I have never seen the point of horses. They are little more than tall dogs with inappropriately long faces. But if you dare mention it in front of them, they will not hesitate to bite your arm off and then kick you to death. They don’t care if there are witnesses, either. I have never seen such arrogance.
Perhaps I am bitter because a horse tried to kill me once. I went out of my way to treat it as an equal, but the moment I climbed onto its back and told it what to do, it took off like a rocket and did everything in its power to get rid of me. Needless to say, it was a black horse.
This morning the Bad Yellow-Eyed Woman began babbling excitedly about the Durban July. She thinks that because I grew up in Durban, I should have the inside track on a race that’s been run every year since 1897. I was raised in a miasma of marijuana and mosquitoes in a suburb devoid of anyone who wasn’t a reasonable facsimile of me and my family. I think I saw my first horse about the same time I saw my first darkie. It’s quite possible the darkie was on the horse. Or maybe stealing the horse. I seem to remember gunshots.
I might have been a juvenile delinquent, but I was also a political neophyte. “So they can’t have the vote just because they don’t look like us?” I asked my mother. “No,” she said. “They can’t have the vote because they are horses.” This seemed terribly unfair. “And the others?” My mother sighed heavily and explained about apartheid, which made even less sense than the story she told me about horses having to wear shoes.
Skipping ahead. The Bad Yellow-Eyed Woman suggested this morning that we should have a flutter. This is code used by the upper middle classes. We don’t speak openly of gambling because, as far as sins go, it’s right up there with gluttony and coveting your neighbour’s ass.
I have never shied away from things that might consign me to eternal damnation because they are usually the most fun. Besides, I have survived many Durban summers. Hell will be a piece of cake.
The betting shop nearest to my home is in Muizenberg. The closest cheap drugs and whores can also be found there. This should be seen as a failing of my own area rather than a feather in Muizenberg’s cap.
Pausing only to pat Cerberus three times, I strode through the entrance like a lion from zion. One cannot show fear in the tote or the tab or whatever it is these godforsaken places are called. I helped the Bad Yellow-Eyed Woman over the sleeping security guard at the top of the stairs and entered what appeared to be some kind of twilight zone for the living dead.
I felt right at home. It was like being in the grungiest bar at the most derelict end of the universe. I bellied up to the counter and ordered a brandy and coke. A woman with the eyes of a sedated panda shook her head, then opened her mouth and made a sound like someone shoveling wet gravel off a concrete floor.
The Bad Yellow-Eyed Woman was standing at another counter marked “Fixed Odds” arguing with someone who looked like he might have been the trigger man in the Sea Cottage shooting. I shouted across the room that the odds didn’t matter since all the races were fixed, anyway. If the punters had the strength to get off their chairs, they would have lynched me.
We found a rickety wooden table etched in a shaky hand with someone’s last will and testament. I picked up a booklet containing information about the pedigree and bloodline of every horse, trainer, jockey and owner. It was very complicated. I didn’t know if I was looking at the animal’s age, weight or odds.
I went over to one of the betting counters and put it all on number 25, my lucky number. The bookie gave me the lazy eye and said there were only 20 horses in the race. “I knew that,” I said. “What about this 52kg three-year-old? Is that the horse or the jockey?” She ignored me so I asked if she thought Magnificent Seven had a chance, but she said he had been scratched for coughing. “Seems a bit harsh,” I said. “Maybe he was just a little horse.” She asked me to step away from the counter.
My concubine backed Eyes Wide Open for a win. I put everything on Do It Again. You would have to be retarded not to bet on the favourite. Even if you don’t make much money, you still feel like a winner. I don’t know if he was the favourite. I just liked the name.
We went home to watch the event in an environment free of decomposing geriatrics coughing up bits of liver and showering the room with flesh-eating bacteria. Watching horses is not like watching rugby, where one must spend the entire day drinking heavily and gnawing on the flesh of dead animals. The main race at the Durban July is like good sex – it’s over in two minutes.
Obviously my horse won. One of the animals broke its leg and was shot in the head. Somehow it was my fault. She vowed never again to support this filthy bloodsport. “If lame horses get shot, why don’t they shoot lame jockeys?” she shouted.
Now that I am a winner, I want to see a lot more racing going on. Why stop with horses? Our game reserves are full of animals with nothing to do. Let’s saddle up the rhinos and unleash them at Greyville next year. We can even have animals riding other animals. Like meerkats on warthogs. Or aardvarks on lions. I’d put money on that.