All this angst and woe is getting to me, so I thought a
bit of fluff was warranted before I settle into writing something long and gruesome.
And when you're thinking fluff, who else springs to mind but the Beast? <g>
"Why are we here again?" asked Bobby. He knew he sounded whiny -- but, dammit, he felt like being whiny. His face reassembled into something that looked suspiciously like a pout.
Hank looked at him mildly over his glasses. "It was your suggestion, Robert Drake," he said, and his voice matched his eyes. "You were the one who said I should apply my considerable analytical and prognostication skills to the pleasing plethora of equine flesh that parades before us and make, I believe you said, 'bundles of cash.'"
"Well you haven't made bundles of cash," sulked Bobby. He knew he'd badgered Hank into this after Hank had been given the complimentary tickets, he knew he was being adolescent -- but his date had gone badly last night and he felt a good sulk was definitely in order.
"We have only witnessed one race," replied Hank. "My studies of form and handicapping suggested that my chosen steed should have won, but such studies do not take into account the vagaries of races. How could I predict that it would be 'blocked for a run'?" Hank quoted the race-course announcer.
"Well, would you hurry up and predict the next winner?" said Bobby. "I want to get a drink, not stand here and watch gee-gees walk around."
"I need to study them," Hank said . He had not wished to come here when the Westchester Care Foundation had given him the tickets, but Bobby had talked him into it -- and now he was looking forward to applying his carefully plotted formula involving form and handicap to the races. Intellect would triumph over chance, he knew, but having Bobby pout at him was not helping. His voice sharpened suddenly as he said, "It would help considerably if you were to cease behaving like a spoiled teenager. I'm beginning to wish I'd brought Scott -- or Ororo."
Bobby goggled at Hank -- at the sudden mental picture of Tight-Ass madly cheering a winner or the wind-rider fighting her way through the crowd and placing a bet with Hollywood Sam the bookie. His mood broke and a smile chased across his face.
"C'mon, big guy, let's make a bet," he said and hauled Hank towards the betting ring. "And didn't they say something about free champagne?"
"How much have you lost?" asked Bobby.
"Not much," replied Hank, in the perennial cry of the losing punter. "I am sure that my predication for the next race will enable me to recoup any monies lost on my previous races. My formula has taken all factors into account -- except the inconsistency of running when animal is pitted against animal. But the filly I have chosen has the most impeccable form and is pressing for favouritism even as we speak."
"Well, your formula hasn't been working for you so far," said Bobby, idly straightening his jacket. "Seeing half of the money you have is mine. . ."
"Do not fear, my erstwhile colleague," replied Hank. "I am confident the young lady horse will not put a foot wrong in pursuit of success in this race. Unlike the last nag," he added under his breath.
"I told you never to trust a woman," said Bobby, bitterness at his date the previous night coming through his words.
"I hardly think such comparisons are fair," replied Hank, watching his filly walk away -- in the beaten brigade. "I'm sure there is a reason my chosen one ran like a wounded duck."
"Because you backed it, Hank," Bobby replied. He smiled at the woebegone expression on his best friend's face. "Don't worry, buddy," he said, patting Hank on the back. "I'm sure you'll be able to put your fine mind to work and pick the next one."
"Okay, so I was wrong," said Bobby as Hank's face fell even further. "You didn't pick the winner. You didn't pick a horse that ran in the top three. You didn't pick a horse that ran in front of any other horse in the race. How do you do it, oh, bouncing Beast? Inquiring minds want to know."
"My predictions based on form and handicap are impeccable," said Hank, his voice hoarse as he waved another fifty bucks goodbye. "According to all of my calculations, the horse should have won."
"Well, it wasn't paying attention to your calculations," said Bobby, smiling at another pretty girl. Why had no one told him so many gorgeous women came to the races? "Give your formula another go."
"No more," Hank cried. Bobby shushed him as people looked at them. "Form and handicap are not enough -- I failed to factor pedigree into my calculations. I shall change my methodology." He looked down at his form-book. He'd worked out the next winner by his old formula, but he knew he wouldn't be able to factor in the new calculations in his head. "Bobby, I need to find a pen," he muttered, distracted.
"Fine, fine," said Bobby. "You do that. I'm just going to go and talk to that girl, okay?"
"What girl?" asked Hank, but Bobby was gone.
"Bobby?" asked Hank.
"Yes, Hank," replied Bobby, his voice distracted as he watched the race.
"Does it not appear that my horse has suddenly decided to run rather more quickly than is usual?" asked Hank.
"Why, so it does," said Bobby, a small grin creeping over his features as he watched Hank's pick circle the field, galloping madly.
"What have you done to it?" asked Hank.
"Just a little ice," said Bobby in his best innocent voice. "Under the tail," he added. Bobby had found the free champagne very much to his liking.
"Robert Drake, you stop that at once," whispered Hank in outrage. "That's cheating!"
"But you'll win," said Bobby, concentrating on keeping those few molecules super-cold.
For a moment that was just a shade too long to suggest he hadn't been tempted, Hank was silent. "Stop it, Bobby," he finally said.
Bobby pouted again. "Oh, all right," he said and stopped the freezing. They watched as the horse stopped its frantic galloping and went back through the field. And back. And back.
"Oh, well," said Hank philosophically. "It would not have been at all satisfying to obtain victory in such an inauspicious manner."
"Last race, Hank," said Bobby, waving a little wave at the girl waiting at the bar. They grinned foolishly at each other and he blew her a kiss. "What are you choosing?"
Hank pointed at a horse in his race-book. "That one," he said.
"Why?" Bobby asked.
Hank muttered something unintelligible.
"What was that?" Bobby asked again.
Hank spoke up a little. "I have applied my not inconsiderable intellect to the devious problems involved in the Sport of Kings and my prognostications have been entirely unsuccessful. Therefore I have chosen this last carrier of my few remaining funds because..."
"Yes?" prompted Bobby.
"Because she's got an X in her name," muttered Hank.
Bobby's grin was broad. "Nothing to do with the fact you worship Xena, Warrior Princess, then?" he asked.
Beast grumbled slightly and turned his back on Bobby. How his friend had ever found out about his hopeless passion for Lucy Lawless he would never know, but it was damned embarassing. Buying Bobby's silence had already cost him the opportunity for four new practical jokes -- as well as a fortune in Twinkies.
He would never tell another soul -- but he was absolutely positive that Princess Xena had winked at him as she was led into the winner's stall.
Hank looked down at his hands, filled with cash that Bobby was carefully counting to ensure he got his half while the girl breathily clung to his arm. Jemima had been overwhelmed to discover her new-found paramour was an honoured guest of the famous Dr McCoy -- so gushingly overwhelmed she had managed to make Hank blush beneath his fur.
But it wasn't her over-enthusiastic adoration that was occupying Hank's mind. He had never thought racing could be so much fun. And the pleasures of applying his intellect to the monumental problem of determining a winner -- probability equations were still swirling and clashing in his head. His last choice had been applied intellect, he knew. Nothing to do with an X in her name. And nothing whatsoever to do with the leather-clad princess of his dreams.
"Bobby," he said and the Iceman looked up at him. "Do we have any plans for next Saturday?"
The worst thing about writing this is that I've had days at the races just like these. I've ended up throwing away my form-book and using such techniques as 'pick any horse with a Z in its name'. And I won.