Billy ambles down the cappuccino
strip to see if anyone will give he some work. Washing dishes,
sweeping floors, taking out the rubbish. He needs money to feed
his wife and kids. It is two o'clock on this sun saturated afternoon,
and no luck yet. He pictures his wife at home, working out how
she is going to feed three ravenous ratbags with two potatoes
and half a carton of milk.
He tries the next cafe. He has worked here before, and threads
his way through the clatter of chairs and tables and coffee sippers'
chatter. A young couple stand up and make to leave. A flash, a
flicker, a flutter, catches his eye. A slight disturbance of the
air. A shuffle of dust on the floor. All settles. He glances at
the couple who are already negotiating the crowded pavement. Billy
detours around by their table, calmly swoops and recovers an abandoned
$50 note. Golden, shiny, slippery. He runs it's see through window,
inlaid with the Southern Cross, between his finger and thumb.
One hand rakes through his hair and rests on the back of his neck,
while the other swiftly stuffs the prize into his back pocket.
He makes his way out of the cafe and marvels at his fine fortune
this fair day. He walks at a good pace without looking back, until
he reaches the train station. He slides through the closing doors
of a city bound train. The train glides out of the station. Fremantle,
Mosman Park, Cottesloe. He stays on into the city. He is pretty
certain no one has noticed his small misdemeanour, and is convinced
now that Luck has found him. And so Billy jumps aboard another
train, heading out to the racecourse. An excellent day for the
gee-gees he decides, and with Luck in tow it would be daft to
stop now. Imagine his little wife's face if he came home loaded!
They pull into the racecourse station. Billy jumps from the train
and leaps over the barrier. He heads around to the back of the
course where the trainers park up and take the horses in to the
stabling area. It won't be manned this late on, and he will save
himself the entrance fee. A preoccupied stable lad has left a
program lying near a stall. Billy picks it up and begins to flick
through. The next race is the 3.10, Apple Selling Maiden Stakes.
Tricky to pick on form. Billy decides to opt for the familiar
name technique. He runs down the list of names. Lucy in the Sky,
Skip the Country, Digger Doug! That's it! Digger Doug for his
little Dougie. Perfect. He checks the bookies and the tote. No
one fancies little Dougie today, 100 to 1 on with Brooksworth.
"Twenty to win on Digger Doug, thanks mate." That beautiful
piece of plastic unfurls seamlessly from his pocket and flutters
like an elusive butterfly as it passes from old owner to new.
Billy takes his change and ticket. That's it. Deal done.
Digger Doug runs a good race but is beaten by a head to a grey.
Billy knows he has come too far now to go home with $30. The pride
he can feel at the imagined look on his wife's face as he presents
her the loot.
The 3.50, Parry Paints Handicap. Names or numbers this time? No,
lets not give up on Lady Luck quite so easily. Names. Jaunty Promise,
Mercury Moon. Mister Pip. Ho ho ho. Brian. Who would call a horse
Brian? But Brian just happens to be Billy's father-in-law. That
is bound to be it then. He will use a different bookie though.
That was the problem last time. Jack Jones. "$20 on Brian
to win, mate." Mr Jones compliantly scribbles on the ticket
and puts Billy's $20 in his leather bag.
Brian is disastrously out classed here and succeeds only in bringing
up the rear of the field. Bugger. Billy might have started sweating
had he been of pessimistic disposition. But Billy knows in his
bones that Lady Luck is along for the ride. She is pointing to
the answer, he just needs to better read her signs.
He passes the winners enclosure. The three placed thoroughbreds
foam and jig in the appreciation of the gathered crowd. The winner
is pulling hard at the proud owner's grasp. The owner pulls back
sharply. The horse rears up. The crowd gasp, scatter. Panic and
dash. Then Billy sees it, in a prolonged moment of absolute clarity.
Lady Luck is sat high in the saddle of this mighty grey beast,
standing above all else, silently seeking his attention. The winners
of both races so far have been greys. That was it! You little
beauty! Billy's heart skips a foxtrot and Luck slides off the
horse and twists herself around Billy's chest. She strokes and
caresses his body, pleased with him for noticing her.
He waits by the parade ring for the next runners to come out.
It's a big race, fifteen in the field. 4.30 start, HopHop.Com
Handicap Sprint. Beautiful afternoon, the sun is still high in
the warm November sky. A fine boned bay enters the ring. Skitty
and excited. She cranes her neck, eyes darting. More now. A grey.
Billy checks his program. Number 7, Strike the Steel. Oh baby.
He looks up. Shit. Another grey. He hadn't considered there may
be more than one grey. What is he supposed to do? Come on Lady,
don't abandon me now. A third! What is this, Bring on the Greys
Day? Don't panic, Billy Boy. Take your time. Three greys. Back
the greys. A smile is spreading, he has got it. He has to play
Billy beelines for the tote, pushing past people, head down, intent.
He marks his card. 7 Strike the Steel, 13 Silversmith, 5 Tin Shed.
Order? No, that is the order, that is the order. They have been
given to him. He trips over to the tote window. The lady smiles.
A winning smile. As she relieves him of his final $10. "Good
luck love" she drolls. "Cheers, I've already got it."
He jauntily strides through the beer odoured crowd and proprietorially
positions himself on the fence directly opposite the finish line.
He admires his reflection in the photo finish mirror, and can't
resist a little wink. Luck ruffles his hair.
The race caller announces. "They are all locked away and
under starters orders ....... and their off!" Around the
first bend. Down the back straight. Nearer they come. Nearer they
come. Final bend. Home straight. A symphony of hooves. The rabble
vociferate. Aeronautical turf. Spittle and fists. The two bodies
collide in a hurtling climax.
Three greys. One, two, three. Seven .... thirteen ........ five.