"The notion that such persons are gay of heart and carefree is curiously untrue. They lead, as a matter of fact, an existence of jumpiness and apprehension. They sit on the edge of the chair of Literature. In the house of Life they have the feeling that they have never taken off their overcoats."
- James Thurber, My Life and Hard Times

Friday, June 21, 2013

The (not so) cool jerk

Some characters pop into my head as full-bodied people; I know them well and can write them without much fuss. Some people need me to get to know them better, so I find out their background, their preferences, and even their astrological signs.

Today I've spent the entire day with Bobby Fermino, one of the horse trainers in my new mystery. I don't like Bobby and I didn't want to spend time with him, but if he's going to be in the story, I have to know who he is.

I began by knowing that he is a manipulative, narcissistic jerk. He plays fast and loose with the rules. He steps on peoples' feelings without any empathy. He gets away with it because he wins.

But how did he get that way?

It was the hardest journaling I've ever done. I know some of you dabble in the Dark Art of Human Behavior. What do you think? Is this how Bobby got to be who he is?

I want to win. Doesn’t matter what at – I want to win at everything. It’s my parents’ fault. If they hadn’t spent so much time fawning over my big brother, I wouldn’t have had to try so hard. Tony could do no wrong. He was so shiny and perfect. I don’t get it.

I mean, for Pete’s sake, he always had his head stuck in a goddamned book. Yeah, he got the grades, but what fun is that? They gave him everything, just for a few goddamned A’s. A free ride to college, hell, a car to get there. Not just a car, a brand new car.
They were all impressed because Tony wanted to be like them. They're both doctors, but when I was six, Dad bought a little farm next to a big cattle spread. He and Mom thought we could 'stay close to the land' or some kind of weird shit like that.
School was boring. I couldn’t wait to get outa there. When Mom and Dad talked to me at all, it was to tell me I needed to apply myself. To what? Didn’t really know what I wanted to do, so I spent most of my time out with the guys next door at the ranch. Watched them ride fast, rope cattle, then drink a few beers. That looked like fun.

As soon as I was old enough, I started riding and roping and drinking with them. They were good guys. Not book smart. Not worried about anything. That’s the way to be. When you’re not worried, you can figure out how to get ahead.
Tony graduated from high school and got a BMW to drive to college. I graduated from high school and got the boot. No car, no college, just an invitation out the door to the “real world” and a promise to take me back when I “straightened up”.

Don’t do me no favors.

Good thing I’d been playing the angles. I met a gal, Kelsey, whose parents owned a big spread in Arizona, near Phoenix. I managed to bullshit my way into starting their young horses which gave me some income while I was banging their daughter. She was a nice kid. So nice I married her when she said she was knocked up.
Turns out, she was a sly one. There was no baby, but at least now I was in the family so I could slide my chair up to big table.

Soon I had a real trainer shingle, Bobby Fermino, All Around and Performance Horses. I could take a mediocre horse and turn them into a champion. Okay, so sometimes I needed a little more than just ‘training.’ Better living through chemistry, as they say. And of course there are procedures.
The clients didn’t mind. Their horses were winning at shows. I was winning. Winning money at reining. Winning prestige and a name at pleasure events. I didn’t even have to advertise. My clients took out ads in the Journal featuring me and their expensive horses.

The key was to get clients who didn’t want to ride their own horses. None of these amateur riders for me. I worked with horses, not people. That way I didn’t have a lot of eyes scrutinizing what I do. I got results. Who cares how I did it?
Not that I don’t like people. The horse show world is a great place to meet folks… especially the female kind. Could I help it if these girls flirted with me? My wife was hounding me for kids now. I wasn’t in the mood to raise any brats, so there’d be no sex there. Besides, she was starting to look her age. I still needed an outlet for my urges, though.

Kelsey walked into the tack room one night to find me with one of my outlets, Brittany. Funny, I never saw her until Brittany had put on her panties and left. That Kelsey was a sharp one. She had pictures. Lots of pictures, and not just the action shots of me and Brittany. Pictures of my training methods.

So my methods are harsh, so what? They’re just horses, for Pete’s sake. The clients can’t care, they’re winning. But the AQHA would care. I’d be lucky to be suspended.

I was given choices. Get out of town or else. She didn’t even care if my crimes tainted her family’s name. “Daddy’s got enough money to shield us.” She tossed me the keys to the ranch foreman’s 15-year old truck.

“Daddy can buy him a new one. Send me an address and I’ll ship your clothes.”
Luck is a funny thing. My bad luck had put my ass on the road at two in the morning. Good luck had put me on the road at the exact time to snap a picture that would change my life.
BTW, no offense, but this is who I see when I picture Bobby Fermino:
Sorry, Guy.

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