Why Walter Adams Cheated at Bingo
"Why am I here Nani?" I asked my great-grandma. I was standing in the miniature doorframe of her bedroom in her nursing home, Happy Homes, at two a.m. on a Saturday morning, and I wanted to know why. I wasn't mad, just curious.
Happy Homes was a simple kind of nursing home. On the outside it resembled a hospital, a multiple story building with a white exterior and plenty of windows, and it carried that appearance inside. The front doors led you straight into the grand room, the Happy Homes employees' fancy term for the mess hall. The grand room was the space where the old folks watched television, talked, played checkers and chess, and did all of the other activities that Happy Homes offered. The residents' rooms made a U shape around the grand room, and another U of rooms was stacked above it. Nani had better knees than most of the patients there, so she had a room on the top floor. The entire place smelled sterile and my nose always curled at the odor, and the entire place was eerily quiet except for the daytime soap operas that ran on the T.V. Nani claimed that she liked it though, so she stayed put.
Nani cackled. She was ninety eight years old and going strong. She had worked on a farm until she was eighteen years old, when she married my great-grandpa, so she was full of muscle. That is, until old age started to hit her. As soon as her health started to decline, Nani told my grandma to put her in a home, and she's been there ever since. I liked to visit her because it wasn't often that she got company, and it always seemed to brighten her day. The old woman had a quick wit and a cunning mind, and was the luckiest lady I knew. Whenever I saw her she'd tell me about the crossword she accomplished or the sudoku puzzle she'd finished, and when I'd leave she'd still have a smile on her face. I loved the way she could still get a kick out of life, and would do anything for her...which is exactly what she wanted me to do that day.
"I need you for something," Nani exclaimed cautiously to me, scanning the hallway for any eavesdroppers. The only person still up was a nurse examining health records silently. "Walter Adams is cheating at bingo, I'm sure of it! I would try to catch him in the act myself, but the arthritis in my hands has flared and I'm going to have to skip the Monday night bingo. If it's not too much trouble, I need you to be there and expose the trickster once and for all!"
I resisted the urge to giggle. It was a trifling thing to be caught up in, an old man cheating in bingo, and an even more trifling thing to be caught cheating in, but my great-grandma had her mind set on catching him. Once she put her mind to something, there was no going back. "Sure Nani," I responded. "I'll help you catch him."
"It's nothing to laugh about," she cautioned me sternly. "If he's cheating in bingo, who knows what other fraudulent crimes he's committing? Be careful!" I promised that I would, and she handed me a small envelope.
"This is everything you need to know about Walter Adams for Monday night." Nani told me. "Just read this, look at the pictures, and you'll be all set. Let's get him!" I grinned at her, kissed her wrinkled cheek, and went home for the night.
The next morning, I studied the envelope. Inside was a small description of Walter Adams on bingo night. It read in my great-grandmother's loopy cursive,
"On Mondays, Walter always wins. The retirement staff doesn't bother to check whether they actually drew the cards that Walter claims he has, so it's easy for him to cheat. He always waits until the seventh round to call out bingo, and always sits in the middle row in the leftmost chair."
The fact that Walter cheated so often for my great-grandmother to take detailed notes on it astounded me. Why did someone need to cheat at a silly game like bingo? What was the point?
There was also a few pictures. It showed Walter as an old man, approximately in his mid seventies, who had a large, zucchini shaped nose, a white, whiskery face, and a green tweed jacket. In every picture, he was looking at something in the far left corner of the room, something not in the picture, and never looking at the bingo board. That struck me as odd. If he wasn't looking at the board, how was he putting bingo chips in the right places? Even more interesting, what was he staring so intently at?
I also made a call to Happy Homes and asked if I could volunteer to help out on Monday night working bingo. They gladly accepted the offer, and the lady on the line was so grateful and pleased that someone finally wanted to help the older generation. All was set for the Monday night stakeout. Nani could catch the cheating old man, and I could get my answers.
When I walked into Happy Homes on Monday, the mess hall was ready for bingo. The room held several large tables, with fold-up chairs dotted around them. The center table had the bingo cage, bingo cards, and a prize box filled with goodies for the winner. There were tops, stickers, Groucho glasses, chattering teeth, and other silly prizes for the winner. Many elderly people were already there, picking out their bingo cards and choosing their seats. I walked to the nearest nurse and asked if there was anything I could do to help, but she said that all was fine and that I could go ahead and play with the old folks. I quickly chose my bingo card and sat down right next to the chair that I knew Walter Adams would be.
Well, just as I expected, Walter hobbled over to the chair next to me, and began to eye me curiously. I'm not normally a self conscience person, but he was staring at me rather intently. I decided that speaking would be my best route.
"Hi!" I said with a cheery tone that I usually didn't use with strangers. "I'm Jessica Reyes. I'm Natalia Dage's great-granddaughter." He gave a huff that suggested approval, and I asked,
"Do you know her?" He gave another puff of air and I took it as a yes. He then turned his eyes off of me and to the left corner of the room, like he did in the pictures. When I took eyes off of Walter and to the corner, I saw that there was a small room there.
Is it his room? Does he think that someone will steal something from there? Does this have anything to do with his cheating in bingo? These were some of the thoughts that rushed into my head when I saw what he was looking at. It's none of your business what the old man stares at, my brain reprimanded me after a few seconds. You just want to see if he cheats or not. The game soon started and I focused on it and on Walter.
"B4," the caller voiced blandly, checking his watch for the fourth time since that start of the game. I snuck a peek at Walter. He had a bingo, B4 through O4. I'd seen him cheat twice, once when they called G2 and again when they called N1. Still, I was hesitant to rat him out and decided to tell Nani first. If she wanted me to tell on him afterwords, then I would.
"Bingo," Walter called out next to me, and I wondered why it was so important for him to cheat. It was just a bingo game, after all. He limped up to the prize table and looked carefully at the prizes. His hand reached for the chattering teeth, but after a moment of indecision, chose the simple yet silly Groucho glasses instead. He promptly squeezed them on over his gargantuan squash of a nose and shuffled to the small room in the left corner of the mess hall. After peeking over my shoulder to see if anyone was watching, I followed him.
"I won bingo for you," Walters announced softly, entering the white room and sitting on the twin bed. The space was small, with eggshell colored walls and a small window with closed curtains. It was dark there and smelled like disinfectant. There was an old woman in the little bed with tubes stuck in her arms. A beeping machine was hooked up to her small frame, and she sighed deeply. Her white hair littered her pillow. Her old silver eyes opened sluggishly and rested on Walter. She was clearly ill, but Walter pretended not to notice. He grinned her like she was the most angelic woman on earth, and the lady looked at him and smiled right back.
"Oh Walter, that's wonderful!" she exclaimed in a warm voice, laughing at the silly glasses that were squeezed onto his enormous face. He laughed with her, and my heart contracted. Walter picked up her bony hand gently, and they continued talking merrily as I slowly backed away from the door. They seemed so happy to be with each other, so complete. They didn't mind the fact that they didn't have much time left with each other, they just seemed to enjoy the fact that they were together. It was obvious by the way Walter looked at her that he loved the woman very much, and I finally realized why Walter Adams cheated at bingo.