Bingo Night

January 24, 2018
By Anonymous

*1* Fred *1*


Fred Leonard Smith Jr. had a plan. He was also very angry, but his emotions seemed far from him at the moment - his plan was just too good to be ignored for even a second, lest he forgot about it. He had been in the process of formulating the plan for the past hour, but now he grew uncertain of whether or not he should bring it to fruition. As he shook back and forth in his rocking chair in a mixed state of anger and pride, musing over this plan of his, Donna Smith, Fred’s wife of fifty years, came loudly trampling down the stairs.


“Fred!” she hollered after reaching the bottom of the stairway, straining her throat in the effort. “Tonight’s game is at Ashton! You better get on up here or we’ll miss our chance to nag those lucky chairs of yours!” Fred glanced at the little antique clock sitting on the living room table - its little bronze arms indicated that it was ten to eight. He knew it was time to finally get revenge on that dastardly woman for stealing his lucky chair - they would be late to Bingo if he waited any longer.


“Alright, but I’ll tell ya one thing dear - we won’t be needing to go so early after I slash that old hag’s tires. It’s about time that she got what she deserves for messin’ with us! And that’s the honest truth, Donna!” Fred grinned and clapped his hands gleefully as he spoke aloud what had been on his mind, not caring whether his wife, who was quite hard of hearing, could understand him. Fred had stayed put far too long under the torment of being so wrongfully isolated from his prize seat (the seat that had given him his first - and latest - bingo victory). This is what she deserves, Fred reasoned, for causing all of this abominable suffering. Fred stood up and hobbled into the kitchen. Grabbing an ice pick from the top of his rusty iron refrigerator, Fred got into his pitch-black Bingo suit and headed out the door. Donna soon followed, struggling to carry all their bingo equipment into the car - an odd assortment of bingo cards, stoppers, markers, daubers, and, under everything, Fred’s prize piece, an extra-large professional Bingo Blower with an ultra silent tabletop. After they had made certain that they did not forget Fred’s favorite bingo daubers, Fred started his rusty, time-worn Hudson Hornet and pulled out onto the road.


*2* Donna *2*


As they traveled onwards toward Ashton, their familiar route, which encompassed a road between their small town and the neighboring woodlands, was illuminated by a strangely warm orange glow which reached over half of the evening atmosphere. Watching passively as the explosive and colorful rays of the dying sun receded and the night made its slow advance across the sky, Donna began to relax after her hurried Bingo preparations. Suddenly, she remembered what her husband had said earlier, and sat up with an involuntary start. “Fred, what reason do you have to slash that lady’s tires? All she did was take your old bingo seat! We can always go there early each time if you want that seat of yours!” she yelled, oblivious to the loudness of her own voice.


“That would be giving in to what the old goat wants us to do. We can solve this problem permanently. All it takes is giving the biddy a reason to avoid taking our seats,” snapped Fred, apparently astonished at her remark. Donna rolled her eyes, but remained silent. She knew Fred was deluding himself in his hatred of the poor old lady, but didn't want to remind him of the terrifying humiliation he suffered - even worse that it was by no fault other than his own - as it might cause him to lash out in anger again. So she leaned back in her chair, resigned in her knowledge that nothing could prevent Fred from taking his “revenge”. She waited wearily for the lurch and skid of the Hornet that would signify her need to accompany Fred on yet another grueling game of Bingo...


*3* Fred/Donna *3*


The undiscussed chair incident occurred exactly two weeks ago. They had arrived barely late at Ashton for their Sunday night game, when the clubhouse was usually jam-packed with people. Fred had overslept that day. When they got there, there were people milling about in groups at the bar, the fitness center, and the lounge, where the two took the last two seats available on the far end of the bingo table, and waited for the game to start. Donna decided to keep Fred blissfully unaware that his “lucky seat” had been occupied.


¨Sure are a lot of ´em today,” Fred said to their long-time bingo friend, Ron, gesturing towards the crowd. ¨I wonder how we’ll ever be able to focus on bingo with the racket those children are making. If I was allowed to I’d kick them out myself.¨ Ron shook his head in agreement, glaring in the direction of the bar, where a group of newcomers had started drinking and chattering loudly in the distance. They looked to be in their twenties or early thirties, the men wearing loose-fitting jackets and trousers, and the women colorful skirts and plastic-looking high-heels.


“Hey, you better watch your mouth.” Fred turned around and saw that an old lady he didn’t recognize from this club had taken a seat next to him and Ron.


“Why can’t I say the truth about them? Just look at them, running about in their terrible clothes, babbling all over the place. This uncouth behaviour doesn’t belong here - if you haven’t realized, newbie,” Fred added, looking coyly at the newcomer.


Unfazed, the woman replied, “It’s Cindy. And it isn’t your place to talk down on them. Why, they haven’t bothered you at all.” Before he could respond, Fred noticed that Cindy had taken his usual chair in bingo table - starting up from his chair with a lurch, he realized that he had somehow forgotten to sit in his lucky seat! It was a catastrophe of unimaginable proportions. Donna, who had gone to work silently crocheting a wooly cap, noticed Fred’s sudden agitation. When she saw the source of his discontent, Donna sighed, set down her needle, and, out of some twisted irony of her fate, half amusedly observed the scene she knew was about to unfold.


“Well, newbie,” Fred muttered, trying to find an excuse, any excuse, to get that darned newcomer away from his seat. “You better stay away from me then. I don’t tolerate people who can’t understand the rules around this place.”


“Alright, I won’t talk to you then. Just wanted to say you were being pretty disrespectful there. I’d say your behaviour is worse than the kids at the bar.”


“Whatever, just leave my sight and we can both be satisfied, alright?” The woman didn’t move, and looked confused at the old man’s request.


“I’m sorry, what?”


“What part of go away don’t you understand?” Fred asked. He was visibly frustrated, standing up on the ground and leaning over Cindy.


Understanding perfectly what Fred wanted, she smiled and said, “Why do I have to move to ignore you?” Fred glared back at her. He felt something expanding in his chest.


“You’re the newcomer here, so you need to listen to me!”  congregation of Bingo players, many of whom Fred was familiar with, turned toward him, their collective gaze boring down on Fred, pinning him to his seat. Donna looked away and pretended to take a sudden interest in her crocheting.


Cindy looked at Fred and spoke calmly. “Calm down sir, how are we ever going to be able to focus on bingo with all the racket you’re making?”


Fred was enraged. He looked at Ron for support, but Ron just shook his head and looked away.


“Donna, let's go,” he panted out finally, “I don’t feel like playing Bingo today.” With that, Fred limped out of the building without his Bingo machine, leaning heavily on his wife.


*4* Fred *4*


After driving for around 15 minutes, the old couple pulled up in front of the Lake Ashton clubhouse. Fred got out of his rickety old car and walked over to the white Nissan over towards the back of the parking lot - the one he recalled belonging to his mortal enemy. Fred glanced at his watch. 9:07 PM - he would have plenty of time. Smiling, he pulled out the ice pick he had kept in his coat pocket and stuck it into the back tire. Tearing a wide gash along the tire, Fred felt ecstatic, and for the first time in weeks, a relief and freedom from Cindy’s calm, brutal remark. He began to tear again and again, cackling loudly as the hideous woman’s face deflated in front of him.


The author's comments:

Something I feel is interesting about this piece is how the characterization of Donna and Cindy ended up - originally I had wanted to make all the supporting characters as insignificant as possible in order to swallow the narrative with Fred's narcissism - and yet toying with the idea of nuance and depth with these characters ended up bringing Fred's charactization 'out there' even more. I ended up adding some depth to Donna's character as she begins “crocheting a wooly cap,” suggesting that she has hobbies and activities that didn’t center around her egoistical husband, yet she is constantly dragged into his shenanigans because of his Bingo obsession. Even though she is constantly forced to accompany an insane man, Donna is so numbed out that she can’t help but “half amusedly observe” his antics, something that Cindy, a stranger to Fred’s usual behaviour, finds astonishingly rude and unfunny. While Donna is portrayed as reserved and used to Fred, Cindy is meant to be the voice of reason introduced in the middle of the story to combat his unhealthy behaviour. But by continuing to call Cindy a “newcomer” and “newbie” even after she introduces herself, Fred reveals his unwillingness to humanize and therefore take seriously the reality of his own flaws that she is trying to reveal to him. The characters of Donna and Cindy have been developed as counterpoints to Fred and his selfish desire for something as arbitrary as a “lucky seat,” with one more resigned and non confrontational and the other more combative - and when Fred chooses to react by slashing Cindy’s tires, he reveals himself to be even more arrogant and unaccepting of others’ opinions.


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