At the Track
My little brother is always on my case about going to the racetrack to see the horses. I'm tempted to tell him about glue and all that, but it would break his heart and, at eleven, he's still a good kid. (I'm saving it in case he outgrows me. Like one day he's six-four and I'm like, "That glue you like to eat, well, it's horses. So fuck off.") I get him out of school at lunch and we go to the track with a Coke for him and some Jack for me. And also some gumdrops that I lifted from the corner store where the guy's always on my case for buying beer on a Sunday. (So don't sell it to me if it's that big a problem. Jesus.) My brother eats the gumdrops and I sip on the Jack during races when no one looks around the stands. He wants to place a bet, so I tell him to pick three horses in the next three races and if he wins, then we can split it, fifty-fifty. His picks make no sense, of course, but on the second race his horse, Captain Red, wins by a nose. It was a long-shot, the only long-shot winner of the day, and when I go to get the money, it's way more than I'd thought. Turns out my little brother ignored the twenty-to-one odds and let it ride on his favorite color. Sounds like something out of a story, a kid picking a horse by color who ends up winning loads of cash, but it happened. I was there. He has no plans for the money--he's just thrilled to have won--which is why I'm keeping most of it, splitting fifty-fifty with about ten percent. We head home when it's all over and he's in such high spirits that I decide there’s never gonna be a better time to tell him that our mom's a whore. He takes it fine, almost with maturity. Like he's not even mad. Like he knows already and he's dealt with it long ago. Like at eleven he understands somehow that it's not her first choice, but she does what she has to do to pay the bills. This is where I should have stopped and given the kid the rest of his money for being a first-class ace, the real-deal, etc. This is where I should have redeemed myself and set us on a course of life-long camaraderie, two guys separated by nothing more than eight years and forty pounds. This is where I should have apologized for stealing the money, for spoiling his day, for not buying him the Milk Duds like he asked for. But I don't because he took it too well, the truth about our mom, and because I don't want a fishing buddy or some little shit who's gonna remember all the times I brought him the wrong thing or skimmed off the top. I don't like that he's patient and forgiving. I start to tell him about the horses, about how the old ones like Captain Red are destined for a factory to boil their bones and chop up their meat for dog food, but I can't finish the story. Son-of-a-bitch hands me a gumdrop, his last one, as I'm getting to the part about putting the horses down. He asks me what's gonna happen to Captain Red when he gets old, and I tell him that I don't know and that he should stop asking so many fucking questions. I eat the goddamned gumdrop. The little shit's gonna out-grow me, and I still owe him for that.
Next post: Animal Photography