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.
Horses are on the track below as the foursome orders lunch in the Turf Club.
“Brent figured it all out, he’s the architect,” says Claire.
“That’s what they used to call me,” says Bernstein, proudly. “ ‘The Architect.’ ”
“He figured out Smythe and the track president were milking the place and taking the cash overseas, to double-cross everybody,” says Claire.
“And he framed your brother for a phony drug rap, just like he did me,” says Bernstein.
“What exactly did happen to Mike?” asks Gus. “I heard he fell overboard and they never found him.”
“Very rough seas in that part of the Atlantic,” says Claire. “I doubt we’ll ever know.”
Out of Luck Blog Archive
Renzo peeks in the window of the cycle shop, spots Goose.
“Pretty nice, eh?” says Goose, admiring his new bike.
“I didn’t think I’d ever afford a $2,000 pair of wheels,” he laughs. “Aren’t you supposed to be home getting on your tux?”
“No,” says Renzo, “It’s a casual wedding, you don’t even wear shoes. But Moonbeam’s probably not the girl for me. She ran off with Guru Ralph, so I think I’m going to have to break up with her.”
“Life in the big city,” says Goose. “Get a Dachshund, they’re good company. And they don’t talk back.”
Rathburn watches Rosie dismount from her horse and cross the scales, heading toward the tunnel. He takes the escalator to the horse path to intercept her on the way back to the jockey’s room.
“Didn’t run that good,” he says.
“Ran like a pig,” she says, “pity it wasn’t a pig race.”
“When do you want to talk,” says Rathburn, nervous.
“Do you think I’m in a talking mood right now?” she snaps as Joey halts in his tracks and watches her go on alone.
The Degenerates are rearranging to allow Goose to move in.
“How come he gets my room?” growls Marcus. “Just ’cause he’s got all the money, he gets to make the rules now?”
“Temporary, Marcus,” laughs Jerry. “Just until we hit another pick six.”
“Right,” mutters Marcus, “at the end of the next Millennium.”
Escalante and Jo cut carrots for the afternoon feed.
“Maybe it wouldn’t be too much trouble if we went on a real honeymoon?” he says.
“Good with me, baby,” she replies. “Where’d you have in mind?”
“Paris, France,” he says.
“Double espresso, cinnamon roll and five bucks of quick picks for the big one,” says Renzo to the counterman. “And half-a-dozen red licorices for Marcus, that always makes him feel better.”
Brent and Gus take off in order to leave Bernstein and Claire some privacy.
“I’m sorry I had to be so secretive,” says Claire.
“I never doubted you for a minute,” says Bernstein. “As a matter of fact, I’ve been carrying this around for you for quite a while.”
He opens a ring box to reveal a three-carat diamond.
“So apparently Mr. Patterson crossed the wrong guys,” says the cop.
“Got just what he had coming to him,” says the Old Man. “Too bad they didn’t break his leg before they shot him.”
“Chicago Mafia,” says the cop. “They prefer bullets to breaking bones.”
The Old Man scratches Bruiser’s back and gives him a dog biscuit.
“Think it’s time for us to head to Kentucky, boy. This California sunshine is great but I miss those biscuits and gravy back home.”
Renzo’s mom is lugging packages up the stairway.
“Lemmie help you there, mom,” says Lonnie. “Looks like you’re going on a trip.”
“I certainly think I deserve it. My son Chaz split town in a hurry and left me to clean up his mess,” she says. “Lucky my old boyfriend was a cop.”
Rathburn’s waiting by the paddock rail outside the jockey’s room for Rosie as the Clerk of Scales passes.
“Anybody left in there?” says Rathburn, hopefully.
“Just her highness, she chased everybody else out,” says the official.
“Ho-boy,” mumbles Rathburn as Rosie approaches.
“I’ve thought it over, and it’s time to make a change,” she says. “New York it is.”
She hands him a plane ticket.
“We’ll be staying with my cousins, the O’Learys,” she says. “I hope you like lamb stew.”
Gus and Ace are stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic on the 210 freeway leaving Santa Anita.
“You’re not going to believe this, Ace, who I ran into at the gelato joint the other night … my old girlfriend from Flatbush,” says Gus. “The love of my life.”
“Amaretto, I bet.” says Ace.
“No, Julietta … Julietta Caligari,” says Gus.
“Yeah, I meant you always have amaretto at the gelato joint,” says Ace.
Gus isn’t listening.
“Julietta, like I’m Romeo and she’s Julietta,” says Gus.
The Degenerates are enjoying Chinese take-out, Styrofoam containers all about Renzo’s room.
“Could you check these numbers?” says Renzo, handing Jerry a Powerball lottery ticket.
Renzo’s reading the small print in the lottery section of the local newspaper.
“Sixty-seven, that’s Mom’s birthday, June 7th … seventy-seven, that’s mine, July 7th and 39, Mom’s age, and the last number, 42, that’s my age. And the Powerball number, seven … Mickey Mantle.”
“Your mom’s 39 and you’re 42, eh,” says Jerry. “Whatever you say, pal, ’cause you just won $200 million.”