Some flash fiction for the May Bank Holiday! I remember feeling so sore when my little brother, then aged about 6, won £50 (a huge sum to an 8 year-old!) at a drive-in bingo in Meath. In this piece of flash fiction I wanted to explore that sense of begrudgery!
They generally got a good day for the drive-in bingo. Hatchbacks and jeeps, convertibles and vans all bounced up the thick grass verge to an allocation in the makeshift car park. Windows and sunroofs rolled down, red-armed men nodded a two finger salute to the young lads directing traffic in high visibility jackets.
As soon as Betty’s son parked up, they agreed to stretch their legs, with over an hour before the main show kicked off.
‘That candy floss is desperate bad for your teeth, Mam,’ he warned.
‘Good thing they’re fake son,’ she happily watched the cars filling up the field as the sweating confectioner in a Nirvana t-shirt spun a white paper cone around in the cerise sugar.
‘Suit yourself,’ her son said absently, his attention captured by a display of bright green tractors.
‘Well Betty, you’re indulging today?’ said Pamela Barclay, now queuing for the saccharine treat. Although she was only a few years younger than Betty she had always looked very glamorous. Today she had on a waterfall cardigan and a thick gold knotted necklace.
‘Well Pamela, sure I’ll be dead long enough, might as well enjoy meself,’ she said, taking a bite of thin air, the granules of sugar dissolving thickly on her tongue. She didn’t think Pamela would need to come to the bingo. But she supposed even millionaires liked the sport of it.
Ah Betty didn’t mind too much, Pamela was a serious player. She had sat beside her in community halls, church fetes, casinos, anywhere bingo was played locally, for the past twenty years. Pamela usually played three books, with red, green and blue markers.
She’d probably stretch to marking five or six books, now she could afford it. Although Betty didn’t begrudge her the fun of it, it was sort of unfair that she was taking chances of winning from those that could do with a few bob. Betty had been dreaming about a conservatory since before the Good Friday agreement.
‘Right enough Betty, who’s calling today do you know?’
‘Marcie Donnelly said it’s the African priest, Father Peter,’
‘God help us and save us we’ll have our work cut out understanding his accent,’ said Pamela, pushing a lock of blow-dried hair behind her ear, a charm bracelet clattered heavily against a gold watch. It couldn’t be a Rolex, could it?
‘Aye I don’t find it any problem Pamela, you have to tune the ear, that other yon bucko from Kerry was twice as bad,’ said Betty, the sugary syrup gathering granularily on her bleached and powdered moustache.
‘Stop, that accent is woeful! I was down in Killarney at the weekend, and sure I could barely order a bowl of soup. I don’t know how the Yanks manage,’ said Pamela.
Kerry in peak-season, Pamela wasn’t afraid to splash the cash, thought Betty. ‘Oh, what had you down there?’
‘Just a bit of a mini-break, you know, one of those Tesco hotel deals.’
Tesco deal my hoof, thought Betty, who did she think she was kidding, playing the poor mouth.
‘They’re great aren’t they,’ Betty lied.
‘Are you off anywhere yourself?’
‘Aye just to see Triona and her little one Polly,’ her daughter had bought her the ticket for Christmas, but she was only a glorified childminder over there.
‘Oh aren’t you lucky, I’d love to visit the Napa Valley,’ said Pamela.
And well you could afford it Madame, thought Betty.
‘Oh it’s a busman’s holiday, I’ll be minding the baby when she goes back to work. They don’t get long in America,’ said Betty. She noticed Pamela’s jeans were very white. Suspiciously white. Another addition to the wardrobe. When you were a millionaire you could forget about washing white and just get them new from the Partol boutique.
‘Ah well,’ said Pamela, as the grungey sugarspinner handed her the cone. ‘Enjoy it all the same. Best of luck today Betty, hopefully you’ll get a few lines.’
‘You too, see you now Pam,’ said Betty. A few lines! The cheek of her. Of course she would probably get nothing. That priest better have all the lingo; ‘leg’s eleven’, ‘knock at the door’, otherwise it wouldn’t be worth playing.
As Betty made for the car, she cursed the young lads organising the field. She plodded the whole sole of her thick gold sandal into a fresh and oozing cow poo. Typical, thought Betty. Pamela had walked straight past it.
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