Loser

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Literary Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
In the near future a woman becomes addicted to online betting.

Submitted: August 06, 2016

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Submitted: August 06, 2016

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LOSER

 

 

She tells herself she's learning to let go, then she almost cries when she's lost again. She feels frustrated and angry and holds up her middle finger to the screen. Shit. "Fuck you jockey," she hisses against her will and the dog moves off the couch in a guilty way. "Not you," she tries to console her, "I'm talking to the TV. You're my best girl."

Sometimes she is so desperate to win she scrolls through, betting races without even bothering to watch them. Trying to catch something. In his third year the president has declared gambling to be the national pastime. Today she had started at four in the morning in the UK, now she was betting her way through the states and by eight o'clock tonight she would be in New Zealand and Australia until the end. This was how she had spent the last three days. She hoped for Japan or China because early on she had won twelve thousand in Hong Kong. The racetrack there was always crowded and crowds meant big payoffs. She could still remember how she picked the four horses out of the parade of nearly thirty the time she'd won. Each one felt right; first, second, third and fourth. Most race tracks barely paraded the horses but in Hong Kong every horse was presented one at a time around the inner ring. She thinks that seeing the horses pre-race makes it possible to determine which one has that already-won look, the head that pumps up and down proudly.

Lately she gets so caught up in the betting she switches from race track to race track just a few minutes before post time and there is no chance to study any horse before she bets. She can just get glimpses of the ones the camera catches. She's impatient because there is usually another track where the horses are already lined up in their stalls. She wonders if they take so long getting the horses in so people bet and bet just waiting for them to load. That's what happens to her, when she has more money. She loads up against her first bet, trying to guess how it will be undermined. Will her exacta be split by some other? Will her win choice come in second? She asks herself these questions until her decision process breaks down completely or she has over bet the race. On weekdays the payoffs are small.

She had joined one of the online betting sites back in May for the Kentucky Derby, when she decided to place a big bet against the President's horse, Trumpster. With her winnings she kept betting until the Preakness, and then the Belmont Stakes. Now it was August and racing at Saratoga lasted all day. In the first few weeks experimenting with the superfecta she had won over ten thousand dollars, twice. She sent herself a check for ten thousand the first time and four thousand the second time and had thought that she might make a career out of betting. At least augment her retirement. She had been let go less than one year ago, with all the other older school teachers, forced out of the system by Bill 134 which required teachers to have been trained at least two years in common core curriculum. She would have taken the required courses but she had her mother to take care of. The last two years of her mother's life, which she would never trade even though it meant she would only collect a percentage of the pension she'd once expected. Her sister Kat was convinced the racing system had let her win to get her hooked and tried to tell her that she'd have more money if she never bet. None of her friends wanted to hear that she was betting horses, no one thought it was a good idea.

She recognizes the winner just as it steps into the gate. Her bet is rushed and she is forced to check a more convenient box just to be sure she has an investment. Watching a race without a bet is no fun. There was too much to be disliked. She hated when it took six men to shove a horse into the stall. She hated watching the jockeys when they whipped their horses into kicking. She hated the fact that her friend told her that race horses stand in their stalls twenty-three hours a day and are mostly given steroids. Then she might notice someone rubbing a horse's face or neck before or after the race so she imagines they are loved and allows her guilt to fade. The one she thought would win comes in first but she was too rushed to scroll down to the 8 and had taken the 1 trying to beat the post time.

After Belmont she just kept losing and then she had to start depositing. At first she used her credit card to add funds but after three weeks when the bill arrived she realized that Trumpgroup had charged a fifteen percent cash advance fee every time she'd added money. Now the lime green deposit button onscreen was attached directly to her checking account and yesterday when she'd opened her bank statement she had counted fifteen thousand-dollar withdrawals. What the hell was she thinking? Money wasn't worth as much these days but come on. When she saw she had lost her winnings she lost her breath; but she was still just under, and she was sure she could win again. She didn't want to stop yet. She still believed she could win.

Then she was crying, so angry, just two horses out of four switched and she would have won. Why am I doing this? She clicks on another race and another four numbers that seem likely to come in. Based on what? Does she believe in God? In praying? Was there anything listening? As soon as she makes another bet she feels better. Is it the potential she enjoys? She can't say what exactly turns her stomach. She realizes she is completely disconnected from the horses now and sees them only as names and numbers. She chants Nam myoho renge kyo over what she thinks is the 3 horse in the back, but it's hard to see the number flapping in the wind behind the rider and then they show the numbers of the front runners onscreen and her horse appears to be in the lead. Usually the 3 jockey is wearing blue. In the end all the horses fall into a straight line and she could be a winner. They cross the finish line and the winning numbers flash across the screen.

How is it possible that she picks numbers out of a group and somehow convinces herself they should win every time? Then when they lose she's disappointed. Again. A part of herself watches, detached, noting the disappointment sweeping over her body, making her nauseous. She keeps throwing in a longshot. Maybe it's the disappointment she craves? She can't believe she is about to get sucked into depositing again. She hasn't eaten any breakfast although it's after one, and she doesn't want to leave to go to the store for milk so she drinks her third pint of coffee black.

She knows she should only pay attention to the numbers, to comparing the fixed odds to the way the people vote. Sometimes the people know. She had heard that the favorites only come in forty-five percent of the time but that seems like better odds than she's having. Maybe she should try again betting just the favorites, but sometimes a person might bet a huge sum to pump up the odds to make one horse look like a favorite but they cancel the bet at the last second. There are so many tricks. Somehow the horses would fuck up her bet one way or another. Or did she just have very bad luck? What she ends up paying too much attention to are the names.... Present Sense, True Values, Bullet, Global Positioning, Satirical Dame, anything with Foxy or Irish or Jack in it because that was her father's name. Names of her brothers, Sam or Frank; names of her sisters, Kat or Barbara. Triple Clown because that made her laugh. She notices the long shots are most likely to be called Save My Soul, Gambler's Wish or Magic something: long shots for desperate people to go for.

After four she can call for delivery. She's hungry but she doesn't want to go out half-crying. Her right wrist hurts from holding her finger over the touchpad. She sits in her leather lounger pulled up close to her forty-inch display because her eyes are bad now and her glasses are broken. She would have them fixed but her health insurance had lapsed after Trump repealed Obama care and no one with pre-existing anything seemed able to sign up right now. She plays sometimes from farther back so she can't read the names but then the numbers start to blur and sometimes the colors are not consistent.

She is down to $19. She feels desperate. She plays the superfecta at Santa Rosa for ten dollars. Laughing at herself, hating herself, she bets three favorites and one long shot. Because of the name: Replacement Plan. Part of the reason she wants to have money again is to help her sister afford new teeth. Kat had no insurance when her four front teeth had been knocked out during a rollover accident. The guy who caused the crash had taken off and had so far gotten away, even though Kat had a good description of him and the silver car he was driving. The under-funded police had no one to put on the case.

Lost.

Now she plays a superfecta 3-1-4-all for $6. She is watching herself losing but feels helpless to stop. If she shuts off the program she is left in her tiny apartment with her dwindling nest egg, her dog and no food in the fridge. She's shaky. She hasn't been out, showered or even brushed her teeth in three days. She has let herself get here. Right out of the gate the 3 decides he's not running the race. Thank you very much. She almost chooses the next track in line to go off but something keeps her watching as the 3 starts finally running to the front, passing everyone. Passing the 4, yes, passing the 1, yes. No, the 5 is gaining, no, no, the 5 passes the 4, ruining her superfecta.

She must get up and shower. To break the spell she opens up her Yahump page to see how the market is doing and keep up with the news. The market is hovering at sixteen-hundred, climbing a few percent since the latest recession low. War appears inescapable now, the draft notices have been sent. Inflation is high. The First sons have led three billionaires on another successful safari in Africa, killing three more lions. Everything is falling apart. She goes back to the deposit button, unable to break away.

 


© Copyright 2017 Ohelia Ceph. All rights reserved.

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