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 the trifecta.
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.

Catherine Greensit
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