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.”