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.
Jockey agents huddle at the counter while a pair of entry clerks draws post positions for a race card two days hence.
“Daylight Savings,” says one.
“Number six, Daylight Savings is number six with Shanahan. Where’s her agent, she’s named on two horses in here,” says the other.
“Nunez is open,” says one agent, as the rest call out their riders’ names.
“Somebody call Alcatraz, see if Joey made bail yet.”
“Leave her on O’Neill’s horse, she was second on him last out,” says the clerk.
Another agent has Marylyn on the line.
“She says put me on, Carlos Crispino.”
Brent’s on the phone with the track president.
“Tell them ‘move the meetings ‘til the day after tomorrow.’ I’m flying back tonight after I meet with my grandfather, and we can figure things out then.”
He hangs up and returns to Bernstein’s room to grim expressions on Gus and the surgeon.
“I have to be frank with you. The way things are right now, it’s not looking good for your grandfather,” says the doctor. “We might not be able to bring him out of this one.”
As Gus and Brent exchange glances, each aware of the gravity, Gus says:
“I’m bringing in my guys to lock this place down. They might try to finish him off.”
The track president hangs up his phone, waves his secretary into the room.
“Apparently, Bernstein’s been in some kind of accident,” he says, “and I’ll have to take over while he’s gone.”
He writes a few lines on a yellow legal pad and tears off a page, handing it to her.
“Put this out as a press release … ”
“How about the Mulligan and Escalante situation?” she asks.
“Right … ” he mulls the thought, writes another missive.
“Make them the press release and distribute the Bernstein situation as an internal memo. No need to alarm the public … or the stockholders.”
“What about the meetings, cancel them?” she asks.
“No, leave them as scheduled,” says the President, sotto voce.
Out of Luck Blog Archive
Between races, Bayou Bobby lurks outside the back door of the Jockey’s room, finishing the last puffs of his cigar.
“I’ll have a tea, bit of milk and sugar, Bobby,” says Rosie as she peruses the overnight.
“Sweet Jaysus … would you look?” she says to Jenkins. “Escalante put in my big horse, Mon Gateau!”
“Think our agent would have told you … that would be rudimentary, wouldn’t it?” says Ronnie. “But I haven’t seen hide nor hair of him today.”
“Maybe he’s with Escalante. Word is they nabbed him for shooting Mulligan. Swat team got him at the airport trying to split to Hong Kong,” says Bayou Bobby, painting shock on Rosie and Ronnie’s faces.
Television monitors in the track cafeteria display odds for the upcoming races at several tracks and Pittsburgh and Chicago are playing a preseason NFL game on another.
“You better go get it from the car,” says Renzo. “I can’t remember all those numbers.”
“I think this might be them,” says Lonnie, displaying a motel note pad.
“Thank God,” says Renzo, “We screw up again and he’ll have a heart attack.”
“Who’s having a heart attack?” says Monte the bookmaker, as if appearing from thin air.
“Renzo said you met a new friend, dear,” says mom, as Chaz glances furtively at the door.
“What? Who?” blurts Chaz, ready to deny anything.
“A young man he saw you at the park with the other day, honey,” she says, as she serves him a piece of blueberry pie.
“Oh, yeah, him. He’s a headache doctor,” he says. “I met him playing pinball at Wizard’s World. Told me to try the medical marijuana clinic on Melrose, but I don’t have state I.D.”
As she hands him a glass of milk:
“You know, Swami Dave had me try that for my ‘ladies’ problems’ but it didn’t help. It did make me eat a whole gallon of Baskin-Robbins pistachio, though. But Jerome did say it helped him with his headaches.”
“Maybe you could get it for me, ma, just ’til I can get a driver’s license?”
“You’re a genius,” says Lonnie to Marcus, dumping cash on the bed.
“We hit the Pick 4 just the way you said!” chimes Renzo.
Marcus shakes his head.
“I gave you a Pick 3.”
Turning to Jerry in the adjoining room, Marcus holds aloft the note pad with the bets.
“These stooges used last Saturday’s picks and hit for ten grand.”
“Fourteen actually,” says Lonnie, “Monte cashed it to save us on taxes,”
“And he took all our football bets,” chimes Renzo. “Ten dimes on ten teams … fun, huh?”
“You know a dime is a thousand bucks, right?” says Jerry.
“Thousand?” says Renzo, blanching. “But we won twelve hundred last week only betting dollars.”
“Dollar’s a hundred, Dime’s a thousand,” says Jerry, “Times ten.”
“Times ten teams,” says Marcus, “means get ready to get your legs broken.”
“Ho-boy,” says Renzo.
“She drives me nuts, that Kitti,” says Ronnie Jenkins, as the bartender slides him a second vodka-tonic.
“Can’t live with ’em, can’t live without ’em,” replies Big Guy.
“Said she had to go to Vegas for the weekend to see a sick friend. I hope it’s not contagious,” says Jenkins.
Big Guy assists a tall redhead onto the barstool between them.
“Allow me to introduce Alice from Dallas,” he says, “she’s a therapist.”
Jenkins is unable to take his eyes off her chest.
“Nice ta meetcha,” says Alice.
“Anybody else besides me like tequila shots?”
Gus stalks the empty halls of the clinic.
“Where the hell is everybody?” says Gus to a janitor mopping the floor.
“Beats me,” says the janitor. “First time I’ve ever seen the place empty.”
“My guys should have been here by now,” says Gus, peering out the front door to a dark, empty parking lot.
“Come here,” he says, grabbing the man’s arm and leading him to Bernstein’s room. “Men are coming here to kill my boss.
“Grab the end of the bed, we’re moving him,” says Gus, as they wheel the comatose Bernstein to a broom closet.
He takes Bernstein’s suit jacket from an armoire and puts it on the man, leading him to the nurse’s station and dimming the hallway lights.
“Stand here behind the counter and hold this,” as he gives the man a mop.
“I saw this on the TV,” says the man, “Godfather II.”
© 2013 John R. Perrotta