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American Friendship Contemporary

HOORAY FOR THE GREY!

Mildred and Bill Williams often spent a Saturday afternoon at

Belmont Racetrack during the race season. They shared their

passion for horse racing on these afternoons among friends and

relatives. The track at Belmont Park was a convenient twenty-

minute walk along the sidewalk path that lined the nearby freeway.

The Saturday afternoon get-togethers would start when they all

gathered at the Williams house en route to the racetrack.

Jerry, Mildred’s brother, was one of the few that really

understood the sport. He always insisted upon rubbing Mildred’s

hair as they approached the track.

Although Jerry would never comment on a female’s appearance,

Mildred understood his insistence to perform his ritual.

“I had premature grey hair,” Mildred would say when the subject

came up. “I was the only child at my school with grey hair.”

“You could ask your mother to change your hair color with dye,”

her schoolmates would offer as encouragement.

Mildred pretended to hate her grey hair and explained that her

mother insisted that it stay grey. It was a part of her substance and

she should learn to use it to her advantage.

And so, she did.

She started to do so three years before meeting Bill.

Mildred made a habit to tell people that she was a premature

grey. Initially, she had meant it as a joke.

It would come back to haunt her on occasion.

Belmont Park would open for the season in just a week.

Jerry already had received his first tip of the year. On the second

Saturday of the season, Diamond Lil was strongly recommended, a

two-year-old that did well on the long tracks.  

Belmont was a long race and qualified well at a mile and a half.

Jerry was known to obtain very reliable tips.

They would plan their first Saturday afternoon outing of the

season for that date.

Over the next few days, life was typical and mundane, but with

energy slowly building in the air.

Mildred had invited the new hire to join them for the horse race

outing.

James was new to the area and was anxious to meet new friends

and experience new activities. There hadn’t been much horse

racing going on in South Dakota of late.

“James will be a welcome newcomer to our group of sports

enthusiasts,” Mildred was proud to say to Bill. “It will be his first

horse race ever!”

During the lunch hour on the following day, James popped up in

the breakroom with his sandwich in hand.

“Hi, Mildred. Thanks so much for your invite to the races,” James

said with excitement.

Not a blink, but maybe a wink?

It was noticed!

Mildred noticed!

Absolutely.

But why?

Mildred’s sister, Maureen, had just returned from Ireland last

week. She stopped by one afternoon to show Mildred and Bill her

pictures of the trip.

“They are wonderful,” Bill asserted.

“Great!” Mildred remarked. “Beautiful country!”

Maureen smiled with a blink of the eye.

“Will you be joining us for the races coming up?” Bill asked.

“You can bet your ass!” Maureen shot back. “Your stupid Irish

ass!”

They all laughed and saluted the plan with a swallow of beer.’’

The day had arrived. Finally!

Mildred mustered up hot dogs and baked beans.

After a quick lunch at Mildred and Bill’s they all paraded out the

door with their betting bucks in their pockets.

The walk along the freeway served as the social visit, a little bit

like boccie ball but without the boccie ball.

Maureen had been seen batting her eyes at James.

As they approached the back side of the racetrack, they were

approached by the welcoming committee.

It might be shameful to think that the race enthusiasts were

actually recognized!

The dozen or so large peacocks circled around them and ran in

between them. Occasionally one would let out a scream.

It was all a part of the Saturday afternoon ritual. 

“Don’t let Mildred see them. They have a touch of the grey. You

know how she can be,” Bill spoke in a booming voice.

Within ten minutes they had found seats and were reviewing the

horses for all the races. Each had their own choice criteria for

selecting horses for their bets. Some can be rather peculiar. Fans

are usually steadfast with their criteria.

It’s the newcomers that have an open ear to any

recommendations.

A newcomer was amongst them.

“James,” Mildred petitioned. “My brother, Jerry, can help you with

the typical jargon that I don’t understand. Listen to me. Be

respectful of any grey horse as the jockey walks them along the

track. Sometimes the horse will reach out to you, connect with you.

Don’t ignore it.”

“Thanks for your advice, Mildred,” James replied. “I’m anxious to

learn much and meet many.”

“James,” Maureen waved. “Come help me pick my two-dollar bet

for the first race.”

James winked as he nodded his head.

“Diamond Lil runs in the last race,” Jerry said to Mildred. “Quietly

pass it along to our group. We should do well.”

“Who are you betting in the first race?” Mildred asked.

“Don’t like any of them. I’m skipping the first race,” Jerry

admitted.

Bill overheard and said, “Mildred, Maximum Height looks good.

I’m betting on him.”

Beers, snacks, horse talk, bets. The afternoon went by fast.

Finally, the time had come for the last race.

There were a few winners, and of course, many losers. Each had

settled on a humble amount to wager, so as to be prepared for the

next Saturday.

“This is the race. Diamond Lil is our gal,” Jerry proclaimed.

Mildred had only bet on two horses all day. She saved her last six

dollars for the last race.

The jockeys walked the horses along the track single file.

Diamond Lil was second and Irish Mist was fourth. Mildred was

anxious for this moment, anxious to see Irish Mist. Irish Mist was

gray and gorgeous, and as he strolled on by, he turned his head to

her and winked!

“Oh my,” Mildred said to herself.

The odds for this horse to win were terrible at twenty to one.

But Irish Mist was grey and had winked!

Mildred bet all six dollars on Irish Mist.

Lo and behold, by golly, Irish Mist won the race!

Jerry wasn’t very happy as he watched Mildred collect her big

winnings.

“Bill, what happened to Diamond Lil?” Maureen wanted to know.

Not far behind her was James. He had bet two dollars on Irish

Mist as a result of Mildred’s advice.

“He winked at me, Maureen,” James answered with a smile. “He

was grey, as well.”

The walk back was full of talk. Almost, should have, all post-race

lingo.

They were close to reaching the house when Mildred had a

suggestion.

“Next street has O’Malley’s Tavern. I’ll buy a round with my

winnings,” Mildred announced.

Then, with drinks in hand, Mildred made another

announcement. 

“To friends and fun. No drink for me to toast. Bill and I will be

parents soon for either Kathleen or Heathcliff,” she said with a

wink, may have been a blink!

Mouths dropped.

Heathcliff?

“Pregnant?!”

What kind of name is that was the question of the hour.

“How about O’Malley, instead?” the bartender suggested.

Mildred stuck to her guns on the chosen names until the baby

was born.

Fifteen years passed.

“Michael,” James smiled. “You should have been named

Heathcliff.”

“The two main characters, the lovers, in your Mother’s favorite

book, Wuthering Heights, are Kathleen and Heathcliff,” Aunt

Maureen explained with a wink. “Nothing more than Irish mischief!

It was to be Michael all along.”

May 20, 2021 18:16

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1 comment

Iris Orona
16:40 May 25, 2021

LOVELY STORY OF FRIENDSHIP AND LOVE

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