CJ switches to
football on the color set, baseball on the smaller one. The auxiliary set isn't
working well and a note of cubism is introduced into the baseball game. It is
hard to tell whether a particular figure represents one or two players. An
infielder's upper torso is situated at a 45-degree angle to the rest of his
body. On the radio we have been away from Belmont Park and back to football for
fully 10 minutes, but we are only now becoming aware that we are listening to
Army-Lehigh instead of Columbia-Princeton. CJ has no action on Army-Lehigh. He
does have action on five college games in addition to Columbia-Princeton and
Notre Dame-Michigan State, and throughout the afternoon, the evening and much
of the night he will spin the radio dial repeatedly between WINS (scores every
half hour) and WCBS (scores 12 minutes after the hour and 12 minutes after the
half hour). He will curse the announcers for their stupidity, their
cheerfulness, the commercials they must read and the public service messages
they are inclined to give—messages about puppet shows at Gimbels or talks
sponsored by the Young Lawyers' Committee of the New York County
Association—always when CJ is waiting for a crucial score. It is in these ways
that bureaucracy crushes the dreamer.
The Reds trail
5-1. Michigan State trails 6-0 but seems to be doing things right as the second
quarter progresses. With perfect timing CJ switches (radio) from
Columbia-Princeton (no score) to the re-creation of the second race at Belmont.
With 70 yards to go a horse named Siberian Native threatens to take the lead
from CJ's selection, Early Judgement, but the 3-horse holds on to win by a
head, and CJ has his double—a sign, an omen, an early-warning signal. He
clenches his fist, nods his head firmly and then gets up and switches to
baseball on the color set, football on the black and white. "I gamble
because when I don't gamble I feel sick," he says.
What does CJ have
in his pockets?
1) Tiny pieces of
for the day are written on these mangled scraps. The teams, horses, odds, point
spreads and sums wagered are all recorded, very lightly, tentatively, in
pencil. It is as though he wants it all to disappear before the weekend is
2) A form letter
from his finance company.
"As a valued
'Paid-in-Full' customer with a splendid payment record, you are listed on our
records as a Gold Star account. This means, of course, that your credit is
'Triple-A'—and you can get up to $——more money right now."
neatly in the blank space is the figure 800.
3) An OTB
telephone account card.
With this card CJ
is able to call the Off-Track Betting Corp., give his code name, find out how
much he has in his account and then place a bet—all in the same telephone call.
However, he has nothing in his account. The $250 he deposited originally was
gone after two phone calls, and now there are zero dollars left. CJ knows this
and OTB knows it, too.