Honestly Kid

by Daniel Damkoehler


premature fiction

Till Then Sit Still, My Soul

Bergoyan gazes into his cof­fee cup remem­ber­ing and then recites, “Foul deeds will rise, though all the earth over­whelm them, to men’s eyes.

Oh good. Shakespeare.” And William flops back down into the couch. He toss­es the year book on the cof­fee table in front of him and it lands with a loud ‘smack’.

Oh, they still teach Hamlet, do they?”

He search­es for a split sec­ond and finds the flip reply he was look­ing for, “Why not? No copy­right.”

Even to History majors at Agricultural schools…”

Been keep­ing tabs on me?”

The old man looks up and makes an hon­est con­fes­sion. “On Brenlee. You’re in the paper, or were, from time to time.”

Sounds like my moth­er’s doing.”

Bergoyan only smiles. “I tried to for­get. I did­n’t want to have any­thing to do with Brenlee after… I sold the paper to Charlie and moved away. I drank. More than I do now, which my doc­tors say is too much. Know-noth­ings.” He dis­miss­es them with a casu­al wave of his hand and a chuck­le that indi­cates he knows his physi­cians have only stat­ed the obvi­ous. “I rent­ed an apart­ment near Bay Meadows. I want­ed to lose all my mon­ey there. I was doing a good job too. Betting long shots and over­weight jock­eys. Staying drunk. Then…”

After a moment William has to ask, “Your con­science?”

The old man rum­bles a short laugh, “Hell no. I won.” He looks at William with wide open eyes, “Big. I was get­ting impa­tient only bet­ting a thou­sand here or a few hun­dred there. I put $10,000 on a thir­ty-to-one old glue sack of a horse with I rid­er I knew first hand was out of his mind on some kind of pills. Well, that was already more than Charlie paid me for the paper. Best laid plans of drunks and news­pa­per­men… I did­n’t quit though. My moth­er did not raise me to quit so eas­i­ly.” Bergoyan points his crooked index fin­ger in the air in mock pro­fun­di­ty.

I went back to the track the next day and man­aged to lose $45,000 dol­lars before it hap­pened again. Or near­ly so. This time it was worse. One of my new track friends told me I could lose mon­ey faster with an exot­ic bet.”

Like a tri­fec­ta?”

Exactly. Exactly. Only mine was more races. I don’t even know what they call it.”

A Superfecta.” William remem­bered los­ing $10 on a trip to the track with a girl­friend all too fas­ci­nat­ed with Charles Bukowski. He’s watched $100 run away far away over the hills.

I put down thou­sands of dol­lars on all sorts of ran­dom com­bi­na­tions. This time… this time, my friend, I knew what I had only sus­pect­ed the day before, God and the Devil were laugh­ing at me. Gambling is their game, not ours.”

You won again?”

I went home cry­ing drunk. And rich­er than I had ever both­ered to dream.” At this, William actu­al­ly begins to wor­ry that the man might start weep­ing now as he feels him­self tear­ing up for no rea­son he can explain. “There was no shak­ing this mon­ey. And as I came to the door of my very expen­sive apart­ment, who do you think I saw there wait­ing for me?”

Charlie Oliveri?”

Ha. No. Miserable guess. But I see your think­ing.” Old Man Bergoyan’s voice drops now to whis­per, a for­got­ten news­pa­per slid­ing over pave­ment on a small wind, “It was a woman. A young woman. Only a lit­tle old­er than you are now. Quiet. Angry. Alone. Her dark eyes held some caus­tic heat that is the ancient sacred trust of moth­ers only.” He held two fin­gers up to his face and, mov­ing them, indi­cat­ed a line from his own eyes to William’s. “They burned at me. In an instant I was sober. It was your friend Tommy’s, Tomas Coates’, moth­er.”