Copyright 2016 Mario V. Farina
Shakespir Edition, License Notes
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Mario V. Farina
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I noticed the elderly man for the first time one day as I was entering the Off Track Betting parlor on Swan Street. He was standing just inside the entrance holding up for display a four-page pink pamphlet entitled Today’s Predictions. There was a one-dollar cost printed on the cover. I would normally have ignored the man but, for some reason that I can’t explain, I purchased a copy. I perused it casually as I sat on a comfortable seat in the parlor. The publication had the usual data about the horses in the various races. I didn’t see any predictions but did notice that, at the bottom of the front page, at the extreme right hand side, was the single word, toner. This was not the name of a horse, but there was a horse named Tenor in the fourth race. On a hunch I bet five dollars for this horse to win and it did. It was my only winner of the day but it paid 28 to 1.
The next day, I saw the same man sitting on a solitary wooden chair just inside the parlor’s doorway. On this day I eagerly purchased a copy of Today’s Predictions to see whether I could repeat the success of the previous day. I looked at the bottom of the front page and found a single word at the right. This was garden. Studying the issue, I found that there was no horse with this name in any race. Nor, was there a name that was close to garden. I knew the word must mean something, but what? It occurred to me that this word might be the anagram for the name of a horse. I was right! The letters in the word garden were the same as the letters in the name of one of the horses, Red Nag. I bet on this horse and it paid 15 to 1. I went home with a handsome profit.
This is the way a happy pattern emerged. Day after day I would purchase Today’s Predictions from the aged gentleman and find a word at the bottom of the front page. This word would turn out to be the anagram for one of the horses. That horse would win spectacularly. I had no idea how the word was placed in the publication or why. I didn’t care. So long as the word pointed to a winner, I was happy. On the next several days I found such words as candied which pointed to Nice Dad; seminars, to Near Miss; relations, to Oriental; trample to Templar; and almond, to Old Man. This last one prompted me to speak to the seller of the brochure.
The man appeared to be in his nineties. He was short of stature, very thin, wore thick white hair, and wheezed with every breath. He had on an attire that never varied, a faded blue suit with a tattered red-striped tie. “Mister,” I said to him, “Where do you get this publication I buy from you every day?” He stared at me wordlessly appearing not to comprehend the meaning of my question. I tried again. “Who prints these?” I asked. There was no response. I gave up and handed him a dollar. “Thanks,” he muttered as he gave me a copy of Today’s Predictions. The word at the bottom was traders and the name of the winning horse was Red Star. It paid 12 to 1.
One day, the time for making it big had arrived. I decided to bet five thousand dollars on a winning horse. Five thousand would be all the cash I could round up. I purchased the day’s issue of the publication and found the word aspired. Studying the horses’ names, I quickly found that the name Despair was an anagram for this word. It was a 20 to 1 shot. A beautiful jockey would be riding the horse. What could be better? A bet of five thousand would return one hundred thousand dollars. I rushed to place the bet.
I was horrified to see Despair come in last!
Angrily, I accosted the old man as I exited the parlor. “Swindler,” I yelled, “You were playing a little game with me, weren’t you? You pretended to offer me the world but delivered only misery! What kind of a devil are you?”
The man’s expression never changed but, for the first time I heard him speak. “Sir,” he murmured barely audibly, you aspired to find riches with one swoop but, instead of being praised for your shrewdness in wagering, you were cast into a pit of despair. You will be my age one day and, I promise, you’ll be wiser than you are today. Remember the words I have spoken.” He was right. I celebrated my ninety-third birthday this morning. I thought about the old man. From the day when my dream of riches had been dashed, I had never bet so much as a nickel on a horse.
I pulled a ragged copy of Today’s Predictions from the top drawer of my computer desk. I had saved this damnable reminder of my catastrophic wager. On that fateful day, a horse named Praised had won with a huge payout. Why couldn’t this name have been an anagram for aspired? I checked to see how close it had been to that magic word. I found myself checking the word again and again. Then I sank to the floor when my legs could no longer hold me upright. The winning horse’s name, Praised, actually was an anagram for aspired just as the losing name, Despair, had been. Praised had won that day, and it had paid 50 to 1!
At the race track an old man sold me a copy of "Today's Predictions" but he didn't tell me how to get the big payer's name. Nevertheless, I figured it out and was winning every day. One day I decided to make it big an bet all I had on the sure winner. It came in last. I called the him a swindler! The big winner's name had been in the tip sheet all along but I had missed it. Read about my stupidity and what I gained from it.