the Sucks to Be Me Maneuver

‘Five dollar Double,’ I told the teller, ‘One, three.’

It was the smartest thing I’d said in weeks.

The Daily Double is a bet on the winners of two consecutive races on a given track’s card. Got dropped off at the OTB spot in New Hampshire in time to catch the last pair at Mountaineer, or some other east coast night-time track, I forget which. Handed the bet-teller 5 bucks — my last — on the 1 horse in the next race, set to go off a few moments hence, and the 3 in the race to follow.

To win would be smashingly helpful.

I was homeless. And probably Hungry, though I wouldn’t have noticed on account of all the amphetamines. I hadn’t eaten or slept for a couple days but felt sharp. But soon enough — too soon — those drugs would wear off. And I wanted to Win because I knew:

Soon it would suck to be me.

It was raining. Had been for a week. Water splashed into the car-window I’d cracked to smoke a cigarette, when we drove through a puddle on the way over. The puddles were deep.

I counted on winning to pay for a taxi ride home. Or, to the town 4 miles away where I’ve had homes before. Where I planned to buy a fat dinner & hotel room, with the $200-&-change I stood to gain; not enough to solve my many Problems, but it beat crap out of the alternative. Which was Lose and have it suck to be me.

‘5 dollar Double.’ I told the teller at the bet-window. ‘One, three.’

I won the first race. Which didn’t get me any money — to win the Double the horses you pick must win both races. But it can be a High Time, those 20-odd minutes between the two races. It’s a good feeling to think you’re about to Win Big. It can also feel disconcerting, since you must select winners of two consecutive races before the gates open for the first.

Lots of painful second-guessing can happen during those 20 minutes — especially when, along with your last 5 bucks, your Happiness is on the line. Like when you watch the post-parade on your OTB TV screen, and notice that your horse looks half-dead. Or maybe your horse looks fine, but another one looks better. Or maybe the horse you bet on looks perfectly smashing, but when the teller at the betting window handed you your ticket you realized that you meant to bet on a different horse entirely.

‘5 dollar Double,’ you may have said, ‘One, three.’

‘Good luck!’ The teller at the betting window smiled and handed me my ticket.

‘Oh, no wait!’ I exclaimed. Looked my Daily Racing Form over again. ‘Did I say One, Three? No — I don’t want the Three. What I meant was 5 dollar Double: One, Five.’

The teller quickly corrected my ‘mistake’ and handed me a new receipt. The One horse took the first race easily. I settled in to revel in the inevitability of the Five horse’s — and my own — triumph in the next. I watched on the TV screen as the horses were led through the post parade. And the Five horse looked good. I breathed a sigh of relief. Until a voice in my head said, ‘Yeah — but what about that Three?’

The #3 horse looked perfectly fucking smashing.

It was a long walk home in the rain. More precisely, it was a long walk to the town I call home. Golly did I wish I had somewhere to live there.

I sludged through a puddle. It was deep.

Why? I wanted to know. Why?? I bet the right horses. Held the winning ticket in my hand. The fat dinner & taxi ride to a hotel room…All Right There. I said the 3 horse, by cosmic accident, when I’d set out to bet on the Five. So I changed my bet at the last second. The 3 won. I lost. And now wanted desperately to know Why.

It seemed Important. I could have made it better for myself, but didn’t — and not for the first time. I trudged miserably on. Kicked the shit out of a puddle, cursed God for doing this to me. I really did. Cursed God. Kicked a puddle. Then — though I did not want to — I chuckled.

Had to admit it was funny.

Who the hell am I? One more Random Whoever — with no cash, no car & no luck at the races — telling God to Fuck Off while I slogged through puddles on a Saturday night somewhere on Planet Earth.

It sucks to be me. But so what?

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6 Responses to “the Sucks to Be Me Maneuver”


  1. 1 galloway August 22, 2006 at 6:28 pm

    This is “smashingly” good, old boy…

    Glad you’re not dead.

  2. 2 Mike E August 22, 2006 at 7:38 pm

    Who told you I wasn’t dead?? Can’t believe everything you read, you know…

  3. 3 durwood August 24, 2006 at 7:15 am

    yo dude.

    great story.

    like the old colonel once told Fred and Barney, all those years ago, “don’t bet on the races!”

    barring that, Why curse God, who han ded you victory in the form of a sendipitous error (this happens more often than we can imagine, really)? If you had been aware enough to see it coming, you would have been helped by the Almighty Hand once again.

    Durwood

  4. 4 Mike E August 24, 2006 at 12:10 pm

    Durwood: Great point — I guess in the end I was cursing myself. Yeah — know why?

    Because I am GOD motherfucker!!!

    Nice to hear from you…

  5. 5 durwood August 25, 2006 at 9:38 am

    Tsat Vam Asi—–

    we are all the One…

    I am the Shine of Sea,

    I live in the Wind

    I shine in the forest
    because she belongs to me…

    (church music)


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