‘It wasn’t supposed to be this way,’ he thought. That feisty mare, jumpy and restless in the warm-up, came out like a frickin’ lard ass in the last race of the day, finishing second-to-last. He pulled a stack of tickets out of the pocket of his worn gray windbreaker and reviewed his losses, flicking each one back with a battered thumbnail discolored by smoke and stress. First race, he put $100 on the smallest horse. At 3:1 odds, that win was his first and last of the day. Shoulda stopped there, he thought. Shit. Overconfident, he threw away $900 on the next six races, on horses that didn’t even place.
Not that he really had the money to play. Except for his government job and pension, he didn’t have much. Just an old house with faded siding, a broken A/C unit he couldn’t afford to fix, and, the man scowled, nothing but a jar of strawberry jelly in the goddamned fridge.