Two Dollars to Show

I am a lonely old man in the corner booth of an all-night diner. On the table before me is a plate greasy with fried eggs and hash browns, a plate I’ll eventually wipe clean with two slices of toast. It is midnight. I am studying a week-old Racing Form. I will make my selections, then check them online against the results when I get home. I save money that way, and it’s just as interesting. The Racing Forms I retrieve from the recycling bin outside my apartment.

Outside the plate glass window, the neighborhood is lifeless. The bar across the street has been closed since a shooting there two months ago. Before I go outside at night, I take the credit card out of my wallet, any large bills from my pocket. That way, I’m not worth robbing, and I believe it shows. The waitress whistles “The Ride of the Valkyries” while bussing a table. The only other diner lolls in an obsessive relationship with his omelet. Time creeps by like an elderly landlord and I look at the fifth race from Fairmount Park in Collinsville, Illinois.

Carpe Noctem, the number three horse, is five years old and well into a downward spiral. Three years ago he won his debut race, one with a $30,000 purse, and is 0-for-36 since. Seven second place finishes, four thirds, falling in class faster than hard rain. Now he’s in this bargain basement claiming race. For $3,200, anyone could buy him. But why? Last place in his most recent effort. The Racing Form notes: Sprinted to lead. Flattened out. Done early.

A horse after my own heart.

I circle his name and move on to the next race.


author bio:

The poetry and prose of Robert L. Penick has appeared in over 100 different literary journals, including The Hudson Review, North American Review, and Plainsongs.  He also edits Ristau, a tiny literary annual, and he lives in Louisville, KY, USA, with his free-range box turtle, Sheldon. More of his work can be found at