What can I say? I've had a good run. I'm riding blindfolded in a classy car with a babe that I've been banging to kingdom come, and, that I guess I've been in love with since I laid eyes on her. Now we're in the damn desert at three in the morning where lightning and thunder are having their way with each other. I can smell the rich scent of Opium perfume as Nina sits next to me. Tremors are going through her body as her blindfold soaks up a tear. I know the routine and this scene. Hey, this is Vegas! It's funny how keen your senses become when you can't see a thing. I'm calm... I know the score! I hear the purring of the motor as we drive over bumps and slides of blowing sand. That damned thunder! I never could get used to it. We're stopping. I can feel Nina's body tighten. Front car doors open slowly as our escorts step out. A long minute goes by as I feel Nina's warm breath face me.
God, I remember the first day I set foot into this town. I didn't come from very far; just a small beach town outside Los
Angeles, California. Two of my closest uncles sent me to Las Vegas, Nevada, to lay low and out of sight for awhile. 1977 was supposed to be a great year for me and my horse booking business. I was twenty- eight years old and running from the God damn Mexican mob-- and escaping to what? Well, here I am... dying in the f**king desert from living in the fast lane again. Hot Vegas women... drinking... gambling... and power got me here.
Even at St. John's Catholic school in Norwalk, where I grew up as a child, I was in the sixth grade when I brought my first deck of cards to school. I got a poker game started on the lunch grounds with kids that still were playing hopscotch, four square, and jump rope. Not only were they my cards, but I was the official gaming teacher. I was busted by one of the Nuns fresh in from Ireland, whom I figured didn't realize what kind of a card game we were playing.
"Frankie Santos! What kind of games are you playing?" A familiar inquisitive voice from an authority figure blurts out. At first I wasn't sure what to say.
"Well, Sister Mary Xavier, uh... This card is the Queen, which means that it's good if you get four of these because they represent our 'Holy Blessed Mother'. And the King represents God, and if you get four of these, you can win the game and a Rosary!"
Wow, I think I got out of this one, especially with that innocent smile of mine. All of a sudden I felt this big yank on my ear, and I was being dragged up the courtyard to Sister Superior's office. I wonder if they're still using those damn wooden yardsticks on school kids.
I remember going to the race track while I was still in high school. I was actually making a run for a couple of my teachers who loved betting the horses. I found out their bad habit and they found out mine. We ran into each other at the same track. Hush was the word. Anyway, I got some bums to make the bets for me since I wasn't of legal age. I couldn't even get inside because I wasn't old enough. At the time in California race tracks, you had to be 21 years of age. I got to know this guy named Patch. They called him that because he always wore a patch on his left eye. I would've called him dead eye, but I guess that would've been inappropriate. We became friends because he would make bets for people outside the wire fence who only had a couple of bucks, and didn't want to pay admission. Patch would make bets for them, bring them back their ticket, and if they won, they would give him a tip. He wouldn't run off with their money, because too many people knew him and he had been a race track bum for a lot of years. He really was a nice guy.
One day I hit the daily double for $985 bucks, which was a ton of money for a high school kid in those days. I ran down to the far end of the track and jumped over the fence. Security guards didn't see me. I went looking for Patch. I found him pretty well sauced from too much wine. I wanted to cash the winning ticket and I knew the cashier would question my age. I hoped that Patch might be sober enough to cash it for me.
As I gave him the ticket, a security guard came up to me and asked for my I.D. I showed him my driver's license which read that I was only 16. As I was being dragged off the premises, I was yelling back at Patch to meet me outside the gate. He yelled back,
"Just wait for me and " Well, after an hour went by, I figured I got the screws, and the race events were over. I went home as a little depression set in. The next few days I kept going back to the racetrack looking for Patch. He was nowhere to be found. I read in the sports page a couple of days later that they found a body in the racetrack parking lot in the middle of the night. But there was no description of the person.
*I'm still laying here with that damn sand blowing all over my body. I can hear that thunder again. I wonder how Nina is... She's pretty quiet. I hope she's alive. I can still smell that aroma in the air. It has a scent of smoke mixed with incense. I don't hear the car motor anymore... just the howling of the desert wind. So why am I here?
I lived a life of risk. I always had a bet on what seemed to be a sure thing. When I did hit, I increased the risk. "Let it ride, Baby!!!" The adrenalin and the rush made life exciting. Then I get kicked in the nuts with a big loss, and I'm back to square one. I need to get a fast buck so I can make a fast buck! I had a lot of jobs, and got fired a lot because I didn't like being told what to do. I was surviving for the action anyway. At the age of 22, my wife couldn't handle it anymore, so she bailed out on me along with my only son. Seems she liked to take a bigger risk in life than I did-- she married me...Ha! No, it's not very funny. We brought a child into the world and now he's out of my life. Hell, we were both only kids ourselves when she got pregnant. Seventeen is a crazy and wild age. Although I wasn't stupid, I did a lot of stupid things.
I have an uncle who's been a horse racing bookie most of his life. He always said, 'No man should take the same drugs he deals out'! Racehorse gambling was a drug. He was a racehorse player and a heavy bettor from the old days. He learned the hard way. He'd make a big score at the track on hitting the daily double, the exacta, or the trifecta, and walked around like a King for life. In the next couple of days, it would all be gone. That's enough to make anyone suicidal.
One day he decided to become the bank. Uncle Sonny wasn't interested in making a killing and living in luxury. He was out to make a few bucks and live in comfort. He also hated working for anyone. According to the astrological sign of our birthday, that's the way we Scorpios are. He saw that I had become a racehorse bum and losing my ass a lot. We all have the same symptoms. The big one is...