The Midas Formula – Steve Luckham

‘Is that it then?’

‘Yep, that’s it. Would it make you feel better if I said “abracadabra” or if I chanted an ancient Celtic invocation formerly lost in the mists of time?

‘I don’t know. It might help.’

The leprechaun regarded John with a mixture of contempt and amusement.

‘Look, you’ve got me handcuffed to the radiator and I can’t disappear until I’ve fulfilled my part of the bargain. Go to your favourite bookies and place a bet on the next horse race. When you win, I’ll disappear in a puff of smoke and I hope we never meet again.’

Anne was behind the counter today.

‘Are you sure you want to place this bet John?’ She whispered.

‘Yes, I’m feeling lucky. Twenty pounds to win on Nurse Reynolds, Newmarket three-forty-five.’

The race was on the Rowley Mile Course. John felt the familiar adrenalin rush as the horses set off, soon to be galloping over the flat. Nurse Reynolds wasn’t fancied highly and was bringing up the rear for the first mile. Then, slowly but surely she started to move through the field and won by a nose.

Elated, John went to the counter:

‘Well done John. That makes a change. Two-hundred and fifty quid. Don’t spend it all at once,’

‘I’ve every intention of doing just that. Put the lot on Remraf in the four-thirty.’

Anne knew it was useless to remonstrate with him, and with a shrug of resignation placed the bet.

Remraf came in at ten to one.

‘That’s two and a half grand plus your original stake John. I can have it transferred into your bank account to save you carrying it home.’

John laughed:

‘ Me and banks haven’t got on for some time now. Do you know what I owe on credit cards?’

‘I don’t want to know. Is it a lot?’

‘A lot more than two and a half grand. Anyway, the night is yet young. I’ll place all of this on Oiseau de la Nuit in the five-fifteen.’

‘Hold on a moment John,’ said Anne as she went into the back office.

The owner emerged and said:

‘Let’s call it a day John. You’ve had a good run and I’d hate to see you lose it all now.’

‘No, I want to place my money on Oiseau de la Nuit. All of it.’

‘I’ll level with you John. I can’t cover this bet and it’s too late for me to pass it on to one of the big franchises.’

‘That’s fucking brilliant. You were happy to take my money when I couldn’t afford to lose it.’

‘That was your choice John. I’m not going to ruin my marriage and lose my home over some bet I can’t afford to make.’ She said as she handed John his winnings. ‘Don’t come back here. You’re not welcome.’

‘You fucking hypocritical bastard,’ John shouted as two large men firmly but gently deposited him on the pavement outside.

John arrived home carrying a luxury microwave meal, a bottle of Talisker, the Racing Post,  and his money in a carrier bag. He looked around his sparsely furnished bedsit and smiled wryly at the now empty handcuffs hanging from the radiator pipe.

He opened his Racing Post to tomorrow’s runners and riders. It was like using his eyes in a new way. He saw with absolute certainty the winners and the runners up.

Reflecting on an extraordinary day he amused himself thinking how he could get some payback for all the insults and contempt he’d suffered over the years. He dreamt about getting back with Marie and rebuilding a relationship with the kids.

He reached for the bottle of Talisker and poured a stiff drink into a long grimy glass. A few drinks later he started drifting off. He felt a deep sense of loss, the nature of which was just out of reach, before sleep took him.

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