by John Rubens
August 3, 2017, Bullhead City, AZ, River Valley Senior Center of August 2, 2017 Bingo Wednesday night.
Liz, Don and I played 31 beforehand. Liz won. After sharing her coffee with me in the kitchen at the end of the bingo break, she pointed out my lucky penny to me on the white linoleum floor below. Lucky penny, bingo game. I didn’t get it just yet. All the women know I get it kind of slow and then I go too fast. Lucky wouldn’t be the first time she walked by.
I didn’t pick it up at first, for a glean, the newly minted penny. No, not at first, but as I was about to learn, these sharp women were persistent.
“Are you Irish?” I asked Claudine, who I sat opposite to me as was customary during my two week stay along the River. Claudine had fair skin, light hair and luscious blue eyes that looked familiar. She said her maiden name. I know it started with ‘Mc…’, but she whispered it amidst the bingo room murmur and I don’t know how I’d spell it anyway.
“You don’t get any more Irish than that,” she followed up, seeing the blank look in my eye. I said nothing. I felt disabled, but not alone at all. Claudine looked intently into my eyes and watched my features.
As the initial pre-break games got underway, Liz who sat in a corner opposite the caller, won the first game. A member to my far right won another, and I, sitting to the immediate left of Judy, an assistant director at the Center, won the fourth game.
Judy, who had her purse between us on a chair, opined, “Seems like everyone’s winning around us but a dead zone right here.”
Having been told by my neighbor the day before, ‘They shouldn’t let you go there [to the Senior Center]’, I smirked a chagrinish smile back at Judy.
Back to the break: after giving me some of her coffee, we hurriedly sat down. Liz noticed the shiny penny on the floor below me. It had the new reverse, a shield and e pluribus unum.
Lucky penny…lucky Irish…what is this? George the caller last Saturday didn’t believe winning was luck. Did he think winners were positive thinkers, alert or random drawing odds? He was mum when I asked, as if to say, “Play and see.” The casinos depend on 21 players making mistakes, induced or self-inflicted.
Liz passed behind behind me a second time and I noticed she noticed the ‘lucky’ penny was still on the floor. I asked her, “Do you want it?” and picked it up to show her.
“Was it heads?” she asked.
“What? Was the penny heads up?” I inquired.
“Yes,” she responded.
“No, it was tails.”
Just then Claudine sitting opposite me showed interest in the lucky penny. Claudine said she had never seen such a penny.
“It’s a new one,” I said. “You haven’t seen it yet?”
“No,” she said curiously.
“They have a shield now. Do you want it?” I asked, making sure she would appreciate it.
She nodded assent and said “Yes, I’ll take that, I’ve never seen it”, and I handed the penny to her.
After the intermission, we played “Double Action” bingo where the player has to keep track of a JUMBO card and two numbers in each square on the “double action” card. It was a long game. When Claudine finally yelled “Bingo!” and went up to get her winnings, I looked up at the electronic bingo board without the benefit of contacts or glasses and squinted. #46 was lit but not marked on one of my cards. I then realized I had bingo some time ago. How did that happen? 46 years old? Where was I? What year was that? 2008–a year to remember in Bullhead City. A number called in the double action square gives the player the square even if it’s only one of the two numbers. I had bingo before Claudine, but it was too late to claim the pot. Under the rules, once another Bingo number is called, one’s valid Bingo expires. One must “Bingo” on the last number officially called by the caller.
About Double-Action Bingo: A number called in the double action square gives the player the square even if it’s only one of the two numbers. The kitty for winning cards is also the big pot AND then there’s the JUMBO card[s] played during the same game, but we won’t get into that here. I had bingo before Claudine, but it was too late to claim the pot. Under the rules, once another Bingo number is called, one’s valid Bingo expires. One must “Bingo” on the last number officially called by the caller.
So I had “bingo” before Claudine, but it was too late to claim the pot. Under the rules, once another Bingo number is called, one’s valid Bingo expires. One must “Bingo” on the last number officially called by the caller.
Claudine came back smiling. “A hundred and twenty one dollars.”
“Look!” I showed her my double action card. “I had Bingo too, just like you did last time, but didn’t call it.”
Her smile turned to business. “You want to split it?”
“No,” I said knowing the five people that split her pot on the previous Saturday did not share their pot with her. We sat opposite each other on that day too, as was customary, only she was watching out for me more back then.
Claudine reminded me of my Irish grandmother Frances. When we sat opposite each other I was able to admire her blue Irish eyes and painted eyebrows that reminded me of our “Grandma Tici”, as we used to call her. We distinguished my maternal grandmother by her daughter and my aunt Patrice”Tici” and my paternal grandparents by their dog, “Bowsie”, or “Grandma and Grandpa Bowsie”.
“How much did you say the pot was?” I asked meekly.
“A hundred and twenty one dollars!” she responded clearly and with gusto.
As we played the next couple of small pot games, she saw I was determined and businesslike. “Watch and pray,” I had read that very morning from the gospel of Mark. I didn’t watch the bingo balls and calls closely enough. Every Bingo caller is different and Irma proceeded quickly with the games, not as slow as George but slower than the Riverside Casino across the Colorado River in Laughlin Nevada.
“Maybe you’ll win again!” Claudine said, just as Grandma Tici would. “Hit a home run for Grandma” Grandma Tici repeated from the grandstand. “Hit a home run for Grandma!” and to my amazement, I hit one over the centerfielder’s head with men on base. Concentrate on the distraction… . Grandma’s intervention, come from behind home run. I suppose listening to God is like that sometimes.
Claudine, still lit from her winnings, showed me the $121.00 confidential smile, not wanting to bring out the envy of other members who wanted to win. Some gal called me the “Big Winner” in the lobby after the Bingo games ended and I was getting ready to leave. I had won an $18.00 “bow-tie” Bingo game after raising my arms in a triumphant gesture to Claudine saying “Bow-tie tuxedo!” Claudine interrupted the word “tuxedo” after I took too long to retrieve it from memory. I don’t know what she said while I blurted “tuxedo”. I was too exhausted to care–and I napped much of the day to prepare for the arduous flights of the bingo balls landing.
“’Big Winner’? I had the double action but didn’t call it. Then you’d really hate me” I responded to her privately and left the Senior Center–a member, a winner and more of a benefactor than if I had “won”.
“You’ll win again!”
To Liz, Claudine, Char, Judy, the Reader’s Digest on “Moth” storytelling, the U.S. Mint, and Jesus Christ.
“You’ll win again!” Claudine said. “You’ll win again!”
Bible reference to the gospel of Mark, chapter 13, verses 33 et seq.
copyright August 6, 2017