“Politics – for Sharret,” Michael Thomas
(A Tribute to Charles Bukowski)
Politics, like everything else, is the same as it is with the horses. You have the hot hand for awhile and then you don’t. Pretty soon you’re standing in line to bet the losers. It’s doom. The water rises. You know it. Everyone with half a brain knows it. It’s all been said, so what else is new? Sandy was wondering and coughing and thinking these thoughts in the Sellers line at the track. She made her bet and stepped to the bar to watch the crack of doom on closed circuit. She ordered vodka straight up, 31 degrees. The barman kept a bottle in the freezer.
Too fucking lazy to even go outside and watch the horses do their stuff. Too bad she was so good at picking the winners. Might have to get a real life if she wasn’t. But she was. Who was she to bitch about the gift God had given her for Christ’s sake? Why should she bitch? She had an apartment convenient to the freeway. She had a good Mexican restaurant, and three acceptable lounges in walking distance… No DUIs since she moved in. No men. She’d finally wised up in that arena. Cold fucking comfort that was. The shower and toilet worked (she did have to work the toilet by hand, sticking her arm up to the elbow in cold water every time she wanted to flush it). She’d paid rent six months ahead on her last hot streak. So she should bitch, right? Even the toilet business had it’s good side. Sometimes she’d go all day without flushing. It saved on the water bill and it saved on the ecology. Fucking A.
Race twelve ended and she was 27.00 losers plus sixteen more in ice-spike vodkas. Four winners, count ’em four, she’d had in the ten races she’d bet. Forty percent. You can’t ask for more. She’d blown it. Four winners a day will make some players rich and others a living. Those same four winners will drive other, undisciplined players, broke. There was no excuse. She reviewed the day, a bad one, a day of throwing the shekels at horses with no real chance, betting two and three horses in a race, and placing minimal bets on her four winners, the ones she knew would come through for her. The long hike up the muddy hill, so what else was new? You tell me.
The guy in the apartment next to hers had problems. Number one was being a flaming asshole. He tried to solve numbers two through infinity with Port wine. Sweet syrupy shit! Sandy nearly puked just thinking about it. And it didn’t work. So besides being a flaming asshole he was drunk and sick and miserable on top of it. So the guy got a Doberman and kept it in his car. Logical, given the circumstances. You couldn’t have pets in the apartments. You could have cars, though, and the administration was mute on the issue of dogs in the cars.
When Sandy pulled in the sun was heading for Japan and, as usual, the lot was nearly full. Many of the cars no longer ran. No one cared. Sandy had to park right next to the Doberman. As always the dog went totally ape-shit, jumping against the windows barking, wheezing, snarling. Somebody had trained the dog by giving it kittens to kill. The flaming asshole bragged about it like it was the coolest, most macho thing. What a world.
She took a look at the dog senselessly hurtling himself against the closed windows. For months the son-of-a-bitch had done it without surcease or variation every time Sandy walked by. The dog did not learn. It did not adapt or alter the routine. Sandy hated that dog. Every time she saw the dog she thought of the kittens.
“Fuck you!” she yelled, angry that she couldn’t think of something clever, angry that she, like the dog always did exactly the same thing.
The dog snarled and yapped. Sandy looked at it. Stupid, brainless, hysterical, so like most people, herself included. The usual “Fuck you!” was not going to be enough. Not after the day she’d had. She began beating on the windows with her purse. Loser tickets fell out on the ground along with cigarettes, lipstick, kleenex, tampons and a forgotten half of a Hershey’s candy bar. The dog went into a frenzy, tore at the seats, made a desperate lurch at the driver’s window and cracked his head big time.
The flaming asshole showed up with a bowl full of those nauseating soft kibbles. Weaving, his shirt stained with port, he got there just in time to see the dog arc over backwards and piss straight up in the air. He dropped the kibbles, opened the car, got in, and cradled the stunned animal in his arms. “Poor little puppy,” he crooned, “poor little puppy.” The dog pissed all over him.
Sandy left the loser tickets on the ground and picked up the rest of her stuff. She ate the half Hershey bar slowly, French-inhaling her own breath to savor the chocolate. “Dinner,” she thought.
In her place she got the unopened pint of Vodka she kept for emergencies, her potato recipe. She drank it straight for awhile and watched homophobes badger a covey of transvestites on Jerry Springer. She went to piss and afterwards reached into that icy tank to flush it away. She watched the water change from clouded yellow to crystal clear, beautiful. She smiled. No day is a total loss. Maybe later she’d write her sister a post card. Maybe she’d vote in the next election.