Imagine someone imagining a perfect day at the track.
He would want good weather, evocative surroundings, pleasant company, even if it was only his own. He would require sporting races, with large fields, at true distances. There would be one significant race to focus his enthusiasm, preferably late in the card. The crowd would be large, but not smothering; enthusiastic, but not indiscriminate. He would win, but wouldn’t need to. If he lost, he would get close, always get a call. If he won, it would be by stealth, on worthy horses, with straight bets. To win by luck is to cede a significant part in it.
He would go to a major track, rent a small house, settle in for a while. His perfect day might be his very first.
He buys the Racing Form the night before, walks to a small store, ten blocks down. He passes the neat lawns, The Turtle-Waxed Fairmonts, neighborhood life. It reassures him, though he wants no part of it. The streets are dark, soundless, except for an occasional fox terrier, or the odd radio in an upper-story window. He feels safe, insulated, reverted, as though transmigrated onto a Frank Capra stage set.
He handicaps on the wraparound porch, on a wicker chair, under a hunter’s moon, listening to the crickets, drinking Schlitz, peeling oranges. All his favorite horses are in tomorrow. Winners leap out at him, like apparitions. He circles their names. The town is silent around him, innocently asleep. A moth bats against a bare light bulb. The night seems boundless, thick with ambiguity. He figures the last race, smokes a small cigar, then goes upstairs to bed, falls asleep quickly, dreams of horses.