Copyright is held by the author.
BEN HAD a birthday coming up. It was not a big one but once over 50 he felt that each one took its toll. It was not so easy to shovel snow as it used to be. He liked shovelling snow. He had always liked shovelling snow. Even as a small child he’d helped his father to shovel snow when they lived on the farm. He remembered how he’d always liked the wonderful sliding motion of the shovel, the one with the twisty handle had been best, with it he could develop an almost snow plough rhythm.
Once grown up, he’d had to leave the farm and find work. There hadn’t been enough for him and his brothers on the farm so as the youngest he’d gone into insurance. It’s a fine worthwhile way of making money his father had said and his mother had agreed with him as she always did. Selling insurance gave him less time for exercise so he moved into an apartment where he didn’t need to shovel snow. He missed the outdoor life and decided to help some of his older insurance clients with their snow removal.
One client, Bob, was a real character but he seemed a bit lonely. So, Ben would go in for a pint when he’d finished clearing the snow from Bob’s porch. Bob’s main pleasure in life was gambling and he introduced Ben to the ponies. Sometimes they joined forces on Saturday afternoons but sometimes Ben just played on line.
As the weeks crawled along Ben realized that he was becoming more and more addicted to his new hobby and he began to fear that the ponies were taking over his life as they had with Bobs’. If it hadn’t been for Bob’s paid up insurance policy he’d have nothing left.
Ben didn’t want to slide downhill in his appearance or health as his friend had, but each day he felt the need for gambling becoming more and more of an obsession. He made a secret pact with himself. On his birthday he would have his last flutter.
September 5th dawned clear and unseasonably cold. He dressed carefully, breakfasted sparingly, and caught a bus to the race track. He went to the kiosk and placed his bet. He must go all out he thought to frighten away the obsession from his body and mind. The most he could afford was 37/1. And the ponies were off galloping, galloping. His horse had a bad start and was off last. This was good. If he lost all his money it would be an incentive to never gamble again. Suddenly his horse began to gain on the others and it first passed one horse and then another until it was neck and neck with the leader. Ben’s blood was pumping wildly, his eyes bulging keeping time with his lucky horse. His brain and his heart were in conflict. Which did he want? As the winner crossed the finishing post he felt a massive pain in his chest. He wasn’t there to see the winner, but he never gambled again.