“Which one are you — the Tin Man, the Lion, or the Straw Man?” Mary asked as our granddaughter, Ella, sat transfixed in front of “The Wizard of Oz” at our house Sunday evening.
“Well, I’ve got no heart,” I said, “so I’m not the Tin Man, I lack courage, and I haven’t a brain. . . . But,” I said, brightening, recalling my Kentucky Derby pick the day before, “I certainly am lucky.”
I was referring not only to the fact that I’d married her a quarter-century ago, but to the money I’d won in a random drawing after my brother-in-law, a wondrously self-taught auctioneer, had in his living room bid up beyond reason the prices of the entire Derby field, leaving his hyped-up guests penniless but washy as we made our way to the gate.
Mary and I had been very quickly divested of the $100 we had taken to John’s annual party, some having gone to Hansen, the white horse, some to Gemologist, which she liked, and some to El Padrino — all long shots.
The race, except perhaps for Bodemeister, who went off at 4-1, was a crapshoot, which was good for the pool, whose $1,310 was destined for the winning bidder.
I happened upon the side bet in the kitchen a few minutes before the Derby began. Though penniless, as I’ve said, my $20 marker was accepted, after which I felt around in a bowl full of folded-up pieces of yellow paper, coming up with “Post 19, I’ll Have Another.”
In rushing out to the deck a few frenzied minutes later to claim my winnings, I failed to notice that one of my sisters-in-law, who had bet a bundle on Bodemeister, the front-runner overtaken by I’ll Have Another in the final yards, had her head buried in her hands. Greed trumps compassion most every time.
I couldn’t believe it when John, holding out a wad of filet mignon thickness, said I’d won $380!
With no little pride, I presented it posthaste to Mary, who — or so it seemed . . . self-interest trumps fair-mindedness most every time — began to shower chunks of it upon her mother and my other sister-in-law, with whom, I learned later, she’d shared in the betting.
In the end, I netted $100, which was fine, and in keeping with the periodic allegiance I pay to socialistic ideals — the live-and-let-live kind, not the totalitarian kind — and went out to play in the driveway, with Mary and another couple, a whirling, giddy, no-holds-barred basketball game in which wrist-clinging, bear hugs, strangleholds, and tackling — though no ankle-biting — were allowed.
I still smile when I think about it. . . . Fun trumps everything all the time.