This is a very old story which I submitted only a couple of times without success. I never though much of it. It's a bit of a 'so what' story, but I thought I'd share it with you because reading it made me aware of how far I've come as a writer, and how I have changed. What do you think?
Break Even Stan
Stan Ledlin stood staring in disbelief at the monitor. The race was over. Running a large hand through his thick brown hair, he trudged out the door of the Kirrawee TAB. He tore up the tickets and threw them into a garbage bin.
He stopped and turned, lifting his hand to greet his friend Theo.
‘Did you blow much mate?’
The two men shook hands and Stan looked at Theo’s face briefly before settling his gaze over his shoulder.
‘You win some, you lose some,’ said Stan with a shrug. ‘I come out even in the end.’ Theo nodded and gave Stan a good natured punch on the arm. ‘You always break even Stan. I gotta go. See you later.’
‘Yeah, see you,’ replied Stan with a smile. He did usually break even and that was
good enough. It was a bit of fun. Something for a single man to do in his spare time. Beat the hell out of staying home and watching the walls. Eating alone. Drinking alone.
His girlfriend Jean came over a few nights a week to cook for him but she never stayed the night, although he wished she would.
Stan tugged at his belt to lift his sagging trousers and made a feeble attempt to tuck his shirt in. Then he shuffled across the quiet street and entered the take-away shop where he bought a hamburger. Jean nagged him about his love for junk food and the effect it was having on his waistline but he ate it anyway. It was convenient and tasty. Years of bachelorhood had made Stan a competent cook but he could not be bothered.
He was aware of his spare tyre belly and he grew a bushy beard to hide his second chin but generally Stan was unconcerned about his appearance.
Sitting down at the bus stop outside the shop, Stan munched on his hamburger and contemplated life. A persistent restlessness plagued him. He didn’t know why after so many years of happily rolling along with his simple life, he should begin to feel dissatisfied. Stan was in a rut. His comfortable routines were suffocating him.
After wiping barbecue sauce off his mouth and brushing crumbs out of his beard, Stan stood up and made his way to the train station. His mates would be expecting him at the Gymea Hotel.
Early in the afternoon the pub had only a handful of patrons. Stan saw John Miles standing at the bar so he strode over and offered to shout the next round.
John was mildly surprised. ‘Did you have a win this arvo?’
‘No,’ replied Stan. ‘I came out even.’
‘I thought you must’ve hit the big time. You never offer to pay.’
Stan was happy to pay his share but he always waited his turn and if his turn never came that was okay by him. Whenever he stood in the TAB, tickets in hand and heart in mouth, he imagined how good it would be to win big and shout not only his mates but everyone else in the pub. The man who chases fantasies lacks judgment. Which wise man smart arse said that? Bloody horses were always spoiling his dreams.
‘Even Stan!’ yelled one of the blokes at the table, ‘What’s wrong? Not like you to be so quiet.’
His mate John could read him like a book, unfortunately. ‘Nothing,’ he lied before taking another mouthful of beer from his half empty schooner.
‘Seen Jean lately Stan?’ John asked.
‘Yeah she was over last night.’
‘When you gonna marry her?’ asked another bloke.
‘Pull your head in Chris,’ said John as Stan retreated to his now near empty glass.
‘Your shout Chris,’ ordered Stan while giving Chris a mind-your-own-business look. If there was a good reason for Stan not asking Jean to marry him he wished someone would tell him. She would definitely say yes. He did love her. They had been together for three years and everyone said they were right for each other. At forty two years of age maybe he was afraid. His head hurt when he thought of how much his life would change if he married her. He didn’t really understand what Jean saw in a stubborn slob like himself. And he was worried that living together would ruin their relationship. Was there a chance though, of losing her if he didn’t propose? Possibly.
As the minutes passed the picture became clearer. Stan downed his beer in one go then said goodbye to his mates and left.
Exhilarated by the prospect of breaking out of his shell and taking a chance, Stan went to the payphone outside the hotel and called Jean. He asked her to come over that night because he had something important to say.
Feeling like his luck was about to change, Stan called in to the TAB on his way home for one last bet. An omen bet. A nag called My Bonnie Bride was running in the last at long odds. Stan laid his money down and waited for the starters gun.
Jean was very pleased with the wonderful dinner Stan had prepared for her and completely overwhelmed when he popped the question. Naturally she said yes and when they finished kissing and hugging, Stan announced that he would have two pieces of good news for the boys tomorrow.
‘What’s the other one?’ asked Jean.
‘I backed a horse called My Bonnie Bride. She came in first at 50 to 1. I won ten thousand dollars!’