THIS IS A STORY BASED ON THE TRUTH. THE NAMES OF THE CHARACTERS, THE LOCALE AND THE CIRCUMSTANCES ARE HISTORICAL AND FACTUAL. I HAVE TAKEN LIBERTY WITH SOME INCIDENTALS AND THE DIALOGUE, BASING THEM ON THE ERA, THE SITUATION AND THE CHARACTERS INVOLVED.
Drake worried as Little Augie strode toward the car. He tried, with a sideways glance, to gauge his mood, but the little man gave nothing away.
He’d dropped a lot of dough on that gelding, which Drake didn’t understand. No stud fees.
But By Popular Vote placed and the purse was hefty. Some Cuban cigar manufacturer from Tampa wanted to buy him.
Little Augie was happy. He gave Drake a couple of Gordos, a fifty dollar bill and slap on the back. They stopped at Ernesto’s for some steaks on their way out of Hialeah.
Halfway through the second course and a bottle of Barolo, Little Augie told him his old driver was back in town. Sally G was his name and he needed a job. Drake’s job.
Drake said that it was his honor to be Little Augie’s driver. They clinked glasses.
“Cent anni,” Little Augie said.
On the drive back to Miami, Little Augie talked a lot about By Popular Vote and some of his other thoroughbreds. He didn’t mention Drake’s situation until they were a on the outskirts of his estate.
“Have you thought about what you’d like to do?”
“About a job?”
Little Augie ran his lighter across another Gordo. “Yeah, kid. About a job.”
“I don’t know. I’ll probably go back to driving a cab.”
Little Augie stoked the Gordo. “What’s the matter? Are you hungry?”
“No. I’m not hungry.”
“That’s good, kid. I’m glad your not hungry. I would be insulted if you were hungry.”
Drake could feel the burn of Little Augie’s stare, but he kept his eyes on the road.
“I would never…”
“So what is it? You want to quit?”
“I thought I was fired.”
“Did I say that?”
“What’s this sir business? You’ve worked for me…how long?”
“Six years. And you’ve never called me sir. I’ve never required you to call me sir. Have I mistreated you? Have I not paid you enough?”
“You’ve been nothing but generous to me, Gus. More generous than my own father.”
Drake pulled into the long, straight driveway to his left.
Little Augie’s lilac mansion loomed ahead amongst the Bougainvillea. His wife’s pet peacock, Ki Ki, sat in the middle of the lawn. A snake squirmed in its beak.
He parked the Caddy in front of the fountain.
“Since you asked…I would like to be a comic.”
Little Augie puffed away on the Gordo.
“I can see that,” he said finally. “You tell a good story.”
He opened the car door and got out.
“Should I pick you up in the morning?”
“I got it covered, kid. You sleep in. I’ll call you tomorrow.” He shut the car door.
Drake watched him waddle up the Spanish tile steps. His wife opened the door.
She waved to Drake.
Drake waved back.