Loser, Chapter 2

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Horror  |  House: Booksie Classic
Next chapter of my short story Loser.

Submitted: February 03, 2017

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Submitted: February 03, 2017

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Christmas Eve, 2019

 

 

There would only be three tracks racing today and not one tomorrow.  She'd had no idea. She would be forced to turn her attention away from the monitor to all the tasks at hand in her tiny apartment. She missed her old cottage dreadfully. She had sold the small two-bedroom home after Trump's tax reform had taken away the mortgage interest deduction. This April she would get an extension to pay off the extra ten thousand she would owe the IRS. She couldn't sell for more than a year because so many homes had hit the market at the same time. Constance had cash in her credit union, but she would wait as long as possible before giving the Trumped-up government any of her hard-earned cash. He had never paid taxes.

She had projected she was going to need everything she had, what she'd made on the sale and what her mother had left her, just to live over the next five or so years. Her pension was less than her rent which had increased twice in the last fourteen months. She really needed to find work soon. Properties were being bought up by Russian and other foreign investors and rents were skyrocketing. Like a game of Monopoly in the last stages, it cost an arm and a leg to land anywhere. Deposit and first and last month; it had been expensive to move. Next year would be the final year of Trump's presidency, if he wasn't impeached finally or if someone didn't kill him first. The angry mob that had supported him was now homeless and hopeless, working minimum wage jobs that only immigrants would have worked before.

Dirty dishes, past time to vacuum, stack of mail with bills to pay. She hardly paid attention anymore. She felt hopeless. The only good thing was the beginning of Obama's campaign. She would reverse the right to live bill, give the choice back to women. She would straighten out the mess education was in, return the money that had been diverted into the oil industry which had been booming until the big accident in North Dakota. This was the first Christmas she would ever spend alone. She had imagined it would be a big racing day so she hadn't even gone out shopping for anyone. Her sisters and brothers had each invited her to spend Christmas with their children and grandchildren but this year she wanted to skip it altogether. Still she remained in her chair.

Scout was snoring on the bed. Constance barely took the poor dog out anymore and kept meaning to make more of an effort but luckily they had a tiny part of the backyard. Scout was fifteen years old now and getting frail. She listened to herself then, swearing at the horses again. Sometimes she could see herself, sitting in the disheveled apartment, half unpacked from moving over a year before, and she knew she was throwing money out the window, rocking in her chair, constantly cursing the jockeys. Was the devil winning, she wondered? She had been a quiet, happy and practical sort when she was a teacher. She had been proud of her involvement and proud of her students. Now she sat waiting impatiently for the next race eleven minutes away even though she was on a huge losing streak, days and hundreds of dollars since her last win. Whenever she stopped, she panicked at how much she had lost. She couldn't catch up unless she won really big and she kept missing trifectas by one horse. Where she used to hate how they pushed a horse into the stall she now encouraged the men and swore at the beast; get that fucker in. She just wanted to get to the end. What were the numbers, had she won?

The money was meaningless. She could have bought gifts for her entire family with all the money she was wasting, but she hadn't gone out. She could have bought a small tree but the ornaments were somewhere in her storage space anyway. She hadn't even strung up any lights. By the look of it, today and tomorrow would be just like any other day. She could feel herself flailing at the thought of an entire day with no races. What would she do? She had been betting for seven months straight. She used to enjoy time she spent alone but lately she always felt lonely when she turned off the races. Maybe she would go to Kat's. Perhaps she would finally clean up, catch up on the bills for the New Year, or maybe she would unpack a box or two from the cottage. That would be her Christmas. She calmed herself. She had not had a problem when she had expected to bet her way through the next two days, but now she understood the world was busy celebrating.

Her body was stiff standing up. She went to the kitchen sink full of dishes and turned on the hot water to let it get warm. Almost every dish she owned was used, stacked on the counter and as she wondered how long it had been since she had bothered to clean up she spied her sister's red plate. Kat had brought it to her at Thanksgiving, loaded with food. Constance never cooked anymore; instead she ordered delivery or went down the street for lunch or breakfast. Over her shoulder a few horses still circled outside the stalls. She cleared the sink of dishes so she could wash plates first. When the race went off she didn't bother to watch but she listened as the sink filled with hot soapy water. The warm water felt good on her cold hands. She wasn't sure why she had stopped taking care of things. The first dish she washed was her sister's red one and she sighed as the loneliness settled over her. She had fucked herself. She would be home in this mess tomorrow and no racing. As she placed her sister's plate on the drying rack she heard the outcome and recognized the numbers. She had finally won. She raced back to her seat and rubbed her wet hands together. A small field of twelve horses and two out of three were favorites, so she wasn't expecting much, maybe five hundred she guessed.

Five-hundred-twenty-six. She almost always guessed her winnings right, when she won. Though there had been times when superfectas paid almost nothing, always surprising her. Now she had a good week's worth of betting money but there would be nothing to bet. There was one more race left. She thought she would let it ride, put it all back down on the favorite who was running at 2 to 1. Then somehow she gathered her senses and signed-out. Better get out now with a win, she thought. She sat for a moment with the website gone and felt relief, the lack of urgency in the room. She stood again and felt a stretch go through her body; she reached for the ceiling and felt energized to finish the dishes. She put on Trumpdora and found some traditional Christmas music, then found a fireplace to display on the monitor.

After she filled the drying rack with clean plates she emptied the sink and filled the dirty bowls with hot water to soak. She had cleaned up the kitchen area and was going to brush the snow off the back step when her phone rang. Kat wanted to Facetime.

"Merry Christmas," Constance answered, "how's it going?"

Somehow her sister had managed to invite her ex-husband and his new girlfriend to Christmas Eve, for the kid's sake, she'd said. Now Constance imagined Kat had run off to a bedroom somewhere needing Connie's support. "Can you stand it?"

"I just wanted to make sure you were doing okay. Jack said he'll drive over and get you if you want."

"No, I'm good," Constance told Kat and switched her phone's camera to pick up the fireplace and catch the music. "I'm having a quiet Christmas this year, see? Have they arrived?"

"No, not yet, not for another hour. I am cooking a pot roast and he just called to tell me his girlfriend is a vegetarian."

"Maybe she could bring her own salad?"

"She'll have to live with peas and carrots and new potatoes."

"Maybe just serve her some cold cereal?"

"Constance, are you sure you don't want to come over?"

"I wouldn't be any help; I'd probably just insult the two of them, anyway."

"Well if you change your mind, there's supposed to be a break in the snow."

"Thanks, I'm just going to relax in front of the fire with Scout tonight."

"Well what about tomorrow?"

The storm was supposed to get bad overnight. "Let's see what the weather does. I'll call you back in the morning."

 

Constance sat back down in her chair and watched the fireplace. From the drawer in the table next to her chair she took a small glass jar and a tray with rolling papers. Once the plates dried she would wash all the bowls. She broke apart a gram of Gorilla Glue and rolled herself a Christmas fatty. Beyond the monitor the back porch light showed the flurry of snow was starting to pile up. The reports called for up to two feet over the next twenty-four hours, the second major weather event since Thanksgiving. Just two weeks before another storm had brought down twenty-four inches of snow in just twenty-four hours, then ten days of melting with overnight temperatures icing everything over. Such a large swath of the country had been affected that Trump refused to disperse any FEMA aid. The states were left to cope on their own and Massachusetts had to deny all claims. After the colossal calving in Antartica put parts of Cape Cod under water for a month, most of the population there had been compensated by FEMA and the state, wiping out coffers. Disaffected citizens had seized City Hall, which still had heat, and stayed for close to a week until the governor had caved and dipped into the 2020 fund.

When she had smoked half the joint she set it down for later and stared at the dozen boxes lining the far wall. She hadn't marked any of them, had forgotten what they might contain and had considered many times just dumping them since she didn't seem to miss anything in them apparently. Her heart was beating rapidly inside her chest and her mind raced. She suddenly wanted to do everything at once: go outside in the freezing cold and shovel out the back for Scout, open all the boxes, finish washing the dishes, and take a shower. Sometimes when she smoked she felt normal again, interested in the world and not just enthralled by racing. The two, she had learned, did not go together. When she was stoned and tried to race she noticed too many things about the horses, or the names of the horses reminded her of something while post time ticked closer and generally she forgot to place bets at all. Now she enjoyed this rush of attentiveness and decided to open a box, since it was Christmas, after all.

The first box contained school supplies and old lesson plans. There were holiday decorations from her last ninth grade classroom, most of which the kids had made. Faces of her students came to mind and she remembered the thrill of giving an assignment that reached one of them. There was a way to every heart, whether it was music or art, math or humor. Constance had felt pride in her ability to draw out their best selves. To open their minds to the question, all questions. Question everything, she had taught. She took out the Happy Holidays poster that featured a quote from each of her students. A few students had made up their own quotes, but most were references from the Bible, the Koran, a poem about the solstice and even a photo of one girl as a toddler next to the Christmas tree because for her the holiday was all about believing in magic. Constance found her tape (that she should have been using to wrap gifts for her family) and taped the Holiday sign to the back of the bathroom door. Then she sat on the toilet. Something about being high always made her pee. She read some of the quotes while she sat.

"Kwanzaa does not replace Christmas and is not a religious holiday. It is a time to focus on Africa and African-inspired culture and to reinforce a value system that goes back for generations." Eric V. Copage.

John 1:14 "The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth."

"Christmas is simply the darkest hour of the year for which we come together to celebrate its passing." Jimmy Little.

 


© Copyright 2018 Ohelia Ceph. All rights reserved.

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