In those days, my wife and I never had much money. We
lived in a small shack on the outskirts of Mexico City. I wrote a weekly column
for the newspaper and got some money from publishing my fiction besides, and we
lived simply. I would come home in the evenings from the office uptown where I
would write, and my wife would help me out of my sweaty clothes and one thing
would lead to another and we would make love, smelling the frying peppers and
beef from the neighbors next door.
It was in the spring, when the rains came down like it was God and all His angels emptying their piss pots, that I received an advance from the publishing company for a book. It wasn’t much, but it was more than we’d ever had at one time. When I told my wife about it, she looked at me with a fierce pride in her eyes that shone like the moonlight in the rainy gutters and she said that we needed to celebrate.
I told her it wasn’t much, but I agreed that it had been a long time since we’d celebrated anything. She said we should do something exciting for a change, something to make the neighbors jealous. I asked if we should go down to the races. She agreed that we should.
We made love that night and the way she moved made me so hot I had to take a water break halfway through while the neighbors cooked peppers and beef. In the morning we wrapped ourselves in our brightest colors and caught the train to the racetrack.
We had never been to the racetrack before. Everyone was so colorful, and the arena looked like a bowl full of candies. The names of all the racers were tacked up on the wall and under a little window below you could register your bets with a man in a white shirt. My wife insisted we bet first on the underdog. His name was Windfall. He was a stegosaurus. I didn’t agree at first because I couldn’t imagine how anyone would ride a stegosaurus with all those spines on its back, but my beautiful wife pulled me close and kissed me, so I told the man at the window to put me down for seven hundred and thirty dollars on Windfall. He smiled at me and told me that it was good to see someone playing the underdog odds.
My wife and I weaved our way through the candy colored crowd and found our seats on the hard aluminum benches. Next to us was a short old man who’s face had given up. He introduced himself and struck up a conversation with my wife about how he used to be a jockey back in his day, back when they still raced horses and not dinosaurs, and you see it was really quite smart to have bet on the stegosaur because he always had a good feeling about who would win, and he was sure it would be our boy. I busied myself with seeing how high I could move my hand up her thigh under her dress before she slapped it away. She didn’t.
I let myself worry for a moment that it might be foolish to waste our money away gambling like this. Then the murmuring crowd went from a simmer to a boil and cheers rang out as the racers made a parade lap around the track. My love of my life looked to me and I instantly caught the infectious excitement in her eyes. We watched the dinosaurs stride the track and felt the gentle rumble shudder through the stadium at their footsteps. The old man next to us tried to point out each of the racers and name the species of dinosaur to us, but his withered voice was no competition for the cheering, chanting crowd.
I saw our boy Windfall, the Stegosaur, and saw the jockey wedged in tight between the spikes on his back. The dinosaurs were brought back around to the starting gates, and a tense hush fell upon the crowd. My wife grabbed ahold of my hand and squeezed tight. Then with the crack of the starting gun, we felt a rumbling thunder like we never had before like Zeus casting the titans down from Olympus at a million miles per hour. The racing feet of the dinosaurs were like a madman pounding ceaselessly on a timpani drum, and a cloud of dust rose so thick it was like trying to spot a gecko in the bottom of a pot of split pea soup. We heard howling and roaring from the animals and I was terrified for a moment. But my wife squeezed my hand and I knew that I could not be terrified at all, so gathering my wits, I cheered loudly. The rest of the arena cheered and whooped and whistled, but nothing droned out the thunder of the dino footfalls.
The dust cleared a little and our boy Windfall was coming up on the leader, a slim Tyrannosaur with skin the color of copper leather. Our jockey whipped and whipped the stegosaur, but I doubted the beast could even feel it. He was racing for himself now. Even from where I sat I could see the fire and determination in his eyes. The beast was tired of being last. He had eaten enough dust to shit out the Sahara, but now it was his turn to win. In that moment I admired that animal. He was closing on the tyrannosaur.
One-hundred meters to the finish line.
My breath caught in my throat as I thought of how rich I was about to be, if only…
In one last sudden burst of speed, the tyrannosaur overtook our boy Windfall and hurtled past the finish line to take first.
I was deaf to the wild cheers which erupted from the arena. I looked into my wife’s eyes, and she looked into mine, and for a moment I thought she might cry or scream or curse in anger. But instead she laughed, and it was a silly kind of high pitched insincere laugh the way you laugh when you hit your funnybone. I joined in, and then our laughing came together and became a real true laugh. We laughed at the dinosaur race, and at ourselves for betting so much. We laughed at our lives for being so plain. We laughed at out laughter.
Coming home that night in our candy wrapper clothes, we walked hand in hand down the narrow streets and my wife told me how happy she was to be mine, and how that made her feel rich even though we were poor. I told her she was silly, then kissed her right there in the street in the middle of all the moonlight and shadows.
We made love that night and it was like an ember burning low and slow, but oh so hot, and I thought hell, let the neighbors cook their peppers and beef on this.
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