The Notion

I was not an avid racegoer. The track although adequate, seemed a little shabby. In the blaze of heat, it appeared bare and unadorned, save for the odd grass strip and a few stunted trees. Grandstands for those who wished only to bet or be caught up in the euphoria of the shady game, were to the right of the entrance gate. We wandered to the left and sat at a table in one of the open air bars that lined the course. I ordered rum and ice for myself and Enrique; Agua wanted a coke. Music played by an overweight, head bopping DJ, a sort of Latin hip hop, burst from colossal overhead speakers. You had to shout to be heard.

Enrique Maravilla Pinder, draped in gold-he only wore the chain and bracelet on special occasions: ‘otherwise the maleantes pop it,’ moved among the crowd holding his seco rum close to chest to avoid spillage. He was an emperor. Other aficionados of the sport of kings-black, almost to a man- many wearing pork pie hats and their own gold jewellery, filled the other tables. There were few women. The men greeted him with enormous bursts of energy and gayety. One or two coming over, needing to know my connection. ‘I love that man,’ one of them told me.

The horses left the gate, but few punters moved to the fence to watch. Too hot and the dust rising about the animals like pea soup fog seemed threatening. Televisions screens high about the bar gave an unhindered view. We won, but when I inquired about our winnings, I learned our bet was a Pick 6: we had to select the winners of every race before we were paid.

Agua had taken it upon himself to do our ordering. He made himself available any way he could. As I became drunker, his sober presence kept things in order. He seemed a good man. That was when the notion resurfaced. I wanted to help. He could be my man, but it might be too late. For both of us.