Peter Stone’s disgusted flicking off the TV set roused the sleeping dog by his side. He was tired of baseball. Rubing the long ears and running his hand over the short coat and the thick body of Luke, he looked at the phone and wished once again that he could call. But the numbers didn’t make sense. The tall girl, the one who brought Luke over, the one who smelled like sweat and cigarette smoke had written down Ann’s hospital number and left it by the phone, but try as he might, Peter couldn’t make out the numbers through his blurry vision. The few times he tried to guess were unsuccessful and he was frustrated and feeling helpless.
“She’s probably just fine – don’tcha think?” He asked of the sleeping hound. Luke responded by shifting his body and looking at Peter. He let out a long satisfied sigh to let Peter know that he was warm and comfortable and that was good enough.
“Stupid dog, what do you know? You’ve never been run over by a racehorse. But I have and it’s terrible. You just don’t know how much you can hurt until you’ve laid in a hospital bed with hoofprints up your back. God DAMN!” He stomped his slippered feet feeling feeble, old and alone. He knew he was talking to a sleeping dog and he knew his best friend was in a hospital not five miles away and he couldn’t reach her. There was no one to call and nothing to do and such was the state of his life.
But it hadn’t been a bad life, that much he knew. His riding days were glory days. Racing after the war was jubilant, people were eager for pomp and celebration. Peter was 18 and smaller than some of the south American boys. He could eat and drink all night and still make weight. Owners and trainers loved him because he’d learned to say something good about each horse. Women were plentiful. He liked the older ones, they were appreciative and kinder than the young ones. He’d never left the west. Racing in California and Mexico was all he ever needed. He’d had the chance to dance and dine with Hollywood starlets and mobsters. He loved riding for small trainers and hanging with common working men too.
There were wrecks but bones mended and the boys supported each other – plus women loved nursing an injured jockey. Owners were generous and hospital bills managed to get paid. After his racing days were over he’d been welcomed into the Teamster’s union and worked a multitude of jobs at the track, all for decent pay. The work was easy, like taking bets at the mutual windows or managing entries in the racing office. It kept him in touch with racing and racing people. When he retired, there was enough money to keep a nice car – he’d always driven a Cadillac and to pay off the mobile home in the sunny park with the flowers and the palm trees.
There were times when he missed his wife. She’d died of cancer some 15 years ago. But when he thought of her mostly he remembered her mean streak. They could both drink hard, but she could get mean. It certainly had something to do with Peter’s penchant for seeing married women. He thought he was so discreet and so clever, but somehow she knew and it came out with a vengeance when she got to drinking gin.
They’d had one daughter, but she died in the polio epidemic of 1952 just before her 3rd birthday. He rarely thought about her until lately. She would be almost 60 years old now if she would have lived. Old enough to be Ann’s mother, making him Ann’s grandfather. He laughed at the notion, he’d never felt anything paternal toward his friend Ann. But then again he wasn’t the paternal type, or the married type. He was a jockey, and then he was a retired jockey and now he was locked in this tin can in a trailer park with eyes that couldn’t see the numbers on the phone for even his voice to escape. He couldn’t drive, walking hurt and the Dodgers were having the shittiest season he could remember.
The dog got up, stretched, and looked imploringly at the door. It was time for a potty break.