A Day At The Races

  • Dedicated to Mike James
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He had been out for a few drinks with friends and went to bed after a quick shower, almost as soon as he had gotten home. It had been a long day, but then it seemed that they were all long days these days and they were getting longer too. Life was becoming a drudge. Something had to change, he thought, but he thought that almost every night as he sat half-drunk on a bar stool or lay in bed afterwards.

He had been abroad for the last few years and living back home was just not the same any more. He was not the same man as before he had left and his friends and family had changed in the meantime too. It was the way of life - change.

Being half-cut was the only way he could get to sleep these days and it was the only way he could deal with life after work. Sleep came fairly quickly this evening and he was soon dreaming, which was something he had done all his life - all fifty years of it. He could usually remember his dreams too, at least for a few hours. He liked dreaming, because his dreams were usually of a comical nature. Stories; funny stories, in which he sometimes played a role, but usually did not.

This was diametrically opposed to his day dreams which were more like day nightmares. He could not see a good future in front of him in his day dreams. He much preferred his real dreams, his night dreams, but the irony was that he had difficulty getting to sleep and just as many problems staying asleep. Four or five hours a night seemed to be enough for him, although he had read that this was a bad sign. Doctors and psychiatrists were sure that people needed their sleep and about eight hours of it.

During his dream about a village in India, he heard a mobile phone ring. He recognized the tone, but being Nokia's standard tone, he hoped it was someone else's. He knew it wasn't though. It was his. He woke up, glanced at the clock - it was one o'clock - and answered the call.

"Hello, Mike here", said the voice. "Are you going to the races tomorrow? Did you remember about them? No? I knew that because I asked down the club last night, so I booked you in. Just be there by 8 am. See you there. Good night, sorry if I disturbed you, but it'll be great to meet up again".

He set the alarm clock and went back to sleep, happy to have heard from his old friend Mike again.

Mike was a friend from school. They had shared a flat together and gone on holiday together and they had been to dozens of concerts and festivals too over the last thirty years. It was just that they had gone their separate ways; drifted apart, he felt over the last few years.

They had been to the races with the club once a year at least a dozen times, so he knew the procedure, but he hadn't been himself for a couple of years because it had become boring. It would be nice to go with Mike again. It would make a nice change. Mike was a happy sort of bloke and more of a brother to him than a friend.

Mike was the sort of guy who drank too much, but no-one noticed until he went over the top and fell asleep. He loved the horses or gee-gees as he called them. In fact, the last few times that he had seen Mike he was drinking less but spending all his money on the gee-gees. He had also switched from drinking beer to carrying a half-bottle of Scotch in his inside jacket pocket, which he nipped from time to time during conversations.

He got up in a good mood, showered, made a few sandwiches and called a taxi. He was outside the club ten minutes later and could see three tour buses waiting outside and people making their way into the club. However, it was only eight o' clock and they wouldn't set off until nine. He also needed some more money. A hundred should do it. He always lost at the races, so he budgeted for a fiver a race. At six races a meeting, that meant thirty quid and a bit for off-course betting, so he would be left with fifty quid to drink.

After going to the ATM, he entered the club. He went straight to the bar and got talking with various friends and acquaintances, all of whom were excited to be going on the annual trip. He wondered why he had missed the last two years, because he was already getting caught up in the atmosphere and loving it. He had to buy another pint before he could leave the bar and look for Mike, who would be sitting somewhere with a warm pint of beer, a cigarette, a newspaper turned to the racing pages and a biro in his hand, studying form.