Looking at his reflection in his mother’s metal thermos, Timmy saw wide eyes, a dimpled chin, and a nose so flat it almost touched both of his ears. He tried to wiggle his ears and couldn’t, so he made do with scrunching his nose. Timmy’s mother grabbed the thermos, breaking the boy out of his reverie, and swallowed a long sip. Watching her drink made Timmy thirsty.
“Shut up, Timmy.”
The boy sat back in his chair, kicking both legs under and out like he was trying to go higher on a park swing. Timmy’s mother dropped the thermos and scanned her bingo cards. The cards were the special paper kind that cost extra. She had a lot of them, but she was fast. Fastest bingo marker in the west, Timmy thought. Up and down, up and down, the marker went. It made him dizzy to watch. A little sick, too.
They were in Saint Andrew’s on a Tuesday evening, like every Tuesday. The man on stage announcing the numbers was Father Mark, who in the daytime was also the principal of Timmy’s elementary school. He was obese and smelled of whiskey and told every kid he ever met not to bet on the horses when he grew up—because betting on horses was an affront to Jesus.
“Mom, does God like Bingo?”
“God doesn’t give a shit,” she said.
“Maybe he does.”
“He doesn’t.” Her hands kept moving. She didn’t turn, just babbled into the air, as if talking to a voice inside her head.
“What does God give a shit about? Horses?”
“Don’t say ‘shit.’”
“Why?” Timmy said. “God doesn’t give a shit.”
She looked at him, a sideways glare, then retreated to her cards.
“Don’t be a sore loser,” Timmy said.
“Shut up, Timmy,” she said. “Will you, please?”
He looked at the thermos again and stuck out his tongue. The tongue that reflected back was thick and round. Timmy was bored with making faces at the thermos. “What do you need?”
She went through her cards and pointed them out with her marker. “I 19, 0 69, N 31, just about everything. I’m not even close.”
“You’ve been close all night.”
“Close doesn’t count for tit.”
“Yeah,” he said. “Close doesn’t count for tit.”
“Don’t say ‘tit.’”
“Can I have money for a soda?”
“For the last time, Timothy,” she said. “No.”
Timmy sat sulking a long time. He looked at the refreshment stand Sister Anne Teresa was manning. Sister Anne was a crabby old nun who taught fifth grade math. Some of the kids called her Sister Fat Ass. Timmy had made the name up and was proud he had. He sighed now and started kicking his feet again. If he had fifty cents, he would get a Coke or a Sprite. He could decide.
“I’m bored,” Timmy said.
Father Mark called a new number and his mother’s arm started waving through the cards like a wiry pink eel. Timmy glanced at the bingo screen. The numbers that had been called were lit and the ones that hadn’t been weren’t. Many of the numbers were already lit. Next to Father Mark was a small clear case where white balls bounced like corn in a popper. Timmy tried to will which ball would be next. “I 25,” he told the balls and concentrated hard. The next ball was I 25. He was fifteen for fifteen.
“Bingo!” someone shouted. Timmy’s mother moaned and looked to see who won. It was a lady two tables down who was nine thousand years old and had already won twice. The old lady smiled a yellow smile Timmy liked.
“There was a dog who had a bone,” Timmy sang. “And Bingo was his name, oh.”
“Lucky bitch,” Tommy’s mother muttered.
“Yeah, lucky bitch.”
She looked around to see if anyone had heard. No one had.
Timmy raised both hands into the air, stretched, and yawned loudly. “I’m bored,” he said.
“Then go find something to do.”
“Then just sit there.”
A new game started. It was the last game of the night, the Jackpot. Father Mark called the first number. Timmy’s mother had her regular cards spread out before her and she started using the plastic chips she kept in a used Cool Whip container. She let a cigarette, too, but it didn’t slow her hands. While Timmy watched, she laid down one red chip after another, thumbing them like tiddlywinks.
“Can I have money for a soda?”
“May I have money for a soda.”
“Well, can I?”
Timmy looked at his mother, stuck out his tongue, and began to sing. First he sang Itsy Bitsy Spider and next he sang the theme to the Brady Bunch. Then he repeated the Brady Bunch song. After that, he was bored again. He glanced at the soda stand and turned to his mother. The cigarette in her mouth had burned out.
“Shut up, Timmy,” she said. “I’m waiting.”
“What do you need?”
She threw her dead cigarette into the ashtray. “N 35.”
“Sister Fat Ass is closing the soda stand.”
“Don’t say ‘fat ass.’”
“Fat ass, fat ass, fat ass.”
Timmy waited for her to say something else, but she didn’t. She was too busy covering numbers, too busy lighting another cigarette, too busy with everything. While Timmy kicked his legs, Sister Fat Ass closed the refreshment stand.
Timmy stopped kicking and stared at the balls. He concentrated. It wasn’t hard once you got the hang of it, he thought. Anybody could do it. All you had to do was say the number to yourself and stare. Father Mark called out B 7 and someone called Bingo.
Timmy’s mother moaned and craned her neck to see the man who won. “Shit,” she said. “Lucky dog.”
“There was a dog who had a bone,” Timmy sang.