The Short Stories of Edward R. Doughty

Harry The Horse (In The Damon Runyan Style)


When last I see Tuxedo Tommy he was wearing his tuxedo as usual. In fact every time I have ever seen Tommy he has been wearing a tuxedo. So it is no surprise that when he walks into O'Grady's Pub --- he is wearing a tuxedo. But tonight he is looking long in the face. "Hello, Tommy", says I, "you are not looking too chipper tonight." Tommy sits on the bar stool next to me and orders a beer. Finally, he says, "I have lost a good friend today." I reply, "And who might that be?" "Harry the Horse died today!" Now everyone around knew Harry the Horse and I must admit that I am somewhat saddened by this news indeed. Harry was someone who would be at the racetrack every day it was open. He would always be wearing a suit and tie and he would always be sitting in the clubhouse. And he would always have several tips on horses that were "sure things".

I remember one day I was at the track with Harry, Tommy and Old Liverlips. Harry bets a horse named Brown Derby in the first race and the horse wins. In the second race he bets on a horse named Sombrero and it, too, wins by three lengths. In the third race Harry bets on a horse named Blue Bonnet. Blue Bonnet wins and pays off at 20 to 1. Harry is now in the chips! Harry also realizes that every horse he has bet on has the name for some kind of hat. So in the fourth race he picks a horse named Top Hat. Top Hat is running third most of the race. But in the stretch it puts pedal to the metal and wins by two lengths. Harry's wallet is now fatter than somewhat. Harry then scans the program for the fifth race. In that race there is a horse named Fighting Fedora. Harry bets on it to win and sure enough it does. In the sixth race Harry scans the program and picks a horse named Chateau. Chateau runs dead last and Harry is now just about broke. Tuxedo Tommy asks Harry why he stopped betting on horses that had some kind of hat for their name. Harry indignantly says, "Chateau" is French for hat, you dummy!" But Tommy says,"No --- chateau means house in French". Tommy replies, "Well then there weren't any 'hat' horses in that race!" "You're wrong, Harry", says Old Liverlips, "There was a horse named 'Yarmulke", which is a Jewish hat." Harry says, "I thought that was some Jap guy's name!" With that Harry tears his program in half and leaves before the seventh race.

Just then in walk Old Liverlips, Boston Benny and Jew Louie. They gather around us as we exchange pleasantries. Tuxedo Tommy then gives them the very bad news about Harry the Horse. They are all saddened indeed. Boston Benny asks when the funeral is going to be held. Tommy tells one and all that the funeral will be held at Saint Agnes' on Wednesday at 11 am. We all decide that we should be present at such a funeral. Everyone then starts to tell stories about Harry the Horse. Harry, of course, was a colorful fellow indeed.

Old Liverlips recalls the time we were all in Sammy's Steakhouse when six guys from the Slattery mob enter the restaurant. They come over to our table and tell us that they had reserved that table for the evening. Harry the Horse slowly gets to his feet and within a second he has drawn a switchblade and thrown it right through the foot of Slattery, himself. Slattery lets out a scream, pulls the knife out of his foot and limps to the door as the other five guys scatter. We all then resume our seats and continue to eat on Sammy's very delicious steaks.

Boston Benny recalls the time that Harry has bet a bundle on a horse named Scataway. The horse runs dead last. The next morning the horse is found dead in its Stable with a bullet wound through its' head.

Jew Louie then remembers the time Harry was driving his car through the Upper East Side when he accidentally ran over some kid's baseball glove. He stopped and apologized to the kid who was crying up a storm. Harry then drives to a local sporting good store and buys the kid the most expensive glove in the store --- along with a ball and a bat.

Old Liverlips recalls the time that we were all at the track and when the third race rolled around we find out from our programs that a doll is riding a horse named Vanilla Pudding. Now no one wants to bet on a doll because this is clearly a man's sport. But Harry says we should give the doll a chance and he proceeds to bet fifty dollars on the doll to win. Vanilla Pudding is 15 to 1 on the morning line, but by post-time it has gone up to 25 to 1. Of course, Vanilla Pudding wins the race and Harry the Horse is a happy man indeed.

I then tell the boys the story of the "hat horses" and there are laughs all around.

Yes, Harry could be quite intimidating, but he could also have a very big heart. Tuxedo Tommy tells us the story of the time Billy the Bartender's wife got sick and needed an operation that Billy clearly couldn't afford. Harry paid all of her expenses for that operation, which turned out quite successfully. After that Harry never had to pay for any drinks in Billy's bar again.

After several hours we all decide to go home and we all say that we will see each other at St. Agnes' on Wednesday morning.

So on Wednesday morning all of the boys are present at St. Agnes'. Father Murphy is there greeting one and all as we enter the church. The church is crowded with many guys and dolls, most of whom I know. There are hundreds of arrangements of flowers around the altar, which clearly indicated that Harry was well thought of around town. In front of the altar there is an open casket and Harry the Horse is lying inside of it looking quite serene. And then I notice something peculiar. Harry is wearing a yarmulke. I smile as I think back to that day at the track that evidently stuck in Harry's mind until the end.


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