Christmas shopping with Zelda

Christmas shopping with Zelda

December 2, 2018

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The Real Life Ventures and Adventures of Trey and Batman

by Trey Nosrac

My Aunt Zelda graciously hosts Thanksgiving dinner every year. Tall and regal with a crown of white hair and wielding a pearl-handled walking stick, she reigns over our occasionally chaotic family. After the pumpkin pie, as a menagerie of relatives meandered towards the library, she latched onto my arm with arthritic yet strong fingers.

She tugged me to a stop near the double doors and asked, “Trey, give me some hints for Christmas, it’s so hard to shop for a man who has nothing.”

Aunt Zelda is the coolest person I know. She is as funny as hell, irreverent and blunt. She is my mother’s oldest sister. About 25 years ago, Auntie Z’s husband, Theodore, died of coronary thrombosis in the arms of a young Lithuanian woman on a business trip to Europe for Exxon Oil. Teddy left behind a tidy pile of cash.

To be honest, I have tapped Auntie Z for loans to finance various projects throughout the years and have not repaid all of them, or to be more precise, any of them.

Auntie Z has asked me this pre-Christmas shopping question numerous times, so I was prepared with my answer. Perhaps deficient in the true holiday spirit I blurted out, “How much are you thinking?”

Auntie Z poked me in the chest with her index finger and said, “Well, last Christmas, I opened that IRA saving account in your name for three thousand dollars. You remember, the account designed to encourage fiscal responsibility, the one that you immediately withdrew, with a rather stiff penalty, for your Super Bowl wager.”

“Auntie Z, be fair. Who misses an extra point with two seconds on the clock?”

“Apparently the team you support.”

“So are we talking three grand again this Christmas?”

“I will go up to five if you promise not to wager.”

“You are the best Aunt ever. Heck, if I had six more like you I could retire.”

“Retire from what dear?”


“Oh yes, I forgot. It’s been what, over a year?”

“Thirteen months, a new Olympic record. Actually, I recently downsized and I’m trying the independent driver route with one regular customer.”

“My dear boy,” she patted me on the shoulder. We strolled into the library room and sat on a pair of matching wingback leather chairs separated by a small glass coffee table. I cleared my throat and made my pitch.

“Auntie Z, you’ve wasted enough money on me. Obviously, I’m not good with loose cash or lump sums. I want to go into business with you. I want to buy a baby racehorse and try to make money. If I, if we, get the right horse, we will be… well… off to the races.”

She pushed up her wire-rimmed spectacles, pinched the bridge of her nose, and closed her blue eyes. “Didn’t we do something like this with racehorses a few years ago?”

“Not exactly. That was bankrolling me to BET on horse racing. This is different — apples and oranges. Betting on horse racing is entertainment, owning horses is a business.”

She was silent for a few seconds and then began to chuckle.

“Trey, your last name should be ill-advised. A poor person entering a high-risk game for wealthy people is madness.”

“This is harness racing, you know, with the buggies. You can jump right into this sport without being a millionaire.”

“Trey, you can jump off a cliff, but that does not mean you are an eagle. And the horse business appears to be a bit flighty.”

“I agree, it is not a sure thing. But Auntie Z, I know this sport. I have been reading race programs since the cradle. I’ve spent more time studying harness racing than most people spend at real jobs. I’ve lost a lot of money betting on horses.”

She sighed, “What a lovely resume.”

“Auntie Z, I dream about owning a horse. I’ve dreamt about it for a long time.”

We sat in comfortable silence for a long minute.

She smiled and then spoke softly, “Dreams are good. You may be surprised to learn that I still have them, but tell me more about yours.”

I leaned forward and flapped my hands as I babbled, “Okay, you push the five grand up to eight, but do not give it to me. We use the eight grand as your third of a partnership. I figure that if I drive some extra shifts, cut out a few bad habits, and maybe donate some blood, I can finance the other eight grand over a year. Our total investment will be sixteen grand. I know a trainer looking for investors who will be responsible for the final third. Twenty-four grand and we are in business.”

“You trust this training man?”

“Actually this trainer is a woman. Yes, she’s solid. I’ve known her for a few years.”

“A woman?”

I nodded, “She went nine on a Muscle Yankee yearling in the Black Book, HIP 777, Tiki Tack Hanover, OCD removed, good conformation and black type.”

“Trey, I can’t go into business with a person who speaks a foreign tongue.”

She was quiet again, thinking. Her answer did not really matter. I love my Aunt, I am so lucky to have her in my life. Auntie Z, with her sharp tongue and dry wit, has stood above all. She is my favorite soul, and the thought of the years taking her away scares me.

She nodded and said, “Let’s do it.”

I clapped my hands, gave her a big hug, and kissed her powdered cheek.

She said, “I have a couple of caveats.”

I shrugged.

She leaned forward. “My dear nephew, I want you to treat this as a business. Introduce me to this female trainer. Take time to write down your plan, your expenses, dates, reasons, facts, and figures. Do not just shoot from the hip as you often do. Paperwork will convince me that I am being a constructive aunt and not merely contributing to your continual delinquency. After all, now it’s my dream too.”

“I will write stuff down and talk your ears off. This is the greatest Christmas present ever.”

She grasped my hands, looked into my eyes, and said, “I never need wrapping paper for your gifts.”

I dropped her hands and reached into my wallet pocket. In my pocket was an envelope. I handed it to my aunt. “It’s a little bit early, but Merry Christmas Auntie Z.”

She opened the cheesy Christmas card, and read my printing in a rectangular box at the bottom.

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