The weekly game at the Fair Oaks Elderly Living Facility had, unfortunately, begun. The agent on stage spun the plastic globe containing the numbered balls around several times and removed the one that dropped into the cradle. “B-6!” he announced into a squealy microphone.
Herman looked at the well-worn bingo card the government had issued to him on his 65th birthday. He had that number, but he didn’t want to mark it. “Mr. Pruitt,” the muscle-bound man seated to his right warned him. Afraid, Herman placed a chip on B-6.
“O-70!” came the call from the stage. Herman had that one too. He marked it before his observer could say anything. He was one of the few residents who had been given a “friend” to play with because he was one of the few who didn’t want to play. There were three or four other seniors with observers – including the lovely widow, Mrs. Hall – but the two dozen or so remaining were happy to join in. Some were even eager.
That was it. Herman had a diagonal bingo. He kept his lips sealed until the observer noticed his charge’s good luck and nudged him. “Bingo,” Herman called out in what, for his weak voice, was a yell.
The agent came down from the stage and verified the win. “Congratulations!” he said, smiling and gesturing at the other players.
Herman looked at some of his friends: Mrs. Hall, who was wearing her favorite dress that she always saved for these Wednesdays; Mr. Collins, who was starting to doze off, his head bobbing; Mrs. Baker, who was visited just the other day by her teenage grandson who reminded Herman of himself oh so long ago. His attendance tonight was mandatory, but he never thought he’d win. “Well?” the caller prompted him.
Herman felt his tired old heart skip a beat, winced a little as the near-constant arthritis pain slowly traveled up his back, and touched his liver-spotted right hand’s paper-thin skin with a couple of stiff fingers.
“Me,” Herman finally decided, a lump coming to his throat. “I choose me.”
Several residents moaned in disappointment. The biggest and strongest observer approached Herman and wheeled him out of the common room to a smattering of applause. Herman offered no resistance. He would never be seen again.
“The lucky devil,” Mrs. Hall told her “friend.” “I was hoping he’d pick me.” She sighed, stood uneasily on her cane, and said, “Well, there’s always next week.”
For several years, Mike Murphy has been primarily an author of audio plays. He’s had over 150 of them produced in the U.S. and overseas, many for Audible. In 2016, he won a Moondance International Film Festival award for his TV pilot script “The Bullying Squad” and a finalist award for his audio play “The Forever Pill.”
Mike’s prose work has appeared in DIME SHOW REVIEW (including in their second “best of” anthology), GATHERING STORM MAGAZINE, ZEROFLASH, INWOOD INDIANA PRESS/PROLIFIC PRESS (also in their anthology THE POP MACHINE), ZETETIC: A RECORD OF UNUSUAL INQUIRY, and THE FLASH FICTION PRESS.
In 2015, his script “The Candy Man” was produced as a short film under the title DARK CHOCOLATE. In 2013, he won the Marion Thauer Brown Audio Drama Scriptwriting Competition.
More of his stories will be published shortly in THE FIFTH DI…, ASYMMETRY FICTION, and FABULA ARGENTEA.
He keeps a blog at audioauthor.blogspot.com