The last time Lizzie and Robin Hood, RH for short, had shrunk to ant size, they had ended up on the grooved gold button of her aqua jockey vest, the only gold button, her lucky button. The missing button had left her silk vest with only four silver buttons and a buttonhole with nothing to hold.
“Where are we this time RH?” Lizzie nervously asked as she looked across a maroon surface painted with a golden road that zigzagged like the letter W.
She didn’t feel quite as shocked as she had the first time this happened, but still she had to take a deep breath to steady herself before stroking the horse’s slick black neck, still wet with sweat from the race, to calm him. It’s a W, the one on the coaster, she realized.
The cardboard coaster was her newest good-luck charm. She had taken it, on a whim, only last night, from the restaurant table at the Winchester Hotel where she and her father had dined. She just needed something, anything, she could count on to help her – something to give her that extra bit of confidence she needed and the coaster seemed the perfect solution. It was lightweight, probably no heavier than her button, and small enough to fit in her pocket.
“We can’t survive here RH!” Panic pounded through her head like the heart of a horse in last place trying to make up time.
“We need water,” she said, feeling the grittiness of dirt from the track grinding between her teeth. “We have to get back to normal and back to the track before our win is contested, or worse, we die,” she said to RH.
He raised his head and belted out a neigh in agreement.
During the gold button incident, she didn’t know what else to call it, she had tried so many things, riding the rim of the button three times, closing her eyes and saying abracadabra, wishing, praying … She really didn’t know which thing had worked or if any of them had. Maybe I should just take a leap of faith and hope for the best.
“Get ready to jump,” she whispered in RH’s ear as she guided him to the top of the W.
It had been a while since they had practiced hurdle jumping, but RH was naturally good at it. She just didn’t know if he would jump from the edge into what looked like nothingness. We have to try something. She pressed her hands firmly into RH’s muscular neck, and he was off, hoofs hammering faster and faster towards the bottom of the W. When he suddenly halted and spun almost 180 degrees, about three paces from the coaster’s edge, jerking Lizzie’s head backward and to the side in a painful twist, Lizzie had her answer.
Lizzie pounded her thigh with her fist. Think Lizzie, think!
“What was the last thing I did to escape the button,” she asked RH rubbing at the pain in her neck. “Uh! I think I remember,” she said, feeling more than a little ashamed that she had put her total trust on a little round piece of metal and a bit of paper. She shook her head in amazement at herself. A button and a coaster – what was I thinking? She leaned forward to give RH a scratch behind his ear then slid off her saddle and looked up, her neck still aching.
“Dear God, I know that I was wrong. I know praying does not work like good luck charms, which obviously do not work. I know that you can do whatever you please when you please. If you please, will you please get me and RH back to” … and, before she could say normal, the blur of the people in the stands became more and more focused. She could make out the yellow sunflowers, pink peonies, and white plumes on row after row of ladies’ broad-brimmed hats.
Lizzie looked around. She spotted the Winner’s Circle straight ahead.
“Where in the world have you been Lizzie? It’s like you just disappeared,” her father said, almost breathless after doing his own race to find her.
Lizzie tried to pull the coaster out of her pocket to show him, but it wasn’t there.
“I’ll explain later, but you’re not going to believe me,” Lizzie said.
She looked past her dad and RH, past the stands, and past the clouds and whispered, “Thank you for holding on to me even when I let go of you!” Then Lizzie, RH, and her father stepped triumphantly into the circle.