Monday, December 22, 2014

Tomorrow's Results Today

Four days before Christmas I find myself
at an off-track betting place downtown 
where my friend’s country novelty act is performing.
It’s a strange venue, but I guess the place is desperate
to drum up some Sunday night business.
A horse race is just about to start in Australia,
And most of the regulars are more interested
in the row of screens showing the live broadcast
than a couple of middle-aged women in Western regalia
belting out comedic country songs stuffed with puns
and drenched in innuendo.
Strings of colored lights dangle limply from the ceiling
and a huge Santa leers merrily from the top
of a fuzzy white pine that leans beside the amps.
I sit at a short counter designed for ordering from rather than
lingering at, below a mural of thoroughbreds thundering
in every direction, and wonder if the bartender
is ignoring me or just so stoned he doesn’t see me sitting there. 
The monitors list the names of tonight’s horses.
Idle Shiver. Urban Knight. Crooked Blaze. Caesar’s Revenge.
In the corner sits a large plaster greyhound
its slender neck choked by a shiny red garland.
I can see myself ending up frequenting a place like this
when I get old, blowing my social security on bets based
on the ridiculousness of the horses' names,
scrawling bits of drunken verse on the backs of receipts...
Between sets the cowgirls work the crowd.
The one I’m friends with comes over to say hi,
her red ten gallon hat sprouting gold ribbons
and shedding glitter everywhere, a huge gold bow
choking her neck. She looks like an East Texas
Christmas tree ornament. She introduces me
to her boyfriend, whom I’ve met before
but didn’t recognize when I came in. The race is on:
River Flower. Wild Rain. Versace Rose. Hollywood Starlet.
A dented machine advertises “Tomorrow’s Results Today:
Self serve racing programs, handicapping and tip sheets.”
The girls start their last set with a song about men in tight jeans.
A couple of people get up to square dance between
the little tables. A woman sidles up beside me
clutching some slips of paper spit out one
of the video lottery machines
and asks where the bartender has disappeared to.
I tell her I don't know. An old drunk in the corner
cackles with glee every time the band curses.
The bartender materializes and hands the woman
forty-two bucks then sighs and asks if I need anything.
I tell him I need a High Life and when it arrives
it comes in a can decorated with demented Harley Davidson eagles
and I give him a two dollar tip for a two dollar bill,
because why the hell not, it’s Christmas,
and it looks like Crooked Blaze is coming out on top.

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