written by Rossella Di Palma
Tale of an Irish Gentleman based on the true story of Jim Rabbit, known in Rome under the name of Jazz
As the man turned his shoulders and closed the door, the room got suddenly darker. She was used to that routine: each night, after the last meal of the day, a man with a green hat, such a thing they call "baseball cap" , came and closed the door. The space was thus becoming narrower and this was the best time to socialize with her cell mates Jim, a middle aged dark haired gentleman and Rob a younger blond fellow. They were all condemned to the same monotonous life: training, training and even more training. Everyday was alike except for the racing days, twice a week. They all were athletes but for them training was no longer a pleasure merely a duty. Their meals were carefully planned: it was not a homemade tasty died but a balanced cocktail of proteins, fats, sugars and minerals, the speed recipe. They had the best doctors and the best trainers but they had no money of their own and they were denied freedom and feelings. All feelings but for the desire to run and win were banned. There was no room for fear, sadness or love but, as they all felt lonely, regardless of the rule, feelings of affection and support were common, especially among cell mates.
Every night, right after the man with the green "baseball cap" had closed the door, Shirley, Jim and Rob used to gather together to listen to each other's dreams, hopes and stories. Shirley thought the most interesting stories were those told by Jim, the oldest of the three. Like most of the athletes, Jim descended from an aristocratic English family but he was born in Ireland, in the green Limerick County. As he was a very promising youngster he was soon introduced to racing techniques and taken away from his family when he was still very young. He grew up strong and independent and, as planned, he developed the best racing techniques. The harsh training did not modify his gentle nature: he could always adapt to every situation, he was always eager to please and run faster and faster to see a smile on the faces of his team members and on those of his supporters. He did not run for himself, but, nevertheless, he tried hard to do his best and to win. Unfortunately that was not enough. He was fast, but not fast enough, he trained and trained, he was given pills to increase his speed but he could gain only a few victories. A sense of frustration grew and, since the costs of using training's facilities and racing fees were very high, the team decided to send Jim abroad were racing was less competitive.
From one day to another, Jim found himself in a foreign land. He heard people speak a different language and although he had never been out of the track he knew that land was not as green as Ireland. The mildness of the climate was not enough to comfort him, he was still missing the green grass of Limerick County. There were many other Irish racers (as the where very renowned abroad) but none was so fond of Ireland as Jim. He did no care about Irish politics and the problems in the North, he was not a James Joyce affectionate reader but he was deeply attached to his native land. He wanted to go back to Limerick Co., return to the farm he was born on, visit the horses in the stable and smell hay, go into the fields hunt hares running free in the green grass. He remembered all things in detail and often described them to Shirley: his mother and his brothers, the farmer's house, the kids, and Molly, the red haired farmer's daughter who was always kind to him when he was little. Jim thought, that maybe, if he learnt how to run faster, he could go back to Ireland. He spent months watching the others running, refining his technique and thinking how he could take advantage of the wind, of the mud and of the cold rainy days to which the others were not used. His efforts brought a few victories but it was not enough, he thought, as he was not yet in Ireland. He became one of the fastest and most famous racers but since he was ignorant of cunning and treachery, still, he only won a few victories. He knew there was a rival to beat: Dave a young racer, who was also an Irish . Jim thought Dave was so good because he also wanted to go back to Ireland and believed that only one of them, the best, could go back. He knew Dave was younger, full of energy and strong but he ignored his merciless nature.
That night, after the man with the green hat had closed the door, Jim told his plan to Shirley and Rob, his best friends. It had been raining for the whole day, Jim hoped there would be mud on the track on the following day. He told Shirley and Rob he wanted this to be his last race in that country. He wanted to win, and as a winner, go back to his homeland. He knew about Dave and he was well determined to win. He had to. "Tomorrow's race will be my last race" Jim told to his mates. The following afternoon, when everybody was getting ready for the race, Jim gave a quick look at the soil: the sun had not drained it completely, he could take advantage of those conditions. Then he raised his head and saw Dave, courted by a his trainers and by some admirers. Also Dave saw Jim but just as he did, he turned his skinny head in the opposite direction. Everybody took his place, there were six racers but everyone knew it was Jim and Dave's race. Thanks to them the bookmakers had earnt good money, they thought Dave would win but still many gamblers decided to trust Jim. The race began and, after the first curve, Jim took the lead, Dave was right behind him until… Until at the third curve (an inclined one) Dave, taking advantage of his muscles and of his heavier weight, willingly, hurt Jim, who fell violently tothe ground breaking his foreleg. He tried to get up and continue running but it was too painful, he walked a few meters and fell again, helpless. Shirley and Rob, watched the scene but they could not aid him as they were not allowed.
He remained there alone until the race was over, then a woman and some of the men with the green hats came and took him away. The woman was very kind and she had red hair, exactly like Molly, the farmer's daughter. "Maybe she is Irish too", thought Jim, "even if she does not speak English. Maybe she will take me back to Limerick…"Then he lost his senses.
When he woke up he realized his leg was immobilized, he heard somebody say it was broken. Another voice, in the back added he could recover but no longer run. He panicked, he had never thought of himself as an ex-racer, after all, he had always been told he was born to run. He tried to look at the situation in a different way… "If I have to retire… Maybe they will send me back home, in the countryside. Yes, it should be like that. Yes, yes, it sounds very logical… "
A few days passed, Jim, with his immobilized leg, was back in the cell with Shirley and Rob, who were planning to avenge him and punish Dave. One morning he saw a very young athlete come by accompanied by some men. A man opened the cell, the new racer was put inside and Jim was quickly taken out. He did not have the time to confess to Shirley that he had loved her since the first moment, nor to say goodbye to Rob, his best friend. He was carried onto a van, he was not alone in there. There were many others with broken legs, arms or shoulders. In the darkness he thought he recognized Dave: he had a broken shoulder. As the van started moving , Jim fell quickly asleep. He believed they were all going back to Ireland. As he entered the van from the left side he did not read the huge sign written on the right: "Falling Stars Laboratories." They were excellent athletes, they had a high percentage of oxygen and red cells in their blood: they were first class blood donors.
After all, who cared about Jim? Jim, whose surname was "Rabbit", whose mother was "Black Zorrow" and whose father "Rallying King", and who, after all, was just a greyhound? Maybe Molly, in the green Limerick County, was still thinking of him.