In June of 1971 my father decided to leave his job in Connecticut and take a job in New York City. Although we only lived there for two years, I figured we’d stay in Connecticut and he’d commute to the city, but he decided to move us back to Massachusetts, a move I was never comfortable with. I had adjusted to my new digs in Connecticut and at 15 years old I was happy with my new identity. Moving back meant a return to the old and I had already moved past that. A short passage in Thomas Wolfe's novel "You Can't Go Home Again" says "And he never had the sense of home so much as when he felt that he was going there. It was only when he got there that his homelessness began.” Wolfe was right. My return to Massachusetts was a disaster on many different levels.
First he spent a week in New York, but after a while he was spending two weeks there before coming home for the weekend. It wasn’t long before we lost our father-son connection and we became distant. By 16 years of age I felt a huge void in my life...
After a year and a half spent attending three different colleges, by October of 1975 I was officially lost. That’s when, just after my older sister moved out of our house, Moose moved in. He was my sister’s good friend and he didn't mind taking her room even though it was definitely a girl's room right down to the delicate, white lace lampshades. Besides, the price was right. He had become a friend of the family and when his parents sold their ranch style house and he had no place to go, my mother welcomed him into our home and didn't ask him to pay any room or board.
Moose wasn’t big like the name implied; he was named after a baseball pitcher because of the similar sidearm delivery he threw with during his Little League years. The nickname stuck and became strangely fitting. He resembled a young Paul Newman; blue eyes girls dreamed of and a friendly, but mischievous smile. He was a legitimate chick-magnet and always up for some fun and excitement. He was four years my senior and a man of the world, so I thought, and I was hoping some of his charisma might rub off on me.
I came home from a day of classes at Bridgewater State College, as it was known back then, and when I opened the front door I smelled something burning. I immediately ran upstairs to where the odor was strongest. I opened the bathroom door expecting to find something amiss, but there was Moose, submerged in a tub full of bubbles, his stereo and speakers stacked on the hopper, window open, fan on, and in his left hand, pressed against his lips, a small dark-stained wooden pipe with a brass bowl stuffed full of hash and in his right hand a red BIC lighter whose flame was being sucked into the glowing bowl. He took a long drag, coughed a bit, trying desperately not to exhale any of the quality smoke that he was holding in his lungs...
I was shocked! I had done a lot of crazy shit, but smoking hash in the bathtub in my parent's house- never! When he exhaled the room filled with the sweet smell of some quality hash. Moose laughed out loud, his contagious smile on full display, and then offered me a hit. I was reluctant at first because I knew my mother would be home at any time, but Moose assured me that with the fan on and the window open, we were fine. He handed me the pipe and the BIC lighter. I took a long drag, holding it deep inside my lungs. When I finally exhaled I immediately felt a sudden rush and an immediate change in my anxiety level. It was calming. I took another long drag and why not? But this time the contents in the bowl glowed red and emitted a small flame that flashed and got sucked back into the pipe. By the time I finally exhaled I didn't see anything wrong with sharing some hash in a bathroom with a friend who was taking a bubble-bath and listening to Fleetwood Mac-
After he climbed out of the tub and got dressed Moose told me he'd received a tip from "The Chinaman"- Seventh race in Foxboro. The horse would go off at 11-1 odds and win. I asked him who "The Chinaman" was. All he said was "He's always right. He says the horse is gonna win, and it wins- " Then he laughed out loud and asked me if I wanted to go to the track with him. How could I say no to a sure thing? This "Chinaman" sounded legendary.
After a quick dinner we jumped in Moose's car. Funny thing about his car, it was a $400 car with a $400 dollar sound system. It was an older, low end Ford or Mercury, memory's not clear, but I remember it needed rear shocks. Once inside it was all about the music though. At that time Moose was into Fleetwood Mac and the eight track tape he played the most was titled "Fleetwood Mac" the one referred to as the White Album. It featured the songs "Monday Morning", "Blue Letter", "Landslide", "World Turning", and "Rhiannon". I immediately fell in love with the album.
As soon as we took off Moose pulled a joint out of his ashtray that was rolled and ready for his next excursion, and fired it up. The pot wasn't as potent as the hash we smoked earlier, but it was good weed and we caught a decent buzz to head into the Foxboro Raceway with.
Once inside Moose was in high spirits. We got ourselves a beer and placed our bets. Moose went all out; fifty bucks to win. I'd never met "The Chinaman" and so I went more conservative with my wager, twenty-five to win. We headed out to the infield area and waited for the seventh race to start. Moose was smiling the whole time, feeling confident with the tip he received. I couldn't help but get caught up in it myself. There was enough time for another cold beer before our race and so we indulged ourselves.
When the trotters came out for the seventh race our horse was looking very strong. Good posture and plenty of energy. Moose went high five on me. We had already started the celebration. We watched the odds board jump around until just before the race our horse's odds locked in at 11-1, just like "The Chinaman" said. This was starting to feel real good...
Out of the gate our horse was running hard. The jockey looked determined. He was out in the top three around the first turn. We were pumped!
After the first lap there was some separation and our horse was in the front. Down the backstretch he was pulling hard and took the lead. Moose was going nuts, so was I. I didn't go to the track much and this was exciting. When the trotters rounded the last turn we had the lead. We couldn't contain ourselves!
Then, all of a sudden, something went terribly wrong... Our horse broke stride and it was being passed by what we thought were the "also-rans". In the end our horse didn't even place. We tossed our stubs angrily in the air along with the many others who had suffered the same fate. With faces full of disappointment, we watched as everyone else quickly headed inside while Moose and I just stood there, alone in the infield area, motionless and shocked, the ground below our feet blanketed with race track confetti, bits 'n pieces of lost hope. Like the majority of people there we were left to wonder "How could we lose?"
"Make your mistakes, take your chances, look silly, but keep on going..." - Thomas Wolfe, You Can't Go Home Again
Moose was broke. All he had left was a few swigs of his draft beer and the cheap plastic cup it was poured in. I had a few bucks left and I looked at a race card. In the ninth there was a horse called Delamore'. I had a serious crush on a girl in one of my classes at Bridgewater State with the last name Delemore. If I had any guts I would have asked her out, but I maintained a silent crush, like I always did. Every once in a while in class I would briefly glance over at her to make sure she was still beautiful. And she always was.
I decided to bet the hunch. The tip hadn't paid off, so why not? I put ten dollars on Delemore' to show. Moose thought I was crazy bettin' a hunch...
Delemore' came through and I won thirty bucks. We left the track and headed for the Red Wing Diner where we had a beer and a couple of clam plates. On the way home Moose turned up the volume and we listened to Fleetwood Mac. More importantly, Moose and I had shared a bunch of hearty yuks and after that night at the track we started hangin' out together on a regular basis.
I never asked Miss Delemore out...
All characters appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.