John Patrick Robbins

Belly Up and Double Down

It was a day at the track like any other.

Early on in the day, the hopeless all seemed so full of life, but as the day faded, you saw it:

The desperation in their eyes as they gambled it all away.

Made stupid bets and lost it all, pinning vain hopes on the last horse to at least break them even.

Some say it was the worst addiction there was, but to me they were all the same.

All it was was a passion for doing something more than dying.

And anyone can be a hamster to a wheel.

I was a regular there, but at best that probably meant I went unnoticed by most.

It wasn’t the kind of place where people stood out.

But every now and then you made conversation.

Mac was a regular like my me.

He at least understood how to bet, although his luck was seldom consistent.

We often had a beer together towards the last race.

Most times I was buying.

“Fuck, my luck’s been shit today, Frank.”

“Why you think I’m buying, asshole. If you ever pick a winner, drinks are on you for a change.”

He laughed as he took a sip of his overpriced beer.

“Hell, I ever hit another good streak, I believe the world may come to a end.”

“By the way, how’s the book coming, Frankie?”

“‘Bout same as your luck, it’s not.”

“Hell, man, don’t sweat it. You’re a great writer. All great writers suffer with that on occasion.”

I looked out at the track. I had to laugh to myself, for it always seemed those so-called losers in life were always the ones with the most hope.

“Yeah, Mac. I believe that’s true with most great writers, but I don’t think anyone will ever confuse me with one of them, my friend.”

“Hell, Frankie, chin up man. You’ve been doing some great stuff lately. Look at your last I read, that was some hilarious shit.”

“Man, you’re brutal when it comes to people. That chick really sleep with her eyes wide open and drool all over the pillow?”

“I’ll have you know I was once engaged to that woman.”

“No shit? You still together?”

I laughed at that one.

“Yeah, dude. That’s why I’m here most days watching you gamble away your last cent while I pick up the tab.”

“And you’re a good friend for it, Frankie. Well, I gotta go place one last bet. Lady luck is on my side, I just know it this time.”

With that, Mac got up and left, and I just sat there finishing my beer.

I wasn’t compelled like Mac to cast my last dime in some slim hopes of winning, only just to repeat it all over again tomorrow.

I bought another beer and killed it quickly. The track was closing for the evening.

Out in the parking lot, I ran into Mac.

Somehow he’d managed to pick a winner and won a decent amount.

Tomorrow would find him losing it all, of course. We were all hamsters to a wheel.

We just chose to believe we were better off than the next sap beside us.

I went home that night and never even looked at the page.

Even the horses were going nowhere fast.

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