Post Time for the last horse race. Church-like bells clang for final wagers and I’ve already bet on Zelda, the #5 at 5-to-1 odds. Leaning on the infield rail, I finish another beer, look through binoculars like Little League Coach Earl at the beach for nudes when I was a boy. The memory spooks until I spot my black filly standing in ocher sunlight. Thankfully, she looks okay, looks calm yet ready to run. She puts a hoof forward, tap-taps the sandy racetrack like a little dance. She cocks pointy ears through a tact – a cotton head-covering so she can’t look to the side or back. Her coat is dry, tail loose as a flapper’s frock. Feet in irons, the hundred-pound jockey nudges Zelda’s barreled flanks and she goes in the starting gate.

The rest of the ladies load, a field of twelve in a six-furlong race, or ¾ of a mile, over in seventy seconds – give or take. Handlers yell. A bell rings. The doors open. They’re off.

They spring from the gate, they run as they have for thousands of years, scrambling for position, tails strung like Christmas lights. Zelda’s saddlecloth is the color of money; her jockey’s silks, the red-light district. Both appear unhurried for the business transaction at hand. 

“At the midway point, Zelda is a dawdling last!” comes the announcer’s voice.

Then it happens as life in an instant. In the far turn, Zelda begins to move. She gains ground. She is a locomotive, she is a sports car. She passes horses, picking them off one by one, weaving in and out. The jockey hand-rides her. Pump-pump his arms go, whip tucked away. It looks like he’s humping her like Earl me way back.

Exiting the turn, Zelda swings out. Dust explodes from her feet. The jockey crisscrosses the reigns like a jump rope, trying to get her to switch leads. She’s running off the wrong leg. He doesn’t whip her, so I whip my leg with my fedora instead. At the 1/16th pole, Zelda switches leads. She straightens out, neck surging and tumescent. She has one to pass, a pregnant roan with foal. In three strides, Zelda extends and wins, tail wind-milling.

Through binoculars, I see the jockey removing Zelda’s tact like a woman’s bra, swinging a boobless trophy. 

The win pay-offs delayed, I line up, slow as Catholic Communion or communist bread line. Or Zelda at first. So, I have a cigarette, think of her, probably named after F. Scott Fitzgerald’s wife, also a writer like Scott in the roaring 1920’s and crazy as a wild horse. But who cares about a name? It’s something Hanna, my wife, would say. She gluttons for anything society and everything history, and vomits it conversationally on me, then I parrot it back. Like to the bald bet-teller with hairy knuckles who pays me in a two bank bundles of twenties. I peel off a bill. “Compliments of the drunk, bipolar flapper.”

“My wife won the last race?” he jokes. Then he says, “Thanks, Mack. That’ll cover a few beers.”

Mack – never been called that before. Is this the 1920’s? Back teeth afloat, I could go for a celebratory beer. But heading for the exits, the concessions are closed.

In the parking lot, a draining sea of brake lights. The sun has dipped into the far end of the bay beyond the Golden Gate. The bus to the city has left, so I grab a checker cab that makes me think of New York. Hanna’s been there all week, clothes shopping, going to musicals and the Tut exhibit. Her Prozac is working and she wants to travel. Run away, really, after I told her about Earl. I just hope she remembered her pills and to come back. As for me, I’d like another drink and bet, but the action’s over.

I’m second in the cab, get the plastic camel-hump backseat harder than Earl’s lap. I grab my

splayed safari-jacket belt before the next passenger slides in – a woman with a nice musky smell. Cramped and not anxious to make friends – I prefer falling in love from afar –  I lower my fedora and focus on printouts as the cab pulls away. 

We pass under the freeway. On my right, she says, “How’d you do today?” 

Drunk, I look over. She is black, gaunt, and quite pretty – face bones fine as a bird’s. A gold hat resembling a khat headdress hangs down the back of her neck like a Pyramid wall painting of the Egyptian Queen Isis in a copper choker.   

“I had a good day,” I say, imagining Hanna telling me I’m talking to Tut’s mother. “You?”

“They got me today. Got my shirt.”

“Looks like you’re still wearing it.”

She gilds a smile, suggestively fingers the top button of her silky blouse, and gives me the eye. I think of eye on the dollar bill atop a pyramid. Hanna says it means providence, but probably not here.

I say, “They get me a lot, too, just waiting to take my money.”

“It’s like we’re the ATM for the track,” she says.

“No ATM,” the Middle Eastern driver shouts in a dirty turban. “Cash only.”

“No,” another passenger explains. “It was a joke.”

“No joke. Cash only,” he jihads.

Then the Isis woman sasses, “All I have is my ATM.”

The cab slows, the driver eyes the rearview mirror like a savage tomb raider.

“Just kidding, Mohammad,” she says. “Keep your mummy hat on. I got my two dollars.”

The driver speeds down cloven streets skirted by abandoned warehouses. Faded signs board 

windows. Thistle and rumpus weed up through cracked foundations – nothing as precise as the Giza

Pyramids where you can’t even stick a credit card between the limestone blocks. I look at my crumpled

sheets and hope my equations never show gaps or a fatal flaw.

You organized,” the woman says. “Where’d you get those from? They sell those at the track?”

“I made them.”

“Well,” she says. “What’s that number circled in red next to Zelda. Didn’t she just win?”

I smile.

“I should have been hangin’ with you. Want to share the formula?”

My smile slips with the transmission as the cab slows, a solenoid shot. I recall Earl hanging out of his pants, showing me how to calibrate a spark plug well before I could drive. It was hard to know the torque wrench from his twerking cock. I never could set the spark plug gap; the electricity never arced between the ground and center electrode.

At the train station, I exit the center seat, pay the taxi, and go inside. Zelda follows, we get tickets, take the escalator down to the platform.

Intrigued by her, I ask, “Where to?” 

“The city. Powell Street.”

“The same.” I point the way, my other hand on her back. “You notice Zelda’s workouts?”

“A fifty-seven bullet. Faster than a quarter-horse.”

The train’s lights beam from the tunnel, the marquee lights up.

The doors open. I’m not a gentleman; I go in first. She sits next to me, her musk invading my cigarette-smoked senses. My eyes feel sunken as spark plug sockets.

“Show me again,” she says. “There’s Zelda.”

“Not as good looking as you. You smell better.”

“Oh, go on.” She touches my leg.

The bones in her hand are like the levers of my forklift, which couldn’t lift a ten-ton block for 

the Pyramids. God knows how the Egyptians quarried them. I dig at the 40-weight motor-oil under my

fingernails and remember Earl ringing a filter wrench on his cock. The train tunnels under the bay. My

ears ring as the wheels screech on the rails. Aside from her musk and my debauched smell, Hanna would say the air is stale as a Pharaoh’s funerary chamber.

“Now,” this woman says. “Why did the track announcer say Zelda wouldn’t switch leads? She looked like she was about to lead.”

“Ever run through an airport carrying a heavy ssssuitcase?” I’m slurring my words.


“Then you switch hands so you can keep going before you rest?”


“The suitcase is the horse’s body, and instead of switching arms, the horse switches legs. Inside leg on the turn, outside on the straight.”

She puts her hand on my leg, says, “This the one you lead with?”

I smile and recall high school when cheerleader Kali was ready to lead the charge on the court. I had free throws in the final second, down by one. Hair in cornrows, skirt in purple pleats and pom-poms twisted, she yelled my name, the only time she acknowledged me. 

“Now you want to talk?” I said, looking over.

She stood in her own spotlight and bunched her shoulders as the crowd tittered. 

I rimmed both shots; we lost the game, and I never did talk to her. 

After, Mom and I ate at a taqueria.

“You should have invited your friend,” she said.

“If only.”

“Well, she certainly called out your name like she was.”

                                                                           +  +  + 

At our train stop, I say, “Dinner?” 

“Okay,” Zelda says in a cheerleader sort of way.

Above the station, shop windows vigil the somber street – the slow of downtown before nightlife. We cross against a red light, enter an empty jazz-bistro converted from a church. Zelda Fitzgerald would have adored this place. Hanna too, with its plaster arches, murals of angels on the ceiling, still-lifes for stations of the cross. 

The host lectern vacant, a tall slim man behind the marble bar veined as blue cheese with brass taps waves us over. He’s Chinese in a tux and braided ponytail and studies us. I’m still in a safari jacket. I remove my hat and binoculars. I tell him we’re on expedition to a costume party.

“What’ll it be?” he says without a smile.

I look at Zelda. “My dear.”

She pokes my hat, says, “Whatever Indiana Jones is having.”

I smirk and order gin martinis. “Olives, dirty.”

“Dirty – I like that,” Zelda says.

“Very good,” the bartender says and goes away.

“Very good,” Zelda sasses. 

“Smoke?” I offer the hard pack. 

“You got it all. You got a formula to predict me?”

She leans in, rubbing a small soft breast on my arm. In my head, Hanna is talking about Queen Isis suckling her son, Horus, who would become Pharaoh, like the Virgin Mary did Jesus, who would become Savior. But Zelda has a different sucking in mind. Then I’d be a dalliant and a dumb-ass. I try

to focus, not stray too far. I notice her gold flats, the flats Hanna looks at in fashion magazines – not the

glossy ones Earl showed me way back.

Dirty martinis arrive. After we drain those, eat olives, I confess, “We’re out of sticks.” I feel

like Hanna out of meds.

“Oh, hell.” Zelda shakes the pack like a wino an empty bottle.

“I’ll go get some.”

“Now you come back,” she says. “Don’t go home to that wife of yours and leave me with the bill.” She points to the gold band on my finger. “Besides, all I got is my ATM, and you’re coming with me.”

I nod and nearly go home. At the smoke shop, I buy a two-pack and recall Kali on the sidelines. I kick myself for missing both free throws – shots like damn twerks. But I promised, head back to the bar.  

Zelda adjusts her khat when I return. I proffer a pack with the camel picture, keep one, and notice her imitation choker, earrings, bracelet are a set. I indulge Hanna, imagine where the copper parure was smelted, hammered, what dynasty. Edomite, she says, in the Tima valley, east of Israel, north of Egypt. 2000 BC. Cramped claustrophobic mines, slave labor, camel trains packed with ore. All dust now. Like every dynasty. Little evidence. Stuff for archaeologists in Indian Jones hats.

“Aren’t you nice,” Zelda says, stripping the clear film wrapper, the gold strip tab the same color as her jewelry.

“I aim to please.”

“I’ll bet you’ll please me.”

I light her cigarette with flickering intrigue. I look at her as though through the wrong end of the binoculars at myself. Desperate. Wanton. Spooked again, I see Earl stripping.

“So, what do you do?” she says. “What’s your story?”

“Retail sales and a little forklift in the warehouse. You?” 

“I bet you forklift,” she says. “As soon as we get to where my house is.” 

“Oh, I have to handicap tonight, dissect the Racing Form. Let’s meet up at the train tomorrow.”

“Tomorrow? There’s still tonight,” she says. “We’re gonna finish like Zelda.”

The bistro fills up, the bartender says we can eat at the bar. Dinner comes on over-sized plates – mine has a chip. That’d scratch a horse to the glue factory. We have mustard pork-loin and sautéed Julienned Brussels Sprouts with lemon juice and bacon. Twice-baked potato. A Riesling.

Zelda keeps a hand on my leg. I feel like a shy ridgling. She flicks a long lever finger for my bills. I wipe my mouth with a napkin and cigarette smoke clouds the bar. The bartender comes up.

“How is it?” he says.

“Someone ate all my food. And drank my drank,” Zelda says and laughs. “I’ll have another,” she says, waggling her empty glass.

“That could be a horse’s name,” I say.


I’ll Have Another.”

“That’s what I said.”

She doesn’t get it. I switch back, order dirties for the road.

He brings them and says, “Anything else?”

“Motel room, and hurry,” Zelda says like he’s our taxi driver.

It’s no joke, but I want it to be. “We’re good,” I say, think of the motel Earl took me to as a boy. It was my birthday weekend at an amusement park. My mother called it a wonderful surprise. But after, I went home surprised with a bloody sore end. “Two more for the road and we’ll settle.”

“Must be a long-ass road,” Zelda jokes. “Long like sumtin’ else.” She squeezes my leg like she

 could ring an oil wrench on it.

The bartender brings a black leather fold. I pay cash, remembering my prom at a fancy ball-room hotel with chandeliers. All night, I stared at Kali over my date’s shoulder. Kali seemed bored with her boyfriend and his new BMW. Then  they were off to an after-party in a room upstairs. I slipped the valet my last twenty for retrieving my shitty Datsun and drove my date home. I kicked myself; Kali never looked over.

Sometimes I wonder if Earl ever had twenty bucks. Even a credit card. Aside from my birthday, we did things without paying. Once, in his old truck – the doors barely hinged – he fancied a hotel after a little league game. We walked through the marble lobby in trunks straight to the Olympic pool swarming with half naked with cocktails. We picked the last of the lounger chairs in the shade and he told me to stay put while he checked on our room upstairs. My stomach turned. Another room? There were hundreds in the horse-shoe high-rise. He returned and said it wasn’t ready. Then a security guard came over and asked if we were even staying at the hotel. Earl said we were just leaving.

                                                                               + + +

I tip the waiter twenty percent.

Then I order two more martinis, as he brings us two.

He just nods, nothing like a jihad.

“You just paid the long-ass tab,” Zelda says.

“Guess I’ll open another.”

Her head goes side to side. “You’re dawdling like Zelda at the back of the pack.”

I light a cigarette; nicotine plumes my mind, and nearly fall off my stool.

The music starts – a pianist and bassist in tuxes, a pretty blond vocalist in a cloche and a silky

evening gown. She looks like Hanna; her arms are lean and bare, breasts perky under her black V-neck. She sings “My Funny Valentine.” I can barely hear her over the crowd, not that I’m standing at any damn free-throw line.

A group of males rushes in like a pride of lions. They are strapped in the brown leather backpacks of those who vacation for six weeks a year, like Hanna wants to do. I wish I’d gone to New York with her and hope she doesn’t run out of meds. 

They circle the bar. “Beer!” they shout. “We want beer!” One taps me on the shoulder.

“Excuse me,” he says. He sounds German and hands me a note the size of a bet ticket. FIND WILLIE it says.

Earl said that more than once, putting my hand down his boxers.

“We don’t know what this means,” the German says. “Willie,” he says, tongue out, and starts

laughing. “Willie,” he says again, tongue drawn further out. 

He my Willie,” Zelda says with her hand high on my thigh and squeezes.  

I remove her hand, skin like the scales of a horned snake. I hand the note back and say, “Sorry, I can’t help you.”

“Oh, well,” they say. “Cheers,” and hold up green bottles of beer.

Zelda finishes her martini in one swallow. Mine’s untouched. My eyes sink lower than olives in the glass. Dizziness hits in an instant.

“I’m leaving,” I say. It’s so loud no one can hear. “Hey,” I say to the guy with the note. I tap him on the shoulder. “Hey, buy her a drink. Who among you will buy Zelda a drink?”

But she hears, ears up like through a tact, and eyes wide. And not providential. She screams like a wolf’s howl. It echoes in eddies down my ear holes as though I’ve just tried to auction her like chattel or a cotton picker. “What?! Listen, Mack. Don’t you dare do that! I don’t need anyone to buy me a drink! You hear me, Willie? Or is it just Dickhead? Don’t ever do that again! And my name isn’t Zelda! It’s IRIS!”

The Germans stare like a stunned basketball crowd. Blond eyebrows raised, they watch as though I’m on the free-throw line and missed. The guy with the note mumbles,  “Oh, Willie.” 

“Sorry,” I say about my lack of tact. “I didn’t mean any harm.”  

She looks like she could whip me.

I free myself from the stool, then snudge and stagger out and through downtown. My fedora brim low, I look back to see if she’s following. On the busy sidewalk, I clip tourists with my binoculars. I switch leads to avoid more.

At home, Hanna’s left a message on the answering machine: “Have fun at the races? Hope you

won enough to pay for my trip, in case you thought I wasn’t coming back. You’ll love the gold ballet flats I bought. I just love New York. By the way, you’re coming with me next time; there’s a race track here. And churches! I know how you love holy places. And oh my God, an archaeologist lectured at the museum. He said the cryptic crypt evidence suggests King Tut died in a race, probably fell off the chariot and got run over by a wheel or crushed by a horse hoof. Broke his heart, literally. Crazy, huh? Wish that would happen to fucking Earl, crush the shit out of him.”

Haunted, I’ve never considered that, wish I could kill the memories, tact my mind, and not look back.

  After a Prozac pause, she says, “Anyway, I’ll be home tomorrow night. Bye, Love.”

+  +  +

In the morning, I have coffee and handicap, crunching numbers, picking horses. I walk

downtown to the station. Tourists line up to nowhere. It’s a bright day, blinding as God’s face, and I’ve

forgotten my sunglasses. I scan the ticket area at silhouettes. None are Iris. I take the train, study my


At my stop, I get yesterday’s taxi driver. A strip of white cloth hangs from his turban, a crack in

the armor and patka – the raiment of the devout. It’s something I shouldn’t see, like a proper woman’s slip or bra strap. Or as a boy, a dirty magazine, or a grown man’s soiled boxers at the foot of the bed. 

But Earl always had me look. That time at the nude beach with the binoculars, we first stopped at Del Mar for the last race. It was a short walk to the waves after. In back of the pickup, Earl had a bale of hay – random as a limestone block because he never spoke of horses or history like Hanna. In baseball hat and root-beer colored sunglasses, he told security he had a special delivery. They waved him on. After parking, Earl left the hay in the truck and told me to keep quiet and keep walking through the shed-row to the paddock without paying. Then he told me to look. I saw thoroughbreds being saddled, one farriered, and fell in love. I felt electric. They were the most majestic things. The long chiseled faces, soft noses, big powerful rumps, skinny legs with heavy horny hoofs and soft frog soles leaking inside steel shoes. But I had to see worse than bacterial thrush that night.

But now, everyone in the cab, save the driver, is providentially eyeing the Racing Form entries and history of horses Hanna wants to stomp Earl’s heart and soul to hell.

The prickly riders talk picks and winners. 

“That one can run,” one says. “Trainer’s got him ready. Must feed him the good stuff.”

Another says, “Got your money working for ya when you got that jockey up. I tell you what.”

“I got that new kid,” the third says. “Rode the hell out of Zelda yesterday. Smooth as a jump roper.”

Ennui leads to my sheets, shiny numbers circled in red. Bets form in my head. Daily Double,

pick-3, Superfecta.

At the track, I’m contrite as in the confessional. I look for Iris not wanting to find her. I look

over my shoulder and stop to watch yesterday’s race replays on TV. I take trip notes and track tendencies – pacesetters? I continue looking for Iris. I peer down the railing, the paddock, the bar, down the escalator. I eye a woman I’ve never talked to but always see from afar, an adult still-life of Kali, long and lean in jeans and pedestrian elegance. She has a kid, and sometimes a different man, but always a drink with olives. I won’t ask anyone to buy her one.

I drink tap beer from plastic cups. My hangover thumps as trumpets instead of church bells call to post. Three-year-old male Arabian horses parade, descendants commanded by King Tut in 1600 BC, minus the chariots. A twelve-pack sprinting 400 yards. Jockeys armor yellow helmets and black flack-jackets.

The dirt racetrack is fast, green grass turf firm with no headwind or rail bias. But after 10 races and different distances, beautiful breeds, sexes, and ages, it’s too many stories to account for. I bet profiles and equations but there are no Zeldas. My horses run on wrong leads. A few quit. One breaks down and dies, the jockey flings undamaged unlike my heart. All lose. Crumbling to clay and dust as frog and faith, I litter losing tickets all day, akin to tithing the collection baskets at Offertory. I leave without the evidence of even twenty bucks.

Thomas Weedman has a BA in English from Notre Dame and an MFA from Lindenwood. He’s been a seminarian, a forklift operator, barista, and a professional gambler. His short stories have appeared in Constellations, TheWriteLaunch, The Paragon Journal, The Penman Review, Marathon Literary Review, Limit Experience Journal, Bridge Eight, SoFloPoJo,  and The Antonym.