Pasiphaë Redux by Louise Dolan

Percie Baldwin enjoys the attention of admirers when she works out at the gym, but she only has eyes for one particularly magnificent creature.

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The Gym

Nordic Track equipment, personal trainers on staff. Percie adheres to a rotating schedule; upper body and cardio M-W-F, legs and core T-Th. Weekends: sprint intervals one day, hills and pyramid workouts the other. Gear: Bose headphones, Lululemon or Athleta, revealing rock-solid thighs, shapely arms, sculpted breasts. She never makes eye contact, but everyone watches her. Some dream of achieving her fitness level, others of sliding hands over the taut body always glowing with a slight tan, sprinkle of freckles, as if she'd just returned from St. Croix. Some stroll past her just to inhale her warm, salty perfume.

The Hotel

Long-term reservation at the Envoy, fourth floor. King bed with extra pillows and goose-down duvet. Minibar stocked with vintage Dom, crystal flutes and bowl of grapes, bathroom with La Mer. Terrycloth robes in the closet as well as several clothing options for her with matching shoes, gauloises on bedside table. She keeps her own key.

Percie peels her damp body from the man lying beneath her then lights a cigarette. She inhales deeply before settling back against voluminous pillows, auburn hair fanning out on the ivory linens.

"Those probably aren't very good for you."

"You're probably not, either." She laughs with a phlegmy gurgle, pulls up the covers. He searches the floor for his gym clothes.

"I've got to get back."

"What's the rush, my white bull?" Percie throws back the duvet enough to reveal one leg raised at the knee.

"I've got new trainers starting this afternoon."

"Mmmm, fresh meat. Need any help?"

"Ha! I'll let you know." He sits on the upholstered chair opposite the bed, ties his tennis shoes.

Percie stubs out the cigarette, tiptoes around the bed, picks up shorts, bra, thong. "Do you know anything about horse racing?"

"Not really, why?"

"I'm thinking about going to Tampa Bay Downs. Any interest?"

The Gym Manager

Mario's seen aficionadas before, but Percie's in a class all by herself. He knew from their first session together she'd signed up for more than personal training. The Envoy was unexpected, though. She fucks with the same level of precision that she executes curls and bicep reps. Nice finish with the vintage Dom. Who'd turn that down?

Tampa Bay Downs

Opened in 1926 by Kentucky horse breeders needing a winter haven. One-mile dirt oval track, thoroughbred racing, nicknamed "Santa Anita of the South." Stages races M-W-F, minimum eight horses per gig, guarantees high stakes for Exactas, Trifectas, Superfectas, Multi-race-bets, and Ultimate Picks. Low take-out rates, popular with retirees and compulsive gamblers. Grandstand $3, reserved seating $$$.

Friday, late morning, idling red Porsche 718 Boxster, rooftop folds itself into the back seat. Route, I-275; Mario's cropped bleached hair and Percie's long tendrils whip wildly in salty air atop steep access ramp to the Sunshine Skyway over the choppy bay. Tampa Bay Downs, VIP parking. Reserved viewing area.

"When does your husband get back from Europe?"

"Are you trying to spoil my day?" Percie studies the daily sheet, narrows it down to the roan and a black stallion, bets on Poseidon and Lord Minotaur.

"You seem drawn to the mythological names."

"My curse, I'm afraid," she whispers, her lips brushing his ear. The announcer's voice booms, calls out the leading horses.

Percie screams a throaty "Go!" She peers through binoculars, sees Lord Minotaur cross the finish line a full length ahead. The crowd rushes to cash in winning tickets, Percie pulls Mario toward the turf track and stables instead, where trainers cool down horses.

"Excuse me. I'd like to speak with Lord Minotaur's trainer."

"Not possible, ma'am, this part of the racetrack is off limits to the public."

"Of course, but I was told to ask for him at this gate."

Mario stands off to the side beneath fluttering banana tree fronds, arms folded across his chest. Another employee approaches Percie at the gate.

"Percie Baldwin. My husband is on the board of directors. I was told I could request a private meeting with the trainer of Lord Minotaur. Is he available?"

"With Kerrin McEvoy?"

"Yes, I believe that's right. Is he available?"

"Wait here, Miss."

The Horse Trainer

Raised in the grasslands known as the Downs, near Scone, New South Wales, the Kentucky of the Southern Hemisphere. More accustomed to the open prairies of southeastern Australia than the tropical environment of Florida, Kerrin McEvoy has settled in at Tampa Bay Downs. He's amused by the lonely snowbird retirees who frequent the racetrack and supper clubs after hours. His Aussie accent guarantees a steady stream of aging divorcées looking for a little warmth after last-call. Percie doesn't fit the model, catches him off-guard. Something else is going on with her. Thought he'd seen it all in the Downs.

The Husband

More patron than spouse, Morris Baldwin pays a high price to have Percie on his arm at the private equity corporate events where her polish and discrete banter give credibility when due diligence is paramount. Always a businessman, he swallows the hard pills, meets the high price of success in the stratosphere where he operates. A deal's a deal. But the dogs in the house drive him crazy. He spends more time in London and Amsterdam these days.

The Afghan Hounds

Prince and Sheik, five-year-old litter mates, feast daily on high-protein meals from a specialty delivery service. The seventy-five-pound, long-haired reds get daily exercise with trainers on the grounds of their home. Bred for beauty, they're known since ancient times as the "scented hound" due to glands in their cheeks that exude musky odors of jasmine, sandalwood, and cinnamon. They tolerate daily hour-long grooming before lounging in soundproof theater to wait for Percie cuddle time most afternoons.

"It's you," Percie glances over her shoulder, sees Morris in the theater doorway. "Did I know you were coming?" Clad only in an open cotton robe, she is sprawled out on the Natuzzi Italian modular couch, dogs on either side, licking up and down the entire length of her bare body. Le Mépris, a favorite Jean-Luc Godard film with Brigitte Bardot, streams in black and white. "Join us."

"Jesus, Percie. Have you no shame?"

"Are you staying for dinner?"

At the Envoy the next day, she puts Mario through the paces, leaving them both panting when she spills over onto the bed. She lights up a Gauloise, inhales deeply.

"New perfume? Cinnamon?" Mario asks.

Percie steps ballerina-like to the minibar, selects a bottle, pops the cork. She fills the flutes, hands one to Mario, raises her glass.

"What are we toasting?"

"How are those new trainers coming along?" Percie peruses the closet, selects a sundress. "Are you up for a little horseplay this afternoon? Races start at noon."

"Not today, I gotta run payroll, end of the month shit."

Mario slides off the bed, hunts for his clothes.

"I'm feeling lucky. You sure you don't want to reconsider?"

"How 'bout a raincheck?"

Percie refills their glasses, heads to the bathroom. "Let yourself out."

The Horse

Thoroughbreds, like Lord Minotaur, are sensitive, highly spirited, averaging sixteen hands (64 inches), one thousand pounds. Racers, bred for speed and stamina, are also considered intelligent, willing, ideal for a variety of equine activities.

Friday, packed grandstand. Reserved area, well-heeled betters and owners. Aroma of brats, hotdogs, dirt from the churned-up track. Percie bets on Lord Minotaur, wins race five by a nose. She heads to the barn near turf track, pushes through the throng to gated entrance.

"Kerrin McEvoy."

"Miss, this area is restricted."

"Mr. McEvoy expects me. Please tell him I'm here."

Percie sees him approach, belt buckle catches sunlight, boots kick up dust. She removes a roll of hundred-dollar bills from her purse.

"Mr. McEvoy."

"Miss, uh, I'm sorry, what was your name?"

"Percie Baldwin. I was hoping to see Lord Minotaur today."

"Listen, the other day, I gave you access as a special favor to the board. This is a restricted area..."

"Mr. McEvoy, I'm fully aware of your rules for the general public, but we've already determined I'm not part of that group."

"Miss Baldwin, what is it that you want?"

"I lost a black stallion, looked just like Lord Minotaur, and I'm still grieving. It does me a lot of good to stand near him, hear him snort, feel the strength and heat of his long, muscular neck. I'm fully aware this is an unusual request, but I hope you understand that it's part of my therapy to recovery."

"I'm sorry to hear about your horse. Did you have to put him down?"

"Accident, broken leg. I don't want to rehash the details, you understand."

"Of course."

Percie reaches through the fence, slips the wad into his fingers.

"Maybe this will make it less of a burden for you."

Kerrin shakes his head, slides the dough into his back pocket, lifts the ring from fence post, allows her to pass.

"OK, one more time."

They enter the barn, aroma of fresh hay, ligament ointment, horse piss. Lord Minotaur's stall, groomsman brushes him down post-race. Lord Minotaur lifts head, acknowledges her arrival.

"My grief is embarrassing. I'd prefer to let me tears fall in private."

"OK, but this is the last time, and you must remain outside the stall."

Kerrin and groomsman exit the barn. Percie lifts the gate's metal ring, slips in next to the stallion. He neighs in response, stomps a front hoof. Percie reaches out slowly, strokes his neck with one hand, unbuttons sundress with the other. She steps closer, faces the giant horse. Lord Minotaur nods, snuffles her chest. She places one hand at his throat, the other on the fence to steady herself. She strokes his neck, he nuzzles her breasts, her head falls back in ecstasy. He pees a steamy golden shower, she exhales a muffled howl.

"Oh, Lord Minotaur, I'd like to take you home with me."

"Then do," he neighs in her ear.

She steps back, her exposed breasts heaving.

"Then do," he neighs again.

Kerrin and the groomsman return. Outside the stall, Percie dabs at her face as if wiping away tears.

"Thank you."

"OK, Miss Baldwin. Maybe it's time to get a new horse."


Percie skips the afternoon session with Prince and Sheik to shower and dress for dinner. Morris arrives, finds Percie in the living room with chilled Dom, twinkling candles, and the aroma of roast chicken.

"Have I forgotten dinner plans?" Morris asks.

"Come, sit with me. We've haven't shared a bottle in a long time."

Morris joins her on the couch. They toast. She leans toward him with hors d'oeuvres and a plunging neckline. They dine, they reminisce, they open a fresh bottle for the bedroom. They lie in post-coital bliss, sip champagne.

"I've been betting at the track, my new hobby. They're about to retire an old stallion. I'd like to make sure he has a good home." Percie strokes Morris, looks for interest in a second go.

"The horse?"

"Yes, Lord Minotaur. He's won a few races for me, but evidently, he's on his last legs."

"You mean you'd pay to have him shipped to some horse retirement farm?"

"Well, I'd like to keep him close. I'll board him nearby."

Morris sits up, sets his glass on the bedside table.

"A horse? That's what this is all about, isn't it?"

"What do you mean, this?"

"Dinner, champagne, sexy dress, candles. You're sick, Percie. Sick."

"I merely want to save him from the glue factory."

Morris gets out of bed, collects his clothes.

"But who will save you?"


  1. I was captivated! That said, I felt it needed a better ending…to tie things together better. The husband’s opinion did not matter much. I was cool to be in this world for a while. The details of the sub-worlds…the hotel especially…were enchanting. She is written as almost mythical. Maybe not “almost.” She and the horse…mysterious. Beautiful!

  2. A very strong, curious, but wholly effective narrative voice here. I really enjoyed the savvy, reportage styled, almost gumshoe style of this. I won't pretend I fully understood the story, but I really enjoy the parallel with the Greek mythology and the character of the confident, sensual Percie.

  3. Doug Hawley

    This goes a little past little girls likng ponies. Maybe it should be set in Tijuana. Glad to see open minded people in fiction and on the web.

    Sorry, I'll bring me into this. I recently wrote a story in which a woman shares an intimate moment with a were (as in werewolf) Irish Setter. Bill Tope, hero of FOTW (known very locally as BT), advised me no one would accept it, so I toned it down and got it accepted at Freedom Fiction Journal, which I like because of the art (as Charlie knows). Maybe I should send the unfiltered version to FOTW after publication this month I think in FFJ. MM (AKA Mr. Mirth).

  4. I love how the character names match up to the Minotaur legend.

    *M*inos, King of Crete prayed to Poseidon to send him a bull as a sign of the god’s favor. Minos was supposed to sacrifice the bull to honor Poseidon, but he instead decided to keep it. To punish Minos, Poseidon cursed *P*asiphae, the wife of Minos, to fall in love with the bull. She had the famous builder Daedalus make a hollowed out wooden cow, into which she then climbed, and used to mate with the bull. She bore a child - the Minotaur…

    Percie Baldwin = Pasiphae

    Marvin Baldwin = Minos

  5. Absolutely agree that the style feels gumshoe detective, I could not get enough of that! Loved the truncated writing style, it felt like a series of memos, or an inventory being taken of each setting and their players. Feels sort of like a play in that way too, this inventory of items and moods and characters with their essential properties and a handful of stage directions. Appropriate considering the greek stories were told through epic poems or plays which had there's characteristics often too??
    I thought the interspersed dialogue was well-utilized, and the character development was done so quickly, new insights and depth added concisely with each characterization in each section.
    Unapologetically taboo in concept but not graphic in the exploitation or smutty at all. You handled a very touchy topic very well in resurrecting this myth in a modern woman.
    On that note, I do love the handling of Persie's autonomy in this, its parallels to the autonomy that Pasiphae doesn't have really in the classic Greek myth versus the autonomy that she does claim in a way in like, Madeline Miller's novel Circe, and in this resurrection of her in a different universe here... it's intriguing. The exploitation of the animals of course and Persie's superficiality make her as a person I think unlikable, but as a character she is very compelling and powerful, sultry, and f*ed up. Really cool story overall, already have shared with friends. Thanks so much for writing it and putting it out there!

  6. Adam should have a field day with this odd woman; I’m afraid her neuroses surpass my BS in Psychology and I am out of my depth. I must say, however, that Percie might in another day and at another time fitted well into one of my own stories; she’s that odd, and not a little malevolent. Good story, Louise.

  7. Huge thank you to everyone for reading my story, and I love all the comments. This story was written for an MFA novel class, lots of fun to see how the assignment prompt took 18 of us in a variety of directions. Perhaps I can keep going with Percie Baldwin, there seems to be an appetite for this complex character!