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Nothing Could Touch Him
by Paul Perroni

The day's hot, the field's dry, the hangover's heavy. Charlie strolls up to the bar, takes a seat, and chats with a fella.
        "What's your name, bud," asks Charlie.
        "You gonna bet the 1, 5, 6?" he responds, not looking up from his form.
        "I thought I'd get a drink first," says Charlie.
        "Name's Ray. '2 outta 3 Ray' is what they call me. Bet the 1, 5, 6."
        "But that's three horses, Ray."
        "Don't jinx it. I got it this time."
        "I bet you're a worker, ain't ya, Ray?" says Charlie, smiling.
        "Hell yes. Tarrin- roofs, cuttin- lawns, workin- fields, whatever I gotta do."
        "Well shit, let's do this, Ray," says Charlie. "Name's Charlie, by the way."
Charlie takes a double shot of cheap whisky, hops from the stool, and strides to the betting window.
        "Charlie!" he yells, "Bet the 1, 5, 6. Box those sons 'a bitches!"
        "I'm doing that right now, Ray," Charlie says over his shoulder, planting himself at the betting window:
        "Hey good lookin: Race 8, $5 trifecta with the 1, 5 and 6, please."
The tickets shoots from the printer, Charlie gives it a flick with his middle finger, and crosses back to the bar.
        "Here's a cold one, Charlie. You bet the 1, 5, 6?" he says.
        "Sealed up, Ray."
The horn rings and the horses blast through the opening gate.
The announcer thunders through the emptiness:
And they're off!
        "Pace yourself, dammit," Ray keeping a keen eye.
There they go, looping around the first length, the 1, 5, 6, stealing away!
Charlie watches as their hooves dig hard into the hot dirt, working the field,
        "Pace yourselves," yells Ray, his tall beer foaming at the rim.
        "Here they come!" Ray hopping side to side.
The 1, 5, 6, strong in the lead, but the 6 and 8 are thundering up the path!
        "Stay off that 6, you son of a bitch!" Ray yells.
Half a length away from the finish, the 1, 5, 8, 6, and the 8 closing fast. The 6 explodes with a burst of power, leaping ahead of the 8; the 8 comes back again, and the 6 flies through the air, nothing could touch him!
        "We got it, we got it," cries Ray.
        "Go, Go!" Charlie limps out through his drunken lips.
And it's the 1, 5, 6!
Ray falls to his knees:
        "Ahhhh! I got it, I got it. I did it!!"
Charlie stares at Ray and smiles.
        "Let's celebrate!" shouts Ray.
        "You got it, Ray," says Charlie.
        "Steak dinner?" he says.
        "It's 3:00 in the afternoon, Ray."
        "You can't eat steak at 3:00 in the afternoon?" he says.
        "I've never thought about steak at 3:00 in the afternoon," says Charlie.
        "Well," Ray smiling from ear-to-ear, "I bet it's even better."
        " bet your ass, Ray."
        "Can you pay? I gotta show my old lady that I got it, that I'm a winner, that I got it."
        "No problem," says Charlie.
        "Thanks, Charlie."
Ray and Charlie collect their winnings, dance through the swinging doors, and make their way to the parking deck. Ray gleaming the whole stretch of the way. Nothing could touch him.