Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Should have brought the troll

Another RemembRED memoir post this week! 
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I weaved my way through the crowd, arms full of cards and ink blotters, and proudly took my place in a beat-up beige metal folding chair.

I glanced over at the experts sitting among us and spread my bingo cards just like they did. My great aunt helped to unscrew an especially tight lid on my pink ink blotter then patted my hand.

“Maybe you’ll win something tonight,” she whispered with an animated grin. She knew how much this meant to me. My sister and I had been playing with her bingo ink blotters for years, and I could barely contain my excitement to finally be invited to the big event.

I evaluated my competition. They were bingo regulars, mostly gray-haired and plump, with various good luck charms strategically placed on the table. To be honest, I thought most of it looked like junk. But as the men and women eyed their charms or gently stroked their brightly colored rabbit’s feet, I wanted to kick myself for leaving my troll doll at the house. That crazy-haired ugly creature would have made the perfect bingo good luck charm. I had no knick-knacks; how was I going to win anything?

The murmur of the crowd settled as the bingo caller approached her table and began spinning the yellow sphere full of lettered and numbered balls. The lady adjacent to us fumbled to light a cigarette. The big guy in overalls swiftly lit his cigarette. I wrinkled up my nose at Aunt Dell and she made a funny face to make me laugh. Smoking was stinky and gross.

It was time to play – I grasped my ink blotter tightly as the caller began. This was it.

“B-6”… nothing for me.

“G-51”… Yes! Splat, went my ink blotter.

I wanted to win so badly. I danced in my seat when I covered a space. I pouted when I couldn’t match a space on my board to the caller’s yell. When I got a few spaces marked in a row, I began to fantasize the big moment – how I would yell “Bingo!” to the elderly crowd and confidently prance up front to have my board checked.

But I couldn’t quite get that last number to clinch the win. I waited as the caller announced “I-25”, “O-63”…. nothing. I pulled my focus from my bingo board and surveyed the room again. Players were hunkered down, studying their boards. Many others were leaned back comfortably, snuffing out smoked cigarettes in quickly-filling ashtrays. The air in the room was stale and hazy.

My head began to hurt. I knew enough to fear my own childhood migraines, so I quickly begged my great aunt for some Tylenol which she dug out of her purse along with single tissues, old cough drops, and who knows what else. I instructed her to watch my card as the game continued, and I sprinted out to the hallway water fountain. I sloshed down my Tylenol. My head was pounding. I began to feel dizzy. I sat on the stairs and pressed my hands on the sides of my head, choking back a sob. I so desperately wanted to get back to the game. My “bingo!” moment was approaching. But the smoke was overpowering my 8-year-old lungs.

I bravely held my breath and bolted back through the hall to my seat.

“Aunt Dell,” I urged, “I feel sick!”

Despite not having any children of her own, my great aunt snapped into Mommy mode. She felt my head. She looked at my sickly green face and announced, “We’ve got to go.”

Tears rolled down my face as she passed our already-paid-for bingo cards to the people sitting around us. She hugged me tight and led me to the door, my sister following reluctantly.

Before I even got one breath of the fresh night air, I heard a voice inside exclaim.

I barely made it inside the single bathroom in my aunt’s home before the vomit came.

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This post was once again inspired by a prompt from The Red Dress Club:

This post has been lovelinked at lovelinks #7
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