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.
“GREAT TO HAVE YOU BACK MISTER B,” reads the banner over the entrance to the executive offices.
“They want to put up a statue of you,” says Brent, “for saving the track and their jobs.”
The entire track staff lines the hall outside his suite, where Bernstein makes his way through the lobby, shaking hands and returning salutations.
Back inside his office, Bernstein deposits himself heavily in his desk chair.
“I’m going to need a nap after that,” he says to Gus.
“Looks like you did all the heavy lifting,” Bernstein says to his grandson. “You turned the joint downside-up in a month. I’m proud of you, kid.”
“You were the one, gramps, told me it’s entertainment … I just made it fun again.”
Out of Luck Blog Archive
Escalante’s walking Pint of Plain out to a patch of grass for some grazing when Jo arrives.
“Got me a wife and lost my best vet?” he kids. “That how it’s going to work?”
“I’ll be back on the job tomorrow,” she replies. “Just had a doctor’s appointment this morning.”
Escalante’s wiping the dust off the chestnut colt with a rub rag, his back to her.
“Matter of fact, I don’t think I’ll stop working even after the baby’s born,” she says.
“Baby?” says the wide-eyed Escalante.
Rathburn’s busy booking mounts for Rosie at Clocker’s Corner. He glances toward the steps and sees her coming with a full head of steam.
“I’ve got to get on one for Baffert,” she says. “But I need to have a talk with you after.”
“A talk,” says Rathburn, “about what?”
“New York,” she snaps, off at a clip toward the barns.
“Curly?” says Rathburn to himself.
The plainclothes cops are back at trainer Smith’s office door.
“So apparently you didn’t tell us the whole story, did you?” says one cop.
“Otherwise, you might have told us that Henry Clay Patterson was the son-in-law of your former employer at that farm in Kentucky, wouldn’t you?” says the other.
“I told you the name rang a bell,” says the Old Man. “Tried my best to forget about that low-life when I came out here.”
“Seems he was mixed up with some very bad people,” says the cop.
“Did you find out who dispatched him — did you? Cause if he got what he had coming, it’s very warm where he is now. There’s a special place down there for a person who would mistreat an animal.”
“Escalante says Pint of Plain can win the Arch de Triomphe race in Paris,” says Gus.
“I think it’s ‘Arc,’ ” says Bernstein. “And I think you should go and live it up.”
“That’s what I was thinking, too,” replies Gus. “Now that the heat is off. And I might take along a new friend.”
Ronnie Jenkins has a noticeable limp, coming up the steps toward Rathburn.
“Don’t tell me, you’re going to New York, too,” says the agent.
“Nah, I’m going to Vegas,” Jenkins snaps. “My knee hurts, I’m tired of flipping and they offered me a job as casino host in the horse book at the place where Kitti works.”
“Perfect,” says Rathburn, “I can have a going out of business sale. Know anybody needs a pencil?”
Marcus and Jerry are each busy scrawling on yellow legal pads.
“More coffee?” asks the waitress.
“Where’s Moonbeam today?” Jerry asks.
“She split with Guru Ralph for Fiji,” replies the waitress. “He sold his organic juice stand for a bundle and they went to find the meaning of life or something.”
“I hope Renzo knows,” says Marcus. “He was ironing his best Mets jersey for the wedding.”
“Talk about a reverse of fortunes,” says Goose, counting cash.
“It’s only until I get straightened out,” says Renzo. “After I paid back rent, Mom’s Nordstom card and the horse training bills, my last check to the ‘Institute for Insightfulness’ cleaned me out.”
He shakes his cell phone.
“Moonbeam said she’d text me about the wedding; I hope she isn’t having second thoughts.”
Goose hands a thick roll of hundreds to Lonnie.
“At least she didn’t do you like Wanda did me,” says Lonnie. “Off to parts unknown without a parting valediction.”
Brent answers his private line.
“He’s right here, want to talk to him? Okay, right,” he says. “Turf Club, one-thirty, sounds perfect.”
To Bernstein and Gus:
“I bet you’ll be glad to see Claire, gramps. She’s running to catch a plane, but she’ll meet us for lunch.”
Bernstein looks a little warm, adjusts his collar.
“Yeah, great,” he says.
Escalante’s at his desk, still digesting the pregnancy news as Jo spreads adoption documents for his signature.
“Here, here and here,” she says, pointing at the Xs. “And Eduardo told me he’d like to call you ‘Papa-cito.’ ”
“Boy, this is a lot for me to think about,” says Escalante. “A wife, a baby and a kid, all in one swoop.”
“You’re just the man for the job, Turo,” she laughs. “And by the way, Eduardo wants to be a jockey.”
“No way, he’s too big,” says Escalante.
“Nah,” says Jo, “he lied about his age before, he’s really sixteen.”
Marcus writes some figures on the pad.
“Back rent, back training bills for the horse, back credit card payments,” he says. “Looks like we’re right ‘back’ where we started.”
“Yeah, broke,” says Jerry. “Good thing we have Goose to borrow from, ’til we get back on our feet.”
“Borrow from Goose … what a revolting development,” snaps Marcus.
Bernstein’s studying the menu.
“Hello Chester,” says Claire Lechea. “Did you miss me?”
Renzo’s Mom is in the dressing room at Nordstroms, a dozen outfits hanging on the wall waiting for her to try them on.
“Honey,” she calls to the sales girl. “And bring me some more hats. I’m gonna go first class or stay home.”
TO BE CONTINUED ...