“Great to see ya, John,” Uncle Rick said while aggressively shaking John’s hand. “Now tell me, what in the hell did you do to your eye?”
John peered over to Todd who stood there also waiting for an answer, realizing that Todd also had absolutely no idea what had happened the night before. A look of terror fell over Todd’s face realizing that he should have remembered what happened, but simply didn’t.
John unbuttoned his jacket and put his hand on Uncle Rick’s shoulder.
“Let’s not worry about that,” he declared. “I’d like to you meet our new friends — Lindsey, Claire, and Rachel.”
The three girls stood uncomfortably in the back of the box which rested in the middle of the Churchill Downs grandstand. One by one, they attempted to shake Uncle Rick’s hand. But one by one, Uncle Rick hugged them and planted a firm kiss on each of their cheeks. He began to twirl Claire, the final girl, and compliment her Derby ensemble before she embarrassingly walked over to Todd and jokingly said, “Toddddd, save me!”
Unfortunately for Todd, this was his first memory of hearing her name. Attempting to be a gentleman, he laughed with her and attempted to act as though they’d been friends for years instead of hours. She put her hand on his chest and leaned into him while Todd’s look of terror returned.
Attempting to diffuse the situation, Todd moved his arm from being around her and said, “Hey, let’s get you a drink.”
Uninterested by his drink offer, Claire walked outside and pressed herself up against the box’s railing before looking back and complimenting their view. Todd, torn between going outside and trying to figure out what had happened the night before with John, approached Finn and mouthed, “What. The. Fuck.”
Finn, with his eyes equally as wide with amazement regarding the situation surrounding him, gestured Todd to come over towards he and John. He immediately grabbed Todd by the arm and whispered, “Let’s go to the fucking bathroom.”
John smiled and gestured to the girls, all three of which were outside now, and explained they’d be right back. At this point, Todd and Finn were already outside of the box trying to hash out the night before. The Juleps were starting to settle in Todd’s stomach and take him from violently hungover to drunkenly frantic.
“John, what the fuck, man?” Todd scream-whispered.
“Y’all don’t remember anything from last night, do ya?” John asked before taking a sip of his Mint Julep that he’d received from Uncle Rick.
“Of course we don’t remember, you fuck,” Todd insisted. “Give us a thirty-second rundown so we can get back in there before Finn’s uncle marries one of ’em.”
“Okay, okay,” John started before taking another slow sip from his Julep while Finn made hurried motions with his hands. “We left The Oaks with those girls and headed to a steakhouse — I can’t remember the name. Todd, you were gone. Finn, you seemed fine but clearly you weren’t. We got a six-top and the drinks started flowing again. Todd, you paired off with Claire. Finn, Rachel clearly wanted you but you just kept drunkenly pointing at your wedding ring.”
Todd’s hand was fully over his face by this point while a wave of relief fell over Finn’s face.
“Hurry the fuck up,” Todd pleaded.
“Alright, man, relax,” John continued. “It was all fun and games until Claire took your phone and put it in her clutch because you wouldn’t stop texting at the table. She kept asking who you were texting with but you refused to tell her, for whatever reason. At that point, Rachel asked ‘What do guys do Derby weekends when the girls aren’t around?’ and we all jokingly mentioned a strip club. The girls insisted we go, so I texted Uncle Rick and we were off.”
Todd stopped John from talking — “So you’re tellin’ me that Claire has my phone?”
“Yeah,” John confirmed. “But anyway, I don’t remember what happened after that. My last memory is some Terry Tate looking motherfucker knocking me outta my loafers after getting too handsy at the club with either Lindsey or one of the club’s girls, not sure which one but they’re essentially the same to me at this point.”
The door to the box opened and Uncle Rick popped his head out. “Better get in here, boys. Race is about to start.”
They all walked in. Relieved he knew where his phone was, Todd went and sat at the front of the box and took out his program to see which race it was. Claire leaned forward and pointed which race it was and he half-heartedly thanked her before sitting up in his seat.
“Claire, I know it’s weird to ask this, but do you still have my phone?”
For a brief moment, she debated pretending she had left it back at her house, but the sweat on Todd’s brow signaled to her that she couldn’t mess with him. Reaching into her bag, she pulled it out.
“You know,” Claire started, “It’s rude to text at the table when you’ve got a pretty lady next to you.” She handed over his phone which was still completely dead. “I’ve got a charger plugged into that wall if you need it,” she clarified.
“Claire, let me get you a drink to thank you,” Todd said gesturing towards the box’s waitress. The two made their way back into the box while the horses crossed the finish and the crowd’s focus shifted to the final race. Todd unplugged a random phone and plugged his in and ordered a round of drinks for everyone in the box.
Notoriously, the minutes leading up to the Derby itself are on par with doing an upper. The air before the two-minute race gets thick with excitement and everyone’s palms begin to sweat with anticipation. The aura surrounding the track caused Todd to nervously chew the crushed ice in his drink while conversing with the girls from the night before, still hoping nothing happened between he and Claire (or any of the other parties involved, for that matter).
Uncle Rick turned around and screamed, “Todd! Who ya got!”
“Outwork,” Todd yelled back to Rick, who at this point was giving Todd a thumb’s up with his program in his hand and a Julep in the other.
Knowing that the Derby was about to wind things down, Todd wanted to clear the air with Claire before the race’s mayhem ensued. The crowd was loud singing “My Old Kentucky Home” when Todd leaned over and whispered to her.
“Hey, I just want to clear the air over last night,” he said before she cut him off.
“Todd, trust me,” she assured him, “Had you wanted something to happen, it would’ve. But you wouldn’t stop talking about your girl back home once we got to the strip club.”
Embarrassed, Todd leaned back and looked at her with a touch of relief and a touch of regret as her honest smile and tan skin complimented her Derby Day dress perfectly.
“I did put my number in your phone, though,” she continued. “You know, just in case.”
Todd smiled and gave her a one-armed hug before putting his hand on the center of her back and leading her to the railing to watch the race.
“Outwork?” Claire asked him as the horses loaded.
“Outwork,” Todd said back confidently.
To his right stood Finn and John, both clutching their betting slips and cocktails as the last of the horses approached the gate. With his shirt half-untucked and a lit cigar in his mouth, Finn set his drink down behind him and put his arms around each of the guys on either side of him. And just before the gunshot signaling the beginning of the race, Finn looked directly at both his friends and simply said, “We’re the fuckin’ best.”
And then they were off. .