ERNIE AND ERNESTINA: The Writer, His Wife, and their Afterlife
Book One, Part One, Chapter 45: The Well-Worn Wallet
Ernie and I drive to the track. “Today’s card looks really good to me, Ernestina. We’ll have lots of winners on the tip sheet. Tell that to the people coming in.”
I position myself on the sidewalk in front of Churchill Downs to hawk my bundle of Lucky’s Best Bets, and Ernie heads into General Admission. He spends four dollars on the Pick Six, playing his top choice in five races and adding a second horse in one race. He also bets the Daily Double and advance-bets a few Exactas.
After the first race is off, I join him. Lucky’s calls the first two races cold, and Ernie cashes his Daily Double ticket. The third race goes off, and the sheet calls that winner on top, too. Ernie shows me his Pick-Six ticket. “We have it started, Ernestina.”
“There’re five races to go, Ernie. Don’t hold your breath.”
We leave the track. At home, Ernie handicaps the next day’s races while listening to race results on the radio. I’m in the back garden, transplanting irises.
“We still have it going,” he calls down to me after the third race of the Pick Six. “That’s three in a row.”
Two races later, he calls out the back window again. “We’re alive after five!”
I stay in the garden with the irises. Ernie’s fearless. He listens to race results even when the news might break his heart.
After the eighth race, the last race of the Pick Six, he shouts down to me: “We just won the Pick Six, honey!”
I rush up the back stairs. Ernie’s on the daybed, checking his wallet to be sure the winning ticket is still there. He hands me the ticket, then looks back at today’s Lucky’s. “The sheet’s called the first eight winners on the nose, and the last winner — Mylittlefirefly — paid $26.80. Let’s hope the payoff is a good one.”
We wait for the prices. Here they come. “The Pick Six pays out on six of six,” the WTMT DJ says, “one thousand, four hundred forty-five dollars and forty cents.”
“Oh, Ernie.” I sink to the floor next to him.
“There wasn’t much in the pot, Ernestina. That’s too bad.”
I hand him his Pick-Six ticket, and carefully, he tucks it back into his well-worn wallet.