Xavier Roman Catholic Church was within walking distance from Hotel Julian. Hearing they hosted bingo every Monday night, I walked over to play a few cards. About 20 players sat at tables in the church hall, Father Juan calling the numbers from a podium on a stage. I bought half a dozen cards at 50 cents each at a table set up at the entrance, took a paper cup of coffee, and found a seat at a table where sat a couple of ancient nuns wearing simple blue scarves, rosary necklaces, short black smocks, and Jack Purcell canvas shoes, white with the navy blue stripe on the toes. The night was hot out but the hall was cooled by three electric fans dropping from the ceiling. At one table was a family of seven: father, mother, grandmother, and four children aged about 6 to 12, three girls and a boy. They were all attentively playing multiple cards but occasionally one of the kids pointed to another’s card where a call otherwise might have been missed. A new game began, and I paid attention to my own card, intending to play but one card per game, in no hurry. I would drop my winnings, if any, into the donation box on my way out. The room was quiet, Father Juan calling the numbers in a sonorous, serious voice. The night passed on peacefully. If one of the kids shouted Bingo! a polite applause ensued, and the nuns smiled their approval. I sipped my coffee, unused to late evening caffeine, and after a couple of cups began to feel more alert to the musty smell of the hall, the noises – shuffling of cards, shoes, chairs scraping as someone got up for a trip to the refreshment table or restroom – and in the quiet between calls I could hear the soft whir of the big fans slowly turning above.
“Bingo at Xavier” is episode 34 of Inventories
a Novel in Progress in Serial Format at The Coming of the Toads.
(Click link for continuous, one page view of all episodes.)
Note: With episode 30, the title of the novel was changed
from the original working title of “Ball Lightning” to Inventories.