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Todd was facedown on the couch at the Airbnb. A half-finished whiskey-soda sat on the coffee table while the smell of a cigarette burn on the couch was reminiscent throughout the entire room. Waking up with wide eyes, he looked over to the chair next to him where Finn was sleeping with his mouth open wearing nothing but his boxers and a blazer over his bare chest.
“Finn,” Todd said attempting to wake him up. “Finn, wake up.”
“Holy shit,” Finn responded with a rasp in his voice. “What the fuck just happened?”
Todd sat up on the couch and pushed his hair back before taking a reluctant sip of his warm whiskey-soda. He winced as it went down but knew it wasn’t going to be the only drink he would be forcing down throughout the day.
“What time is it?” Todd asked as he patted his pocket for his phone. He looked puzzled — unable to remember what happened the night (and day) prior, nor where he last saw his phone which was nowhere on his person.
Finn looked over to the wall where his iPhone was plugged in. Sitting up out of his chair, he appeared to gag before holding it in. His phone, 100% charged, read that it was a hair past 11 o’clock in the morning.
“Shit, we’ve gotta get going,” Finn said, clamoring to put his same pair of pants back on from the day before while Todd searched the couch cushions for his now-lost phone.
“I don’t have time to shower, do I?” Todd asked Finn who responded simply by shaking his head. “Fuck, I think I lost my phone, dude.”
Todd had left his computer behind knowing that he wouldn’t be completing any work over Derby weekend, and when the two decided to attempt to find it using Finn’s phone, it was clearly dead. While getting dressed, they discussed its possible location — “I could not even tell you what we did after The Oaks,” Finn said with brutal honesty — but came up with nothing.
“Can you text Katie and ask her to pass along that I lost my phone?” Todd asked Finn, who began typing without confirming or denying that he’d pass along the message. “Call an Uber too, I’ll wake John up.”
Upon entering the room where John had put his bag the day before, Todd saw a perfectly made bed, an unopened suitcase, and no semblance of anyone being in the room within the last 24 hours. Todd again wiped his hands through his hair unsure of what to do. He walked out of the room and looked at Finn.
“Uh, so yeah, John’s not here,” Todd explained, half-laughing while half-concerned.
“Whatever, the Uber is outside, let’s just call him on the way to the track,” Finn said while putting on his blazer (this time over a shirt instead of his bare chest).
Immediately upon getting in the Uber, Finn texted John asking his whereabouts. After five minutes of driving through the crowded Louisville streets surrounding Churchill Downs, Finn had yet to get a read receipt from John’s phone. He explained to Todd that he was less concerned about actually finding John and more concerned about what to do with his grandstand ticket.
“Just leave it at Will Call and text him,” Todd responded while being fairly sure there was no way they’d feasibly see John in their booth that day. “Let’s just go meet up with your uncle and get a cocktail, I’m dying.”
Upon thanking the Uber driver and taking a similar path to the track as the day before, they approached Will Call with John’s ticket and explained the situation to a woman who also had very little faith in seeing John that day. Finn, knowing where his uncle’s box was, directed Todd where to go before Todd had to stop and order two tall Mint Juleps from an inside bar. He reached into his pocket to pull out his wallet to pay for both, only seeing a debit card, an American Express, and his driver’s license.
“Well, if my wallet is any indication, I either lost every bet yesterday or we went to a strip club last night,” Todd said with a grin on his face. An older man behind them heard what Todd said and laughed with them. “Whatever, though, I’m going all in on Outwork today. That horse is a beast.”
Todd and Finn cheersed their Juleps and knew it was time to meet Finn’s uncle at their box. When they finally got there, his uncle stood against the rail with his hair slicked back in a khaki suit and a pair of gator loafers with no socks. He turned around to see both Todd and Finn standing in the doorway.
“Finn, my boy!” he exclaimed. “Look at these two stooges. Y’all have fun last night?”
“What does it look like, Uncle Rick?” Finn responded, smiling but hesitant.
Finn’s uncle’s eyebrow lowered before questioning the two, “Wait, where’s that piece of shit John? Wasn’t he supposed to come with you this year again?”
“Um,” Todd hesitated, “So we kind of lost him last night and we’re not sure where.”
Uncle Rick laughed. “Well, I was already in bed when Finn texted me to go to that strip club y’all went to last night, so if that’s any indication…”
Both Todd and Finn looked at each other mortified before Uncle Rick started laughing which caused them to erupt as well.
“Fuck it,” Uncle Rick said. “Whaddya say we bet on some fuckin’ ponies?”
Rick put his arm around Finn as the two approached the railing and looked at the track. The sun beat down on the crowd filled with seersucker suits, floppy hats, and seemingly all the bourbon in Kentucky. Todd looked from side to side seeing if their box was situated next to any celebrities, none of which he immediately recognized. It appeared to have rained the night before and the infield was a combination of muddy and steamy. The actual Derby wasn’t for another four-and-a-half hours, but Churchill Downs already felt to be bursting at the seams with hopefuls. Looking into the distance, all Todd could hear behind him was Rick saying, “Good as it gets, boys,” which it truly was.
“Sarah over here will be fetchin’ you drinks all day, don’t by shy,” Uncle Rick explained before Todd immediately ordered another with Finn chipping in as well. Finn again checked his phone for a text or read receipt from John — still nothing.
They sat down for the first time since their Uber ride and discussed John’s possible whereabouts again, now fully aware that they had been at PT’s Showclub until at least 1 a.m. the night before. Considering neither remembered being there in the first place, there was no telling whether or not John accompanied them.
“Oh well,” Todd said after five minutes of deliberation. “If he doesn’t show up here, he’ll be at the place later tonight.” Finn agreed.
As the horses that were a part of an earlier race approached the gate to their left, they stood out of their seats and got ready for the start. Todd asked Finn if he had anything on this race, only for Finn to explain that he had barely anything left to his name after checking his credit card statement from the night prior. There seemed to be a delay in the race as the crowd’s buzz slumped into a lull before a scream came from the first-floor club seating.
“Todd!” he heard. “Todd!”
Todd looked down and saw a young man standing in a sea of people wearing a pair of sunglasses and a seersucker suit with three cigars sticking out of his chest pocket. As he took off his shades to reveal his puffy hungover face, Todd hit Finn on the chest and said, “Holy fuck, look at John’s black fucking eye.”
John screamed up to their box holding a scalped general grounds ticket while asking where his box ticket was while both Todd and Finn shook their heads with a combination of dismay and amusement. Finn cupped his hands over his mouth and screamed something about his ticket being at Will Call before waving him up to the box. Saluting them from below, John smiled and put his sunglasses on and began heading back through the crowd to find his way up. But behind him followed three girls.
“Wait,” Todd said to Finn, “Are those the chicks from yesterday?”
Finn covered his mouth in laughter while both felt hands on their outside shoulders. The hands were Uncle Rick’s who squinted and chimed in, “Whoever those broads are, they’re lookin’ pretty good to me.” .
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