(Excerpt from novel)
by Amy Platon
The three ladies walked down the street to the Civic Center, and bought their lucky Bingo cards. They took their seats at the back of the room filled with assembled card tables, and plastic folding chairs. Edie took out her very own marker for blotting out the numbers called. Clearly she had done this a few times before.
Clair and Jan on the other hand had not played in years. And came with no tools to speed up their game. The two would be stuck punching out the numbers as they were called.
The room filled with seniors from their development. Some arrived as couples, and others as groups of women. All of them in pastel colors, and each with an embroidered sweater, in case the room got chilly. They all seemed to know one another and a few of the ladies stopped by Edie’s table to introduce themselves to Jan and Clair.
A couple of friends of Edie’s came by, “We’re Joanne and Perla, we live in Bermuda Cove.”
All of the residents introduced themselves in relation to their subdivision as if it were some longitude/latitude position point. Perhaps it was some sort of social order, but Clair was oblivious to it, being so new to the area. Clair did notice that no matter what division they were from the ladies she met all had a sweet smile and cordial things to say. Edie introduced Clair as being new to Holiday Parc, and all wanted to know the same three things: how she liked it so far, if she was married and if she had a car or not. Clair answered all their questions, but wasn’t sure how her answers reflected on her.
The room was alive with chatter and excitement. It was a sweet explosion of Vera Bradley handbags and tapered elastic waist pants. The floral quilted prints on the bags matched their owners obediently acting as the prized embellishment to an otherwise basic outfit. It was like opening a catalog. There were multiples of each print, but the obvious favorite seemed to be the pink print variety. It was then that Clair decided that she too needed to get herself a cute Vera Bradley and she decided on the navy print in a medium-duffel with the double straps.
As the games were to begin, the announcer introduced himself and his panel of assistants. “Hello Ladies…and George. I’m Alan.”
George raised his hand, in fame, as his name was announced. He was the only guy in the room.
Alan continued, “For those who don’t know me, I’m the one who picks the numbers from the metal ball cage, and shouts them out. It goes something like this…” Alan reached into the cage basket and pulled out a chip and shouted it into his microphone, “B-9!” The rambunctious ladies in the front yelled and clapped, approving of his pick.
“Ahh, this is only a test ladies!” Alan said as he held his hand in the air like a rock star. Half the room giggled to one another like groupies. Alan continued in a slight British accent that could have been self-invented, “Did everyone hear the call? B-9? Great.” His voice gallivanted in a smug tone. Already, the Thursday night pseudo-fame was going straight to his head.
He sang into the microphone, “Thank you Donnaaaaaaaa, ladies and George, if you do not hear a call, you can look for it over on the light board.” His voice danced through the sentences as a form of self-amusement. (It seemed Alan had done this before.)
“If you have Bingo, you must yell it out as loud as you can and hold your card in the air. Patty, raise your hand.”
Patty raised her hand and smiled politely at the crowd. She held her microphone close to her chest. She seemed meek and could have easily been an elementary school teacher by day.
“Patty will come to your seat and verify your numbers. Any questions?” Alan asked as he turned his back to the audience, putting the B-9 chip back into the cage as he wound the handle. He turned the chips over on themselves to mix them up thoroughly. His eyes wandered up at his convenience. He glanced over the now drooling crowd of seniors, as if rolling the numbers was some sort of freaky for-play.
“No questions?” he taunted, as he spun the cage over itself.
“Alright then, let the games begin!” His low seductive voice over poured over the padded microphone.
Clair looked at Jan, a little nervous at how cold the room had turned. Jan seemed unaware of the change in climate and looked anxiously at her card for the first game.
Alan declared this game, “5 in-a-row.” He drew his first pick.
The first numbers he called out were met with cheers and overall happiness. But after just five numbers, the room turned to booing and hissing. Clair and Jan were surprised at the change of mood in the ladies they had just met. Edie on the other hand didn’t seem phased by it one bit. She just kept her eyes on her card and played hard. She anxiously blotted each number called. Clair and Jan were in a bit of a frenzy trying to keep up with the speed at which Alan delivered his numbers. There was barely any time to punch out the calls and fold them back before the next one. It was clear, that Clair and Jan were in over their heads here, and it became obvious that they were among professionals. Clair felt they were going to be eaten alive.
Just after the eighth number called, Clair heard Jan shout, “Bingo!” It startled her, not just that Jan had won, but that she shouted like she had just had her purse stolen. Jan held up her card and waived it frantically as Patty descended on her, confiscating her card. Patty began forcefully reading back all the numbers Jan had punched. Even Sunday-school Patty had turned hard. Regardless, it was true-Jan had won!
Each wrinkled face and glaring bifocal, turned in their direction awaiting the results, shook in disappointment. Those who chose not to look hissed at Alan’s announcement, “We have our first winner!”
Patty whispered to Jan, “What’s your name?”
Jan just smiled at Alan with hearts in her eyes, or were they dollar signs? Anyway, Jan did not hear Patty, so Clair answered for her, “Her name is Jan.”
Patty then spoke to Jan in the microphone, “Jan, step right this way, so we can get you your winnings!” Jan went with Patty.
She turned once to Clair and smiled in excited disbelief.
The room regrouped. They pulled out the red cards this time, per Alan’s instructions. Jan quickly returned to the table and joined in for the next round. Donna cleared the light board of all the numbers from the previous game, as Alan started again,
“Four corners.” He shouted.
About five numbers into the four corners game, someone on the far end of the room yelled out that horrid word, “Bingo!”
Patty swooped right in, and began calling out the numbers, Alan either confirmed or denied the numbers from Donna’s light board. There was a discrepancy. Patty called O-4 but there was no O-4. Alan took a minute to converse with Donna and compared the light board with his chips. Patty flew up to talk with them, fake-card in hand. After the meeting, Alan announced, “We do not have a Bingo, repeat, no Bingo, no win!”
Alan’s accent was fading among the hustle and bustle of unfolding events.
Half the room sucked their teeth as if the fake winner was an idiot. They were going to hold that woman responsible for breaking their concentration, and it would be the talk of the pool deck for the next week.
Then Patty declared over her secondary mic, “Ethel, your not a winner, here is your card, you may continue playing.” Patty was stern in her speech. She said it in a distinctive you-better-not-let-this-happen-again tone.
Clair felt badly for Ethel. Patty was even looking at her as if she were trying to scam the whole Bingo organization. But the worst part, the loser had a name and it was Ethel.
This really spooked Clair. She had no idea how competitive this game was going to be. She spent sixty dollars on Bingo cards and now she was afraid to have Bingo.
Clair had no choice but to just play hard and try for it. It was the last game, and it was the “fill your card game.” It felt like it dragged on forever. The crowd had loosened up a bit, though, and the ladies were casually talking amongst themselves, which made Clair feel better. Even Edie was talking now. The next thing Clair knew, her card was in the air and she was screaming
“Bingo! Bingo! Bingo!” She said as she jumped in disbelief that she has actually won. Patty immediately appeared and began to read back her card to Alan. The room held it’s breath, as each number was called for Alan to confirm. Clair secretly held her breath chanting in prayer, please, please, please, please……
“We HAVE a winner!” Alan screamed, almost in relief that it was finally over, so he can go get his drink-on at The Tavern.
The ladies pack up their Vera Bradley’s at the announcement, turning sweet again, and saying their goodbyes to one another, almost unaware that Clair won. She was relieved.
She marched up to collect her winnings, $190.
Jan and Edie waited for Clair at the front of the hall. She joined them with a huge infectious smile, clutching her bag and her winnings tight under her arm. Success was hers. She was anonymous, but still a winner. Just the way she liked it.
Perfect Circle (Ultimate Void)
Cracked (Grocery Run)