Nicolas Brasch is the author of more than 400 books (mainly for children and young adults) for many leading international publishers. Several of his books have won Australian and international awards. He also teaches professional and creative writing at Swinburne University; presents workshops and seminars on writing and storytelling; is the founder of Writing 101, a platform of online writing courses; and currently undertaking a PhD in creative writing

Jimmy reached for his whip halfway down the straight. He was in front but could hear the hooves behind, getting closer, louder. He needed this win, more than the others did. He flourished the whip but did not strike his horse; there was still time for that. He’d ridden this horse before and knew that it shied when hit. The whip had to be the last resort.

At the hundred metre mark, he could hear Ollie yelling behind him. Ollie always yelled when it got close and willing. He reckoned his horses reacted, that they knew he was yelling at them. Jimmy wasn’t so sure but Ollie’s record spoke for itself.

Hands and heels, hands and heels, Jimmy urged his horse towards the line.

‘Gotcha,’ he heard from Ollie, now just a neck away.

Jimmy thought he could hold on for the win. Here was the post.

‘Gotcha Jimmy,’ from Ollie, almost alongside.

Jimmy panicked. He needn’t have. He would have been home. Sure, only by a nose, but a nose is as good as a length, is as good as a mile.

Jimmy gave his horse one sharp whack on the flank and his horse veered to the right. It gave Ollie’s horse one almighty shove, and Ollie, high in the stirrups, lost balance, teetered, tottered and eventually fell to the ground.

Jimmy turned his head as his horse kept galloping. He saw Ollie hitting the turf, and three, four, five, six horses thundering over him. Six times four – that’s twenty-four hooves.

They raced Ollie to hospital but they might as well not have bothered.

Jimmy didn’t go to the funeral. No-one blamed him – these things happened – but he blamed himself. What if? What if? What if?

He gathered the courage to go to the wake. He was at the bar, queuing for a drink.

He felt a pair of hands grabbing him from behind. A friendly gesture, nothing in malice.

‘Gotcha,’ a voice said. Nothing in malice.

Jimmy crumbled to the floor.