Yes, they did,” Santiago said. He ruefully pumped their hands. “I spotted them practicing that last week. That’s why I had Jocelyn shadowing her. But the kid has come a long way. That was quite a ride-off. Good on you all.”

Cassie made a mental note not to practice plays when Santiago was in residence. But she couldn’t stop smiling. Because they had come a long way. And just seeing the happiness on Alex’s face left her light with a shared joy.

The crowd’s claps intensified. Whistles and laughter were followed by a groundswell of applause. She glanced around, rather confused. Even accounting for Grace’s enthusiastic friends, the cheering was much more vigorous than normal. The tournament trophy wasn’t even in sight. That was scheduled to be presented later, at the community barbecue.

“I believe Ginger just lost Best Playing Pony,” Alex said, reaching out and squeezing Cassie’s knee. “At least in popular opinion.”

She followed his smiling eyes to where Grace and Freckles remained in front of the goalposts.

Clearly the horse was a natural born showboat who hadn’t forgotten his movie cues. And while the young girl who’d never wanted to ride in public laughed and waved at her friends, Freckles was totally hamming it up by dropping bows to the adoring crowd.



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