Art courtesy of Jen Ferguson
This feature contains adult content intended for mature audiences
Note from author John Perrotta: This blog is the writer’s depiction of an imagined racetrack-based story, an ongoing saga, which includes some of the characters depicted in the ill-fated “Luck” series.
Cast of characters
Marcus - wheelchair-bound since falling from a tree as a child, he’s irascible but sensitive, and his world revolves around trying to pick winners at the track.
Jerry – Marcus’ best friend, a player in many senses of the word, he’s a clever horse handicapper with a weakness for Texas Hold ’Em poker and good-looking women.
Renzo - a sweet guy who’s not that great at handicapping but loves the familial relationship of a group of gamblers.
Lonnie – another good soul who has a load of self-esteem issues and deals with them by trying to be the “cool” one.
Ronnie Jenkins – a veteran jockey nearing the end of a career. He’s a former top rider and Derby winner but suffers from PTSD after a series of spills and wants one more chance with a “big” horse.
Joey Rathburn – longtime jockey agent, he has toiled in ambiguity for years and now has a shot at the gold ring.
Rosie Shanahan – the Irish import, she’s moved up from exercise girl to jockey and is proving she can hold her own with the boys.
Walter Smith – an old-school horseman, he’s come to California with his only horse to get away from bad memories in Kentucky. When the horse turns out to be a real runner, he gets more attention than he wanted.
Turo Escalante – a Peruvian misanthrope, he’s a skilled horseman with a big ego that gets tested when a talented horse with shady connections lands in his barn.
Ace Bernstein – mob-connected “businessman” who has done time for a frame-up, and now he is looking for revenge. Bernstein loves the track and has a dream of resurrecting the sport.
Gus Demitriou – Ace’s longtime driver, bodyguard and confidante. Winning a big slot jackpot fixed by Ace, he’s been the beard for the purchase of a talented Irish colt.
Mike Smythe – an evil mob guy who framed Ace and is obsessed with making his life difficult. Sometimes seems like the devil himself.
Goose – the “fifth wheel” of the Degenerates, he’s a lifetime racetracker who gambles every day and occasionally trains horses. He and Renzo bonded when they tried to claim Mon Gateau.
Bayou Bobby – the short-order cook in the Jockeys’ Room — a perennial wise guy.
Birddog – a shady jockey agent.
Chaz – Renzo’s little brother, done with a stint in rehab.
Moonbeam – Renzo’s waitress girlfriend from the diner.
Naomi – Jerry’s card-dealer girlfriend.
Kitti – one of Ronnie Jenkin’s ex-wives, she’s a former Las Vegas showgirl with a wild streak.
“Doctor says he needs to stay here; forget about moving him for a while,” says Gus.
“How long will they have to keep him in the coma?” asks Brent.
“Until the swelling around his brain goes down, maybe a day, maybe a week. Who knows?”
The Greeks’ eyes are filled with tears.
“All my fault … ”
Miguel hustles past Clocker’s Corner with the Flack hot on his tail.
“So, Escalante will still be the trainer of record?” asks the Flack.
Miguel answers in Spanish, no help to the Flack.
“Are they going to let him out on bail?” he asks as Miguel ignores him, raising binoculars to watch a horse on the backstretch.
Smythe’s on a house phone at the lobby bar in the Intercontinental Hotel, swirling a glass of Malbec.
“My dear Cohen,” he says, “tell them whatever you like about your friend DiRossi. I’m in Buenos Aires on a business trip, tending my Argentine interests. You do have my deepest sympathies.”
He listens and laughs.
“How in the world did he get in the trunk of your car?”
Rathburn tries to convince his lawyer.
“Intent to sell … ” says Rathburn. “Like I even know what the stuff is. I think I tried to smoke it once, but I’m sure I didn’t inhale.”
“Two pounds of hashish is no small offense,” says the lawyer.
A few cells away, Escalante’s lawyer spells it out for him.
“You didn’t have a permit for the handgun they found in your house … plus you were already arrested for assault and battery on him, then threatened him in public … several times,” he says.
“And you guys have been in a claiming war with for months.”
“I was saving those horses from him. Effing horse abuser … that somebody should have stabbed up a long time ago,” snaps Escalante.
“Great. Keep up that kind of talk, my friend, and it’ll be murder-one real fast,” says the lawyer.
“So when can I get out of here?”
“Depends on whether the judge thinks you’re a flight risk,” replies the attorney. “Let’s hope he even lets you post bail.”
Out of Luck Blog Archive
Anna’s leaning on a tack trunk, taking notes as the Old Man recalls a January night in Kentucky several years ago.
“I thought it was odd, Luther calling in sick. Luther, he’s night watchman. He mostly just kept them watered off, there in case any got cast in their stall, caught up agin’ the wall. Never missed a night in ten years I was there, before that,” mused the Old Man.
“And you went to the barn when you heard Delphi?” she prompts.
“Screaming bloody murder, he was. Called the vet going out the door and he was there in fifteen, twenty minutes. Insurance guy right behind him, too.”
“And you called him too?” asks Anna.
“Who?” asks the trainer.
“The insurance guy,” she says.
“Nah. Colonel’s son-in-law called him I guess,” says Smith, “right away.”
“Make the rider Shanahan, Rosie Shanahan,” says Marylyn the trainer as a clerk fills out the entry blank, “and hope the race goes.”
When she steps out of the booth, Goose is waiting.
“Anybody tough in there?” he says.
“Don’t matter,” says the trainer. “Nobody’s beating him unless they grow wings. You can tell the owners to come and get their pictures took.”
“Great,” nods Goose with a wan smile.
From the porch of the Jockey’s Room, Rosie and the Clerk of Scales can see Kitti reading Ronnie the riot act in the center of the paddock.
“That’s what they call a love-hate relationship,” says Rosie.
“He has no fear of those thousand-pound horses, but her he’s scared to death of,” says the Clerk of Scales.
Lonnie and Renzo are at the program vendor’s kiosk.
“Get one for me,” says Lonnie. “All’s I’ve got is hundreds.”
“I got to go back,” says Renzo,
“We must have left Marcus’ numbers in the car.”
“No biggie, it was a Pick 3,” says Lonnie, smiling at the girl selling programs. “Three, four, five with five singled with one, three, 12 for two hundred.”
“Wasn’t it the Pick 4?” Renzo wonders aloud.
“Or three, four, five with one … ” says Lonnie. “Maybe you better go check the car.”
At the motel, Marcus’s attention is diverted from the race odds on his computer screen by the sound of a small bell ringing.
“Yeah, I’m coming,” he snaps, hitting the ‘BET NOW’ icon on the screen before wheeling his chair to Jerry’s adjacent room.
“Where this idiot Renzo comes up with the idea of a bell, I don’t know, but I do know where I’m going to stick it when he gets back,” says Marcus.
“Said it was his Nana’s. Could I get some cranberry?” ribs Jerry, as he gives the bell another shake just to irritate Marcus.
“Very funny, but I’m trying to get down for the late double at Turfway. Here’s your juice, princess.”
TO BE CONTINUED …
© 2013 John R. Perrotta