6. A Day at the Races

Unorthodox starOne day Razel dropped Velvul off at her parents’ home because she needed to visit a sick friend and did not want to expose her special child to illness and death just yet. Unfortunately, Grandma Rosa was out playing Bingo already and the responsibility fell to Grandpa Schmuel, who had never taken care of a youngster before by himself. He played some old 78 RPM records to pass the time. Velvul’s favorites were Spike Jones’s “Laughing Record” (a trombone player attempted “Flight of the Bumblebee,” but he started sneezing and kept stopping to laugh every so often; he finally gave up playing and just laughed along with the audience) and “The Farting Contest” (the world champion, Lord Windesmear of Wapping-Foghole, took on challenger Paul Boomer, an Australian cabbage farmer, with a flurry of flutterblasts, fuzzies, floopers and threeps, but unfortunately Lord Windesmear got disqualified when he plotched and had an accident).

Later in the morning, a long, sleek red convertible pulled up and a woman with bright red lipstick minced to the door. “Ya ready, Sam?” she asked in her pinch-nosed voice when Grandpa opened the door. “Who’s the kid?” she pointed down at Velvul.

“Oh, he’s one of my daughters’ son. I have to take care of him today and I thought we’d bring him along.”

“Okay,” said the woman with the tight red dress, “but I’m not buyin’ him no hot dogs, ya hear?”

Schmuel smiled, “Sure, Lily. I’ll take care of him too.”

“Damn right, ya will!” She stomped back to her shiny, red car in her shiny, red high-heeled shoes.

“Don’t let her scare you, Velvul, Lily’s real nice once you get to know her.” As they walked to the curb together, Velvul’s thoughts went more to the fascinating car than the not-so-fascinating woman friend of his grandfather.

Riding in open convertibles felt like sailing through the air, the wind in his face and the breeze up his nose. Velvul really didn’t care where they went as long as it took longer than ten minutes to get there. He liked to experience this sense of freedom.

Lily pulled her big car into a big parking lot near a grandstand, and the three of them walked across a dusty field to an entrance gate where Grandpa Schmuel pulled a fat roll of money out of his pocket and peeled off a few bills with a bit of a flourish to pay for their admittance. “Here, Lily,” he handed the program to her, “you pick a few winners for us while I go get some food.”

The brassy, short-tempered lady snatched the pamphlet from him while tilting her head back and looking down her nose. “I’ll be waitin’ for yous by the windows.”

As they walked to the snack bar, Velvul asked, “Grandpa, what are ‘winners’?”

Schmuel retrieved a fat cigar from a pocket inside his sport coat. “Winners are special horses that run faster than all the others. If I choose them, and they finish first, we make lots of money. That’s a winner!”

“Like in ‘The Farting Contest’?”

The older man threw his head back and laughed heartily. “Yes, Velvul, just like in ‘The Farting Contest.’”

When they caught up with Lily at the betting windows, Velvul carried the tray of hot dogs and fries with a steadfast grip. Grandpa held a few cups of foul-smelling, foamy brownish liquid. “What did you find, Lils?”

The woman pouted, “I told you not to call me that, Sam.”

“Fine. Let’s see your picks.” The two adults discussed which horses to bet on while the child stood drooling over a tray of food he could not eat because he needed both his hands to hold it.

“That one will never win!” Grandpa shouted. “Take Hoof Hearted. Now, there’s a name for you! I’m betting on him.”

Lily snorted. “You like them horses with the silly names, Sam. Well, it’s your money.” She strutted away.

“Is she mad, Grandpa?”

“She gets like that, but I’m mad about her.” His gaze followed the backside of the tight dress as it disappeared down the stairwell to the seating area.

When Schmuel had finished buying his betting tickets, the two of them found Lily sitting at a round picnic table under a large plastic umbrella. Vevlul finally got to eat the hot dog and fries he had so patiently mooned over, and Grandpa made him take a sip of his warm beer. Yuck! Velvul thought he had said “Root Beer.”

The first race started, and Velvul gawked at the strange contraption the horses flew out of. It kind of looked like a prison on wheels. Each horse had a colorful blanket and a rider with a matching outfit. When Hoof Hearted won, Schmuel lit up the cigar and sucked on it with a big smile while Lily moped.

They arrived home in the early afternoon. Lily dropped them off at the curb. “Don’t bring the little brat again, Sam. Ever!” Velvul didn’t hear what she said because he couldn’t keep his eyes or his mind off the long, red convertible with lots of chrome.

Moments after she pulled away, Grandma Rosa drove up in her long, pink convertible with the big tail fins and lots of chrome. Once she parked the car in the driveway, she flung the door open, stood up, gave her husband a knowing look and marched into the house.

Just as the front door closed, Razel arrived. “Did you have a good day, Velvul?” she asked.

Schmuel clutched the boy’s shoulder, looked down and winked at him. “We had a great time, Raze.” His daughter gave her father a knowing look as she led the boy back to the little Goliath.

The neighbors could hear Rosa yelling at Schmuel something about “that stinkin’ shiksa!” and him grumbling something about “your padlocked knees,” but all that stopped when they both dumped their day’s winnings on the table between them.

When they got home, Velvul asked his mother if she had heard Grandpa’s funny records. Razel blanched and pulled an album from the shelf and started it on the record player for Velvul to hear. It was “Long-Name-No-Can-Say,” the story of a Chinese boy whose father desired a son so much that after six disappointing daughters (named, Unh, Hmn, Grr, etc.) he finally got his wish. The father wanted everyone to know how proud he was and he named his son Nikki Nikki Tembo No-So Lembo Oo-ma Moochi Gamma Gamma Goochi. During a time of scarce food, the special boy got to eat all the sweet rice cakes he wanted, and he got obliviously fat. One day, while out on a walk with his mother, the boy fell into a well, and because of his girth, got stuck. When the mother tried to ask other people for help, they got confused by his incredibly lengthy name. Long story short, after that they started calling him Long-Name-No-Can-Say. Velvul looked at himself in the mirror and realized the excessive love Grandma Yeti fed him had kept him from slipping down any sewers, but it might have gotten him stuck in a well one day. His family had Chinese take-out that night, but he didn’t have seconds like he usually did.

 

Next up: Learning Jewy Stuff (Today, I might be a man, but who knows?)

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