This is another Coby Hawkersmith story, set when Coby is a young man. My family used to visit the Ebro dog track. When I was 14, they let me start picking races for the program, but I had to stand outside the fence to watch the races.
Thirty miles from the white sandy beaches of the Gulf of Mexico, the Florida panhandle became a dense forest of straggly pines. The two-lane highway that Coby had taken south from Dothan slithered through the rough underbrush, far away from the hotels and tourist traps on the coast. An occasional car flickered in the darkness then passed Coby’s truck, a lonely firefly that droned into the distance before disappearing.
Then when Coby neared in a dot on the map called Ebro, and the night was cut by the fluorescent beacon of the Washington County dog track. On this warm June night, Coby Hawkersmith followed something other than the lights into the woods: something other than money had brought him back to the greyhounds.
Just a few long hours after his father’s funeral, Coby wheeled his truck into Ebro’s parking lot, then joined the crowd at the gate. At the ticket window, he had his dollar bill changed into two fifty-cent pieces. One, he dropped into the turnstile, the other he kissed twice and put in his left breast pocket, a ritual he’d picked up from his father.
“For luck,” his father had always said.
He patted the half– dollar in his pocket and looked at his racing program. Arcane notes and figures peppered the pages. He’d picked up the program in Bonifay on his way down from Dothan and had spent an hour going over it at the McDonald’s there.
First race, he thought. Daily Double. Seven minutes to post. Big crowd for a Thursday night.
His father’d had a special affection for the Daily Double, though if he did hit one, he would walk out of the track, saying, “Winning the first one means it’s all downhill from here. Might as well go on home, because it can’t get no better.”
Coby stepped onto the concourse where huge ceiling fans puttered overhead to move the stagnant air around to keep the crowd from suffocating. He glanced at the monitor. Time for the first race. The favorite, Scalded Dog, Number Four had 2:1 odds.
“Not much to work with,” he said then asked the cashier at the first window why the crowd was so big.
“Dumptruck,” the cashier said. When Coby didn’t respond, the man said, “Dumptruck. Y’know, the Superdog? He’s won fifty-one in a row. Everybody comes out to bet on him.”
“Fifty-one in a row, wow,” Coby said.
But he knew that everybody and his brother would bet on a dog like that. The track had to pay the legal $2.20 on a two dollar bet but made money hand over fist on the gate and the other races.
“Odds like that ain’t even worth betting on,” Coby’s father would have said.
But Coby, no high roller, liked the idea of an instant ten-percent turn-around on his money. That’s something Coby’s father never realized–sure things existed and they could make you money. Even though his father had schooled him on the art of betting, Coby had a different way of playing the dogs.
Everyday during their Florida vacations, Coby would spend six hours pouring over the racing program, and his father would shake his head, wait until they got to the track, eyeball the winners and say, “This is the way to bet, son, with your gut, with the feeling in your bones. You figure and add all you want, but you ain’t never going to get nothing but little payouts. Go for the big win, son.” His father would then add as they leaned on the rail where handlers showed the dogs, “Pick you the winner and bet heavy. Don’t mess around with boxing them pissant quinellas.”
“I just want enough in my pocket to bet on the next race, Daddy.” Coby would tell him. “I just want to walk out with more money than I came with.”
Now leaning against a column, Coby looked over his first picks, numbers 7–4-1. Number Eight was a close fourth. In the 2nd race, Likity Split, Number Two, looked like a lock.
“Whadya like in the first?”
Coby looked up. A man with droopy pants and droopy eyes, his breath fermented, stood too close–an old drunk looking for a tout.
“Oh yeah. The Eight dog, Hosenpfeffer,” Coby lied.
“Yeah, the Eight?” The drunk clicked his tongue and leaned closer to sneak a peek at Coby’s program. “It’s possible. It’s possible.”
When Coby turned the page, the man seemed to lose interest and bobbed over to the cashier at the first window. “Whadya like?” Coby heard him say. Drunks like that were part of the scenery–dried up, hagged out, going for broke, but they were already there. The cashier would give him some number, and the guy would bet it. If it came in, the cashier would get a fat tip and a chance to pick the next race. If it didn’t come in, the drunk would move on down the line.
Though he wasn’t a drunk, Coby’s father would pull the same trick sometimes when he couldn’t trust his instincts. “Who you like?” he’d ask around. “You seen that little brindle run before?” And Coby would ask him, “But you never ask me what I like, Daddy. Why is that?” His father would smile, “I already know who the favorite is, son.”
Coby looked at the monitor. Four minutes to post. Number Four, Scalded Dog, was still the favorite at 2:1. Number’s Seven and One were close behind. Straight betting, his father’s play, was out. To get decent odds, Coby would have to go to the faithful quinella. The Daily Double wasn’t hitting on much, though. The lock in the second race, Likity Split, seemed to be everybody’s boy. The best daily double odds on Coby’s picks, coupled with Likity Split, were 5:1.
“Not worth it,” he said.
He moved to the shortest line. The monitor showed two minutes to post when he put down a hundred dollar bill. “Quinella box 1–4-7. Ten times.” Sixty dollars rang up on the tote.
“Betting the Double?” the cashier said, his face long and features plain.
“There’s nothing worth it.” He glanced at the monitor. Odds for the 8–2 Daily Double combination were 27:1.
Bet that Eight Dog, something whispered to him. He jerked around to find no one nearby.
“Well?” said the cashier.
“What the Hell. 8–2 Daily Double. Five times.” The tote machine flashed eighty dollars, and he took his ticket and change.
Drifting back onto the concourse, Coby snaked his way through the lawn chairs and blankets to the rail. Ebro track was 1560 yards from start to finish for the short races and 1880 yards for the long ones. The center of the track was bare, but beyond the backstretch, a huge hedge protruded. The green tote board loomed over the infield, framed by dozens of match stick pines. Off the first turn, the paddock led to the kennels. Two starting boxes waited at either end of the course, and a small cube on the inside rail hid the mechanical lure, Swifty. The track had not changed in twenty years. Coby always found that comforting. No matter what happened–college, job, marriage, kids, divorce, death–Ebro remained the same, year after year, vacation after vacation.
At the rail, Coby crossed his arms. For a second, he felt someone at his elbow. “Dad?” Then the sensation was gone. He wiped his face and watched them load the dogs into the boxes. Coby liked to stand half-way between the last turn and the wire. If a dog were to lose the race, it was usually in the last turn. All it took was a little bump, and the leader was flying toward the rail instead of the finish line. The handlers tossed the dogs like seventy-pound rag dolls into the boxes, and the hounds crooned through their muzzles. Handlers ran to positions, empty leashes in hand. Coby twisted the program, wringing ink onto his hands. He closed his eyes.
“Here goes nothing.”
“Here comes Sa-wifty!” the caller drawled over the PA.
The squeal of gears on the lure cart. Quick click of the house lights. Track lit like a stage.
“Greyhounds are gentle souls,” his father had often said..
Splamm! Catapulting out of the box came eight scrawny, majestic, emaciated athletes. Swifty the lure zoomed down the rail. The pack shot by Coby, spraying the railbirds with sand. Coby opened his eyes As the pack rounded the first turn, Scalded Dog grabbed the lead, followed by the Two dog.
“Come on Four,” he screamed and hopped around on tip-toes.
“At the half, it’s Number Four, Scalded Dog, by two lengths. Number Two is second but fading. Number Seven is gaining, followed by 5,6,8,3 and Number One is bringing up the rear.”
Coby laughed and wrote off Number One. “Come on!”
“At the three-quarters pole, it’s Number Four by two, Number Seven slides by Number Two and it’s the Eight, Hasenpfeffer, making a move.”
“No, no. Eight, get out of there, get out of there,” Coby said. “Come on, Seven.”
“As they round the corner, it’s Scalded Dog, by one over Hasenpfeffer.”
“Fall down, Eight. Fall down!”
“And at the wire, it’s…Hasenpfeffer by a nose. Number Four is second, Number Seven is third.”
“Don’t do this to me,” Coby said
The announcer: “Please hold all tickets until the race is official.”
Coby pulled the ticket out of his pocket and folded it. He and his father never tore their tickets, just in case. “Damned Eight Dog. Where’d you come from?” He started to throw away the ticket when he heard a whisper, You bet the Eight Dog. He unbent the ticket. “Yeah, I did.”
“The windows are open for the second race, grade M,” said the announcer.
Coby drifted toward the betting windows.
For the second race, he observed, “The Two Dog is the one to beat next time. Nobody else is close. Let’s see, the odds are 3:5 on Likity Split. The best quinella is 7:1 on the 2–6 combination. Even if I won on the quinella, I’d barely make back my bet. “The Six, the Six…” He ran his thumb to Number Six, “Oleo. Shut out in the last six races. Never broke his maiden. Best time in the 1560 was 32:10. Even for a maiden that’s sorry. No bet this race.”
On the board, Likity Split drew the action, but Coby noticed that Bare Handed, the Seven dog who had some good times but lousy luck, had been overlooked.
Be patient, the voice whispered. This time, he didn’t look around. As the minutes ticked to post, Coby waited in line, letting another bettor, then another in front so that he could watch the monitor and still make sure he didn’t get shut out. At one minute to post, a quinella on Bare Handed showed 16:1 odds with Likity Split and 40:1 with Oleo.
“Quinella box, two-six-seven, ten times,” he told the cashier. He traded sixty dollars for the crisp ticket.
As he reached his place on the rail, the announcer called, “Here comes Swifty.” The mechanical rabbit screeched into action, and the dogs bayed on cue.
“Here goes nothing.” He closed his eyes.
Splam! Likity Split lived up to her name by breaking first and leading wire to wire. Coby opened his eyes in time to see Oleo get greased on the first turn and finish out of the picture. He jumped up and down when the Seven dog nosed into second place, giving him a winner on the Daily Double and quinella. He kissed the ticket the way he’d never kissed his wife and skipped to the window.
“Four hundred, five hundred, six hundred,” the cashier counted out. “Looks like you got lucky.”
“Not lucky,” Coby thought of the voice. “Skilled.”
“Yeah, right. It’s always skill when you win and luck when you lose.”
“I’ve never lost.”
“Where have I heard that before?”
Coby looked at the ashtray on the counter. Winners usually left their silver change as a tip. “You owe me sixty cents.” As he stuffed the change into his wallet, his father’s words came back to him, “Can’t get any better than this. Might as well go to the house.”
Coby thought about the times his father had left after the double, a few dollars in his pocket. “You’re too superstitious, Daddy,” Coby would say. “Let’s go win some more.” But his father would start the car and head back to Panama city, knowing that his big race was already won.
Coby stopped at the rest room. He stepped to the urinal and closed his eyes. In the blackness, he saw his father’s open casket, his father’s face in make up, shaped by wax molds to hide the weight lost from the prostrate cancer. A flat smile stretched across his face, his lips glued together. Coby yanked his eyes open.
“Not again. Not now. Would you quit bothering me?” He zipped up and almost hooked himself. “Wake up, Coby. You’re going to lose the family jewels.”
He washed, smearing water on his face. In the mirror, his eyes weren’t red. Outside the rest room, he looked toward the parking lot, but he couldn’t spot his truck in the sea of cars.
“Why should I leave? I’m doing fine. I got a wad of money on me. I got a bunch of winners in this book. I’m in the groove. All I need is a cold Coke and a dog to bet on. Sorry, Dad, but I can’t walk out.”
On the way to the snack bar, he stopped to talk to a pretty girl who had an older greyhound on a leash. Kids were petting it, and she was trying to get their parents to adopt it.
“This one of those “Save the Greyhound’ programs?” he said.
“Sure is. You want to pet her?”
“I usually only bet on them. How much y’all asking?”
“The fees four hundred dollars, but you get to pick your dog. Some folks want to save a dog that’s been a good racer.”
“For four hundred bucks, I want one that still was racing. Take it easy.”
After he got a drink, Coby sat down to check the next race, a maiden. In a maiden race, dogs that constantly came in second were death. The long-shot bettors went crazy over them, but they always, always, always came in second. Coby’s father was like that, laying a hundred bucks the dog wouldn’t come in. “This time it will win,” his father would say, “I can feel it in my bones.”
“That’s asinine,” said Coby when the board showed Gottawin, with three seconds in five starts, as a 2:1 favorite. The best two dogs were complete virgins but had good times running training races.
“No way can Gottawin run with these two. This race is a lock.”
He chose a new cashier, a robust woman with a sheath of jet black hair and a booming voice.
“Howyadoing?” She grinned and threw her head to one side.
“Not bad. Give me the quinella box, 1–2-5, ten times.”
She took his money as the machine spit out his ticket. “Break a leg and pawn your mama.”
“Thanks,” he said.
Coby kissed the ticket twice and put it in his breast pocket. His mind wandered a few years back to a matinee when he’d hit every race but one. The payoffs were so slim, though, that he’d come out only twenty dollars ahead. His father, though, had hit the one race Coby’d missed, a trifecta that paid a thousand dollars, and he had practically giggled when he said, “Now that’s how you bet, son.”
“No.” Coby returned to the window, “I do not bet trifectas. I do not bet trifectas.” He looked up at the booming-voiced woman. “I do not bet trifectas.”
“2–5-1 trifecta, straight.”
“Two dollars. There anything else you don’t want to bet before you go?”
He laughed as he walked to the fence. When they loaded the dogs, he heard someone laughing beside him and caught the sharp smell of Pall Malls. “Dad?”
The drunk man stood beside him, smoking a cigarette and laughing. “So you didn’t like nothing in the first. What about that eight dog?”
“Don’t mention it.”
The drunk leaned closer. The smell of booze followed him. “Who you like in this one?”
“You aren’t supposed to ask me that.”
“Never mind.” Coby shut his eyes. “I thought you were someone else.”
“Here comes Swifty.”
As Coby stood at the rail, the lure rolled toward him. Before opening his eyes, he visualized the finish: 2–1-5 in order.
The box oozed open. Curiously silent, the dogs seemed to stretch lazily. Sand thrown by the pack seemed to drift endlessly before settling. Like a 45 playing on 33 RPM, the announcer’s voice deepened and drawled the numbers of the winners. Then in one cacaphonic surge, the world returned to full speed. Coby stayed calm until he looked at his trifecta ticket, worth $1097.60.
He wore an angelic smile as he cashed out with his favorite cashier.
Her eyes popped wide open. “Jeez, Louise. Looks like you won the croqueted hockey-pot.”
“You want a check or a voucher? I can’t give out cash for more than a thousand bucks.”
“A voucher. Instead of cashing in and out, I cut you this voucher and you do all your betting off it. Beats carrying around a bunch of checks.”
She cut the voucher. “What’s your poison?”
After glancing at the program, he decided, “None. Think I’ll sit this one out.”
“Suit yourself. Now, don’t lose that thing. It’s just like cash.”
“I hear you.”
After kissing the voucher twice, he drifted left of the concourse. The dog watchers lined the rail to inspect the next racers. His father, Coby remembered, had always liked looking at the dogs before he bet. One time, when Uncle Holland stayed with them, they all three came to the track. Holland had this theory. He claimed a dog that crapped before the race was lighter than the others and therefore would win. The first race they watched, Holland’s pick came in. The same thing for the second. Coby’s father tried the theory out on the third race. As the trainers trotted out the dogs, each and every one took a long, squishy dump on the track. “Well, Holland,” his daddy had said, “What you call that, a dead-heat?”
Coby still laughed every time he remembered the story. He was laughing then, scrubbing the corners of his mouth with the napkin, when someone hollered, “Was your daddy a glass blower?” Behind him, a cluster of tanned, fat bodies massed around one whalish woman on a chaise lounge. A loud, flowery mu-mu draped her body.
“Mama Jo-Jo, I be damned.” Coby held out his hand.
She craned her neck, the fat unfolding down her chest. Her eyes narrowed and seemed to disappear. “I know you?”
“Sure do. Only fifteen year old in the history of Ebro to hit sixteen quinellas in a row.”
“Coby? Is that you?” She probably knew it was, but Mama had to be wary of strangers who pretended to be friends.
“In the flesh. Just a few more wrinkles.”
“Damn, son come give Mama a hug. “Uh, uh, ummm. Let me look at you, just look at you. My, you are a pretty thing. Where have you been, son. Mama’s missed you.”
“Been busy, Mama. Teaching school, getting married, getting divorced…”
“Ah, Hell, I been divorced three times. Ain’t hurt me none. Leon, fetch Coby a cool drink. Sheila, move your butt out that chair like you got some manners. Now, son, how’s that daddy of yours doing?.”
“Sheila, go tell your cousin to bet us the 1–7-8–2 tri-box, wheel the One and Seven, run down the 1–7-8, key the Seven in the two spot, and–wait a minute–bet a straight quinella on the 1–7, just for old times sake. Yeah, I said quinella. Coby here’s got a soft-spot for his quinellas, ain’t you, shug?”
Coby blushed a bit and rubbed his neck. “I like them all right.”
“But you can’t win a pot to piss in with quinellas.”
“Maybe I just being right.”
She shook her head. “Now your daddy, he’s got some dog sense. Where’s he, ain’t he with you?”
“No, Mama. Daddy, well Hell, he just died. Lung cancer. The funeral was yesterday.”
“Sorry to hear that. How did you get down here so fast?”
“Don’t know. Drove I guess. After the service, I got in my car and headed…somewhere. Found myself on I-59 to Birmingham, then on 89 to here.”
“You just like your Daddy, a gambler at heart. Just can’t stay away. I always did like your daddy. He didn’t suffer, did he?”
Coby remembered his father in the hospital bed, a robust man whose body had shrunk down to a bags of bones, thinner than even the most emaciated-looking greyhound. And he’d killed himself with the morphine, probably, holding off the pain. “No,” Coby said, “he didn’t suffer.”
“That’s good. I know it’s hard when somebody’s suffering.”
Coby stood, his hand extended. “I got to go, Mama.” He bit the inside of his mouth until he tasted blood.
Mama Jo-jo nodded. “I can see that. You go on then. Y’all be good. Shayra, get me a cigarette.”
Coby walked down the length of the concourse. The dogs exploded out of the box. He didn’t turn to watch them. When he had reached the kennels, he turned back, feeling more or less in control.
Races five and six proved simple to handicap. Both Grade A’s, they played out according to form. In the fifth, Coby won $158. In the sixth, Bodontknowjack almost blew it in the last turn, but he held out for second behind Tarzan. He took in $116.
“Lordy mercy,” his cashier said, “you are on a roll. We’re going to have to spray you down, you’re so hot.”
He allowed himself a tiny “aw shucks” smile before he returned the voucher to his pocket.
He worked his way to the rail. “Grade B race. What a bitch.”
All the dogs looked good, none looked great. Cold Steal ran on an even keel. Though her times weren’t brilliant, she had enough get-up-and-go to beat these pups. And that eighth position, what a plus. The voice told him to bet her.
“Quinella box, 4–6-8, one hundred times,” he told his cashier.
She flipped her black mop over her shoulders. “Oh, baby. Do you know something we don’t?” She fed his voucher through and keyed in the bet.
Coby kissed the ticket twice and stuck it in his pocket. The bet was the biggest he had ever made. He knew better than to gamble so much when the outcome was so shaky: he should have played it safe, stayed within his ability and budget.
“Forget safe, forget it all,” his father would have said. “That’s why they call it gambling.”
Coby wiped his face. “Easy for you to say, Dad. You lost your biggest gamble. Rolling the dice with your life.”
He expected to be scared, expected the race to last forever, expected Swifty to run amok, expected the dogs to refuse to budge when their boxes sprung open. But even as he squinched his eyes tight, the lure started. In thirty one seconds flat, it ended. The tote flashed official, then 6–8-1. Coby opened his eyes to an obscene pay-off.
“You’ve just won five thousand dollars, Coby Hawkersmith,” he said quietly, so quietly that no one heard him. He patted his pocket and bit his tongue. The walk to the windows took forever, but he got there, a wild, startled look on his face.
“Oh, my God,” the cashier said. “You won it, didn’t you?”
Coby slid the voucher across the window.
The cashier whistled.
“In the next one, I want one thousand dollars on the Four Dog to win. Superfecta wheel the rest.”
Don’t get greedy, the voice said, always quit a winner.
“This is a lock,” said Coby. “Even at the lowest payout, I’ll make money. It’s a sure thing.”
The cashier cut a new voucher. “You trying to convince me or yourself about the Four Dog?” She just smiled. “Everybody and his brother wants the Four Dog. That’s Dumptruck, the Superdog.”
“Fifty-one in a row. I’ve heard.”
He took his ticket and fought his way through the huge crowd to the rest room. Because so many folks had come out for Dumptruck, he had to wait for a urinal. When he finally unzipped, the man next to him said, “Hey buddy, Thanks for the tip.”
Coby glanced at the drunk. “Do you mind?”
“Y’know, Hosenpfeffer, in the first race. Made me a bundle.”
“No problem.” He zipped and flushed.
“So, who you like in this one?”
“Anybody but Dumptruck,” he lied.
“Is you crazy? Ain’t nobody beating that dog.”
The old man moved to the next urinal. “Hey, buddy, whadya like in this one?”
Outside, Coby made for the rail. This time, he had to settle for a spot on the last turn, just before the dogs hit the homestretch. The handlers brought the dogs. Dumptruck, a regal, blonde male carried himself with confidence. Coby looked at the program. “All those wins.” The pattern was always the same. Dumptruck stayed near the leader until the final turn, then exploded down the stretch. Once, a dog had become so disheartened after being overcome, she stopped cold in the middle of the track. The other dogs piled into her, and only the mutt trailing the pack had managed to finish.
Coby whistled. The tote board showed what he already knew. Dumptruck had the worst odds that pari-mutuel betting could possibly give.
As Dumptruck trotted by, Coby caught his eye. “Talk to me puppy,” he said.
He would never admit it to himself or anyone else, but somehow he heard that dog, heard Dumptruck say as clearly as he’d heard the other voice, “This one’s gravy, mister.”
“What does that mean?” Coby said, but the handler yanked Dumptruck away.
The man next to Coby spit out tobacco juice and nodded to his brother, “Listen to this, Cole, this boy’s got it bad. He’s talking to the damn dogs.”
“Shut up,” the brother said. “You see if any of them took a crap?”
Don’t get greedy, the voice said again.
“Here comes Swifty.”
The lure moved around to the boxes. The dogs crashed head-long down the track chasing a lure they could never catch. Coby knew their futility, the inability to catch the one thing they raced every race to get. Just winning wasn’t enough. You could win every time, and you still didn’t get to catch the rabbit. Coby opened his eyes to see Dumptruck trailing after the first turn. But he got his head in the back stretch. Breaking his usual pattern, he led going into the last turn.
Then it happened.
Because he’d never led going into the far turn, Dumptruck always dipped his shoulder and cut inside the lead dog, finishing on the rail. But Dumptruck had the lead over a tiny 52 1/2 pound brindle bitch, and as they leaned into the final turn, Dumptruck tried to make his normal cut inside. The brindle sensed his move and bumped him. If he had been smaller, if he had been younger, he might have kept his balance.
But he didn’t. As Coby watched, horrified, Dumptruck stumbled across the track and onto the infield. A foreleg got twisted underneath him, and Coby heard the snap of the bone just before the dog’s massive body finally stopped when it crashed into the rail. At Coby’s feet, Dumptruck shook loose from his muzzle. He looked up at Coby with sorrowful eyes and tried to get up.
“Greyhounds are such gracious creatures,” Coby said.
Before he could stop himself, Coby ducked under the railing. He wrapped his arms around Dumptruck and slipped the muzzle on, expecting to get bitten in the process. The handlers streaked across the track toward the dog that forced himself up and was hobbling on three legs. Coby tried to force him to stay still.
Hands and arms and people and voices came from everywhere. Coby was yanked away as the crowd gathered like gawkers at a car wreck. Security guards remuzzled the dog and led him away on his leash. The crowd around him, Coby put his hands to his face. He didn’t know why, but he started crying, not little tears that he could wipe away, but heaves the size of his father’s wagers. One image stayed in his mind–Dumptruck, the Superdog, head bowed in humiliation and disappointment, no longer invincible.
“Get that drunk off the field,” Coby heard a guard say before he was pushed under the rail.
“You’re still a good dog,” Coby yelled.
A security guard led him to the concourse. “Think you had enough tonight buddy. Why don’t you go to the house?”
You got greedy, the voice said.
Coby nodded. “I need to cash out first.”
The windows were deserted, the cashiers all gathered around the monitors. They wanted a look at Dumptruck, too. Coby waited patiently, his face pasty-colored, until his cashier noticed him.
“Going home?” she said.
She called over the crew leader, who said, “Go ahead and give him some cash. I’ll get him a check cut for the rest.”
She counted out hundreds. “Lucky for you Dumptruck run tonight. Normally, we don’t have this much of a handle. You sticking around for the next one?”
He looked back at the guard. “No, I got what I came for.” He stuffed the money into his wallet. The board flashed official. The trifecta paid $9657.60.
A voice, droopy and sweet with liquor, rang across the concourse, “Shit howdy! I hit it! I hit it! Nine thousand frigging dollars.”
Coby smiled. In a minute, the bookkeeper brought him a check, minus the IRS and State of Florida taxes.
On the way out, he stopped by the dog-adoption girl. She had a different greyhound, a big yellow male.
“So,” he said, “you say I can adopt any dog I want?”
“I want Dumptruck. He just broke his leg. I figure his racing days are over.”
She bit her lip and tightened the leash on the dog. “Don’t know about that one. I’ll have to ask his trainer what they’re planning to do with him.”
“Here’s a five hundred dollar deposit and my phone number. You give me a call when you fins something out?”
“I sure will, but you positive you want a dog with a broken leg? Might not heal right.”
“You ever heard of a sure thing?”
He filled out an information card then left the building. In the half-empty parking lot, he found his car and put down the windows. The PA squawked as he rolled out of the parking lot and drove down the highway. The sea air had reached inland. The muggy swamp air had drifted away, and to Coby, the land smelled clean and new. He listened to the singing of the crickets, like a voice in his head that he could carry with him. The star light in the wide night sky appeared as the artificial light of the track shrank, becoming a distant, faded memory.