In the afternoon we went to Graetna, just Bull and me. We drove in his old Chevy. Dean’s Hudson was low and sleek; Bull’s Chevy was high and rattly. It was just like 1910. The bookie joint was located near the waterfront in a big chromium-leather bar that opened up in the back to a tremendous hall where entries and numbers were posted on the wall. Louisiana characters lounged around with Racing Forms. Bull and I had a beer, and casually Bull went over to the slot machine and threw a half-dollar piece in. The counters clicked ‘Jackpot’ – ‘Jackpot’ – ‘Jackpot’ – and the last ‘Jackpot’ hung for just a moment and slipped back to ‘Cherry.’ He had lost a hundred dollars or more just by a hair. ‘Damn!’ yelled Bull. ‘They got these things adjusted. You could see it right then. I had the jackpot and the mechanism clicked it back. Well, what you gonna do.’ We examined the Racing Form. I hadn’t played the horses in years and was bemused with all the new names. There was one horse called Big Pop that sent me in a temporary trance thinking of my father, who used to play the horses with me. I was just about to mention it to Old Bull when he said, ‘Well I think I’ll try this Ebony Corsair here.’
Then I finally said it. ‘Big Pop reminds me of my father.’
He mused for just a second, his clear blue eyes fixed on mine hypnotically so that I couldn’t tell what he was thinking or where he was. Then he went over and bet on Ebony Corsair. Big Pop won and paid fifty to one.
‘Damn!’ said Bull. ‘I should have known better. I’ve had experience with this before. Oh, when will we ever learn?’
‘What do you mean?’
‘Big Pop is what I mean. You had a vision, boy, a vision. Only damn fools pay no attention to visions. How do you know your father, who was an old horseplayer, just didn’t momentarily communicate to you that Big Pop was going to win the race? The name brought the feeling up in you, he took advantage of the name to communicate. That’s what I was thinking about when you mentioned it. My cousin in Missouri once bet on a horse that had a name that reminded him of his mother, and it won and paid a big price. The same thing happened this afternoon.’ He shook his head. ‘Ah, let’s go. This is the last time I’ll every play the horses with you around; all these visions drive me to distraction.’ In the car as we drove back to his old house he said, ‘Mankind will someday realize that we are in contact with the dead and with the other world, whatever it is; right now we could predict, if we only exerted enough mental will, what is going to happen within the next hundred years and be able to take steps to avoid all kinds of catastrophes. When a man dies he undergoes a mutation in his brain that we know nothing about now but which will be very clear someday if scientists get on the ball. The bastards right now are only interested in seeing if they can blow up the world.’