Off Track Betting

by

11/17/2005

Hillside Ave & 179th Pl, Jamaica, NY 11432

Neighborhood: Jamaica, Queens

Off Track Betting could be a Greyhound Bus Station at 4 am or a bar where I learned to play spoons.

It could be a retiree’s living room. One, someone calls him Bobby, who possesses comfortable gems on his finger and windbreaker. I watch him scribble “faster” at the top of each race, not for the contenders but an incitement to himself to keep up.

I decide to put ten down on the eight horse to win because I like the sound of Crouching Thunder. Bobby says the odds are twelve to one for my choice, a four-year-old running against five-year-olds. He thinks maybe I’ll have beginner’s luck.

The competitors are listed like fates. For drinkers, there’s Vague Memory; for the hopeful, Verge of a Miracle; for the superstitious, Dark Pagan. Where there’s smoke, there’s Conflagration. Big Burn and Brilliant Joke are favorites.

Crouching Thunder loses—finishes dead last while Bobby’s pick takes first. “You’re not gonna get it today,” bellows from the speaker. Bobby tells me he was saying that long before the announcer.

So, he gives me advice for the next race: Nunez, the woman jockey, is good on turf with Strikeapose. We place our bets.

“Predatory Pidgeon, Señor Charismatic, Kielbasa Cutea, and Strikeaposerose go head to head. Softshoeshuffle comes out on top last second, and it’s Softshoeshuffle.”

We throw up our stubs.

Bobby had been warm. He just associated the wrong horse with the right jockey. I realize this on the train home: Nunez was on Softshoe, not Strikeapose, and it was Bobby’s thick glasses that had won out over both of us.

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