Parlay

A Prose Piece by Brian Barbeito

I saw him there, and he was giving away twenty dollar bills to his friends. He wasn’t rich, far from it, but if he had, he gave it out. He asked me if I wanted twenty dollars, but I said no, that I had money on me. We were with his friend and this woman, and I went up to the seated area and we tried to order drinks. Everything seemed fine, but they wouldn’t serve us. We didn’t cause a hassle, and just took it in stride, and left. You had to sort of walk through the parking lot to get back to the main area. The lot was getting fuller and fuller as the day progressed. We just sat and watched the people. Sometimes, inside, a man with a program would be scouring it like it was an important ancient text he just found. It seemed that there were mostly men around, but there were some women. One man got very excited and started yelling, close to the end one of the races, Come on you sunobitch go come on you SUNOBITCH RUN!!!!!!!! After he lost, he threw the program into a garbage can, said some other choice words and disappeared out the doors down the way. We sat there. The man with the twenty dollar bills came back and I asked him how he did. He said that he had skipped that race, and was working on an exactor that would bring him some big money–that if he won a few large races, he could keep parlaying his funds (he liked to use that word parlay a lot) so that he could go to Alaska. Why he wanted to go to Alaska, I never found out. Then he said we were going to go down and look at the horses. We went to this area and they were walking the horses around. I said it looked nice. He said it wasn’t about how nice it looked, but that we were to look for specific things. Apparently we were going to watch for tail movement, and alertness, for which one looked like a good combination of calm yet ready, relaxed yet agile and spry–in short, which one looked like it was going to have a good race. This, combined with statistics, and which horses a horse was up against, would show where to put the money. There was a third thing also–some intuitive feeling or nuance that could not really be named, but I got the feeling that this third thing was not really a real thing (though I thought it did exist on some level) at work there, but only a wishful thing used to combat the chaos of not really knowing what would happen out there. It turns out though, that the twenty dollar bill man won. And he won pretty big. We were supposed to pay some guy he owed money, but instead we walked right past the guy’s house on the way home and kept walking. Maybe, I thought, we were going to go to Alaska after all.

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