The Sport of Kings and Devils: Toucan Sam

Whiskey sez: This is part three. If you wanna follow Lucifestus’ day at the races from start to finish, use the links to your right. I suggest you start with the First Race.

RACE THREE: Allowance 3-yo and up: Mile and a Quarter on the Downhill Turf Course

Devils don’t have to void their bladders in the conventional manner. They produce urine. Of a sort. But the need to dispose of it multiple times daily by a crass physical draining, well, that’s an entirely earthly weakness. Nevertheless, when out and about, Lucifestus tended to try to follow humanly expected bodily function patterns. Like wiping sweat off his brow. Of course, it helped conceal his other-worldly nature. But more than that, Lucifestus found a “trip to the pisser” to be fertile ground for both entertainment and business. Since the invention of the public urinal, he had cultivated more deals in the pisser at race tracks, bars, concerts, than just about anywhere other than churches, or maybe public transportation. Starving for a soul, and given a choice, Lucifestus would always head for the bathroom at an Iron Maiden concert over, say, a methadone clinic. All to say that, between the second and third races at Santa Anita on this fine first week of January, Lucifestus excused himself from his box seat.

It was here in the Men’s Room at Santa Anita that Lucifestus had first encountered Toucan Sam. Sam was the man’s name. Toucan, because of the size and discoloration of his schnoz. May or may not have been a total coincidence then, that now, five years later, leaving that self-same pisser, Lucifestus would be accosted by that self-same Toucan Sam.

“Luce!”

Lucifestus heard but pretended not to. Kept walking.

“Luce! That’s you, right?” Toucan Sam persisted as he stepped in front of the devil. At this proximity, the lack of soul in the human was obvious because of the tinny quality of the voice. Any resident of the Underworld, or of the Opposition, for that matter, would know immediately that Toucan Sam was as vacant as a pre-gentrification, downtown storefront.

“Oh, hey. Sam!” Lucifestus smiled, stuck out a hand. “How’s that special Racing Form working out for you? You must be rolling in chicks and dough by now, yeah? Five years?”

“Yeah, see, I was hoping I could talk to you about that. I want to see if there’s some way we could undo the swap.”

“No can do, mi amigo,” Lucifestus shrugged, made a sorry face.

Sam persisted, “I’m desperate, Luce. Maybe I can pay a penalty or something.”

Lucifestus pointed, “Let’s go into the bar where we can talk.”

Once seated in a back booth in the Turf Club bar, Lucifestus allowed Toucan Sam to see him in his true form. Barrel-chested, crimson skinned, massive jet-black bull horns that could elicit a barely-suppressed whimper from the stoutest of men. He never negotiated with humans in any of his human manifestations if he could help it. Even among other devils Lucifestus was an intimidating sight.

“Why the regrets, Sam? Every time you buy The Form, it still has tomorrow’s results, yeah?” The devil modulated his voice to human tolerance, but just barely. He spoke in a register that he knew would give Sam a queasy gizzard. “That’s what you asked for. That’s what you got.”

“Yeah, Luce. Sure. And I appreciate what you done for me. But it’s not working out quite like I hoped. I mean, it’s causing more problems than solving ’em.”

“Well, that’s not really my concern now is it. The deal was square. What kind of problems?”

Toucan Sam went on about how he’d cashed a couple of big Pick-6 tickets, gone from semi-homeless to owning a home in Glendale. Nothing fancy, just a nice house with a pool. Bought a Lexus. He still had the schnoz, he said, so getting chicks for real was a problem, but he could afford to hire top-drawer escorts – sometimes brought them to the track, hanging on his arm like attention-getting I-told-you-so’s.

“Let me guess,” Lucifestus interrupted. “People started noticing. You wound up attracting hangers-on. Your old track buddies asking for handouts.” Sam nodded. The devil continued, “You guys all do this. One time I made a deal with some law student that wanted to pass the bar. His soul for a copy of the Bar Exam. Done. You know what he does? He gets every question right – perfect score. Greedy motherfucker. It was a red flag. His score was disallowed – couldn’t pass the retake. Now, I’m also guessing that your own lack of discretion has attracted the attention of law enforcement. California Horse Racing Board? Maybe even the feds?”

“Worse,” Toucan Sam sat forward eagerly. “Russians.”

“Russians?”

“Yeah, I think they’re Russians. Sound like Russians. Anyway these mobbed up guys named Yuri and Pavel. They got me by the balls, Luce. They make me pick races for them. Insist I give ’em every double-figure long shot that’s ever going to come in at Santa Anita or Del Mar. If I hold one back, they say they’ll rip my fingernails out. Or shoot me. I tried just giving them my Racing Form, but they can’t see the ‘special results’. Just me.”

“Well, yeah. I didn’t make any deal with Yakov Smirnoff or whatever. I made it with you. You shouldn’t have any problem giving them what they want, though.”

“Well, no. It’s easy enough. But, Luce. That’s no way to live. They never leave me alone. They practically live at my house. They drink all the booze I buy. Piss in my pool. They talk shit about my dog. I just want to go back to the way it was before. Before I made the deal with you – just a regular guy that plays the horses and hits once in a while.”

Lucifestus nodded in what was supposed to be a sympathetic manner, but the movement of his giant horns elicited a yip and a duck out of Toucan Sam. “Here’s the thing, brother. I don’t have your soul anymore. It’s gone. Souls aren’t like the Holy Spirit or auras or other imaginary shit. They’re real things. They occupy space.”

“Really? How big could they be? Like a tennis ball? A bread box? A marble?” Toucan Sam looked stunned and confused, moving his hands apart and back trying to demonstrate the potential size of his hypothetical items.

“More like a small cloud of gas. With little spongy bits floating in it.” Lucifestus held his hands indicating the size of a softball while wiggling his fingers like a teenager practicing fingering before the prom. “I can’t take your soul and carry it around for five years and then say, ‘Oh, yeah, here it is.’ It’s long gone, man. I can’t anymore give you back your soul than you could give me the ribeye you had for dinner two nights ago. I made it clear when we made the deal ten years ago. The deal is final.”

Sam slumped forward, his forehead flat against the table top.

“Tell you what though,” the devil continued.

The human bolted upright, “Anything. You name it. I’m at your service. The service of Darkness, Hell, whatever you call it. I’m not squeamish, I’ll sacrifice a goat. Or a baby! Well, maybe not a . . . No. Yes, a baby. I’ll sacrifice a baby!” He looked hopeful.

“What the actual fuck, Chester? Power down. Look, I can probably intercede with the Russians. Make it where you can start your ideal life over, be more reasonable about it. Thing is, I’m under absolutely no obligation here. So you’re right, you do have to do something for me.”

Sam nodded like a chastised child.

“Before the day is done, you have to run, naked, middle of the track, down the homestretch. Right here at Santa Anita.”

Sam blinked. Twice. “What?”

“You heard me, Sam. Get yourself onto the track. I’m thinking way down at the end of the grandstand, nearest the quarter pole, there’s not a lot of folks or security, but I’ll leave the logistics up to you. Then, bare-ass naked, you have to run as fast as you can across the finish line.”

“Shit, Luce! There’s no point to that but to humiliate me.”

The devil nodded, chuckled, “Heh . . . yeah.”

“Naked, naked?”

“I don’t care if you keep your shoes on, you’ll need those. I’m indifferent about the shirt. But bare-assed naked waist to ankle. I gotta see wiener flapping,” Lucifestus could hardly contain his excitement at the prospect. “You do that, I’ll take care of the Russians.” Then, between hardly contained chuckles and a couple of outright guffaws, “I think it’s a nine race card today, but I might leave after the seventh or eighth. That gives you three or four races to summon up some liquid courage if you need it.”

Toucan Sam nodded again. “Okay. I’ll do it. Then you help me?”

“Of course, brother. Devils always keep their word. And it goes without saying, the nondisclosure agreement is still in place. You breathe a word about any of this to anybody? Well, you’ll wish I’d let the Russians have you.” Lucifestus clapped his hands and rubbed them together, suddenly returning to his customary Tom Waits-ish human manifestation, smiling, “Now that we’ve agreed to all that, who do you like in the third?”

© 2017 Whiskey Leavins

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