the Death-Hole

the horse owner who is also a famous painter told me that
he had paid 450 thousand for the horse and that it
would have been a million except that the horse had
this small bump but the small bump had gone away and the
horse had raced to its breeding and its potential and
today he was running in a million dollar race and
the trainer said it was ready and that if they won
it was probably on to the Kentucky Derby.

the owner-painter took us down to the walking ring to
look at the horse and the horse looked good, then
he gathered his friends about him and a photo was taken
and then we went back upstairs to the box and we waited
for them to warm up and then they were approaching the

the horse read 3 to one under a morning line of 7 to 2,
had one of the better jocks and the trainer was the
leading money winner of the nation.

everybody had tickets on the horse, that is, almost

then they were in the gate and then they were off and
the horse broke in mid-pack, then gently eased over to
the rail, stayed mid-pack for a while, then along the
backstretch it began to move up and then it got just about
even with the leaders at a spot just before the turn that
I called the Death-Hole.
I had seen thousands of races at that track and I had seen
almost every horse stop at that space along the rail
just before the last turn home.

but the horse looked good and i thought it might beat the
Death-Hole but then it stopped and just started dropping

there was a terrible silence in the box about me.

the other horses came around the final curve, then the
even-money favorite got to the lead in the stretch and
held it all the way down to the wire.

“my horse finished last,” said the owner-painter.

“there’ll be another race,”
I told him.

his friends started telling him jokes, trying to cheer him

I thanked him for inviting me over, shook hands with him
and his friends, then left for the checkout room to turn
in my borrowed coat and tie for my old jacket, then
walked over to my section of the track, sat down and
looked at my program, there was still the 9th race.

my guess was that the owner-painted would get back to his
paints and paint his way right the hell out of all of
laying his brush against the largest odds ever

then I bought a ticket on the 6 horse and got out
of there.

Charles Bukowski
Original manuscript