Sunday, November 23, 2008
For Love or Money
"Eye Candy in the fifth!"
The jittery hand placing a one hundred dollar bill on the counter had moments ago crossed fingers for luck. Charlie Puckett grabbed the ticket and turned to Elvira Dobbs who stood beside him, wearing a frown.
"It's done." His weak smile revealed a sudden lack of confidence.
"Charlie Puckett, you'd better hope that horse wins. I didn't come to the track with you just to sit around and look pretty, you know."
"Yes, Mrs. Dobbs...Elvira. I know. Why don't we find some seats and wait for our race." Charlie wrapped her arm in his and proceeded to lead Elvira Dobbs into the grandstands. He felt her arm stiffen in his grasp. "A beautiful afternoon, isn't it?" He murmured, trying to make the atmosphere light.
"Yes, I suppose it is. Nice warm sun."
"Warm like your lovely brown eyes!" As they settled in seats, he produced a single red rose and presented it to her.
"What the...? Charlie, what's this?"
"A rose for you, my sweet...to celebrate your beauty."
"Oh hog wash!" Elvira Dobbs stiffened and looked away.
"Mrs. Dobbs...Elvira, you are beautiful to me. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, remember. I see your inner self, the buried soul that is timelessly exquisite."
Elvira looked back at him. "You're pretty cute, yourself, Charlie," she said before turning away again as though the words were awkward. Her eyes remained on the track. "I've always known what a teddy bear you are inside...I've been aware of it for as long as you and Alfred hung around together."
"May I kiss you?"
"May I kiss you, Mrs. Dobbs...Elvira?"
"Well, just once, on the cheek!"
As Charlie stretched over to plant a wet one, his eyes caught a view of the gate. "It's our race! The fifth with Eye Candy!"
Elvira pushed him away and jumped up to hug the railing. "Which one is our horse?"
Charlie leaned close and murmured in her ear. "That black one there, with the jockey in red."
He'd hardly got the words out and the gun went off. The horses shot out like bullets, including Eye Candy who hugged the rear but soon galloped to make it to the middle and then the front, neck in neck with Devil May Care, a muscular black steed with long legs that made the exhausting run look effortless.
"GO EYE CANDY, GO!" Elvira screeched, clutching Charlie's arm in her excitement. Bouncing up and down, she let go of Charlie to wave her arms in the air.
Charlie gripped the railing and watched.
The announcer's voice rat-tat-tatted on the loud speaker. "It's Eye Candy! Devil May Care! Eye Candy! Devil...Eye Candy...They're nearing the finish line...it's Eye Candy! Devil May Care coming on hard...Eye Candy! No! Devil May Care taking the lead! Devil May Care with Eye Candy right behind! Devil May Care! Devil May Care! Devil May Care across the finish line! It's Devil May Care the winner!"
Elvira and Charlie stood, stunned. Finally, turning to one another, Charlie murmured, "We lost."
"Yes, we did."
Charlie sighed, not a gentle sigh, the kind one can hide; but a giant display of unrest pushed through his lips in a colossal squawk that wished it was a roar.
"Oh, I'm sorry, Elvira. It's just that I realized not only did we lose the race, but now you'll never marry me. Winning was the only chance I had."
"Who says so?"
Charlie blinked in surprise. "Well, actually, I guess I said so. I said if we won, I'd ask your hand in marriage."
"Charlie, if you ask my hand in marriage, we still win!"
"Don't you see, Charlie! I wanted to marry you all along."
"But I didn't win us the jackpot!"
"Yes, you did. We're both winners because we have each other."
He fell to one knee and took her hand in his. "Elvira Dobbs, will you marry me?" he asked, holding his breath.
"Charlie Puckett, I certainly will."
And that was how Charlie Puckett became a millionaire, in more ways than one.
Copyright 2008 JO Janoski