First Saturday in May, Mama works my curls into tight pigtails. The only day of the year
she bothers. The up-sweep of skin pulls my face into a grin. Special occasion barrettes
molded into the white plastic body of a horse, gallop behind me
at the tip of my braids
as I race the stretch of our narrow alley
street, waving down the fancy cars,
shouting at the rolled-up windows—
PARK HERE! TEN DOLLARS!
* * *
Eight years old & I am a professional.
Up early to greet the regulars. Mr. Whitlock—black Lincoln Town Car. Mr. Crouch—red topless Corvette. I usher the expensive machines into the VIP space of our carport. Slip stiff money
& keys into envelopes. Pander through the painful pity pats dropped on my freshly-parted scalp.
All day long, up & down Cliff Ave.
I am my mother's gimmick.
Reeling in the big bettors. Giving directions to the track in my tiny voice. Picking the sure horse. Selling our yard &
lemonade to orange-tinted men sweating through linen,
their nameless women under gaudy hats.
* * *
The announcer's voice echoes, blankets our roofs. A kind of distant
Oz over our now-empty streets. Grills warming. Beers hissing. I memorize the faces
stretched out on a scratchy lawn chair
beneath the mellow blimp humming
across the sky. We argue garage-to-garage,
place the real bet—
which ones will remember the way back