About two or three years ago, the voices in my head started talking to me again, and I formed in my vivd mind a character so stereotypical, so slanderous and offensive that I had to share her with the world. Her name is Estelle Ferguson. She is seventy-four years old (born on July 2, for those of you who would like to get her something nice).
The widow of her late beloved husband, Hubert, she spends her time knitting sweaters for her kitties, baking delicious ginger snaps, and recharging her hover round battery to scoot down to the liquor store for a bottle of Jack.
She is the craziest product that my imagination has ever conjured up, so much so that she is practically her own entity. Recently, I decided to chronicle her adventures, and submit them to a website designed for short stories. Sadly, the editors found it too offensive to publish without massive rewrites, and, frankly, I like it the way it is. So, here you have it, the first volume in what I hope becomes a long series of short stories about the curious events in the life of one Estelle Ferguson.
Bingo Night at the K of C
I don’t know what it is about them but some men really know how to treat a woman. They know exactly what to do, and precisely when to do it. Some guys you don’t even have to talk to, you just know that they are there for you.
My affair with Jack Daniels began long before Hubert passed, and has only grown more passionate. Every Sunday, after I had put the kitties to bed, I settled in with Jack for a pleasant evening of unwinding. The stresses of the week, the medications, the coupon clipping, and the perpetual knitting of sweaters, seem to melt away when I’m with him.
Tonight was no different. Sherri, Ronnie, Rosie, Andy, and Biff had all had their fancy feast, and had drifted away into deep catnap sleeps. It was Cary Grant day on Turner Classic, I had just started to crochet a new set of doilies, and I had the house to myself. There was only one thing to do.
I walked up to the liquor cabinet, and like I had done many times before, jerked Mr. Daniels out by the scruff of the neck, “Come on you,” I said, “We’ve got some catching up to do.”
I settled into my overstuffed armchair (it smelled vaguely of cat, but you get used to it), pulled the lid off of the bottle and waited to feel the sweet nectar rush into my mouth.
But, hang on. There was no rush of sweet nectar. I pulled the bottle away from my lips, and gasped. Even my old eyes could see that Jack was gone.
No matter. I just grabbed the wrong bottle. So back to the liquor cabinet I went. There were dozens of bottles, all of them Jack Daniels. This was normal, but what was appalling was that they were all empty. It was like a nightmare. All of those bottles, yet not one had a single drop in it. How could that be? I had been so careful to keep him here, I had tried so hard to have him, and he was gone.
But hope was not lost, yet. I lunged for the telephone, and rang up my sister.
“Josephine, it’s Estelle Ferguson.”
“I know your last name, sissy. What do you want? Stan and I are just about to drive up to the Knights of Columbus for bingo.”
“I need you to do me a favor.”
“Estelle, have you been drinking again?”
“Again?” I repeated, “When did I stop? You know that I never stop drinking, if I can help it. The problem is that I can’t help it now, because my beloved Jack is gone!”
“What the heck do you want me to do about it?”
“I need you to run down to Henry’s and pick some up for me.”
“It’s Sunday, the liquor stores aren’t open, Estelle. You’re gonna have to wait ‘til tomorrow.”
“Shoot! Well, haven’t you got any I could borrow?”
“No, Stan doesn’t keep liquor in the house.”
“That’s why I don’t like him.”
“Look, I’m sorry I can’t help you out. Why don’t you walk over here and ride to bingo with us? The winner of tonight gets a free case of Ensure, and I think I heard something about that new orthopedic back pillow, the Slum-bar 300.”
I sighed. I hated bingo, I hated Stan, and I hated being out of Jack Daniels. But I hated having nothing to do even more.
“Oh, alright. I’ll be over there in a minute, I have to put my nice nightgown on.”
Resigned to the dull events before me, I pulled my lilac sear-sucker muumuu over my head, and grabbed my sun bonnet- the nice new one I bought last week with a plastic daisy on it. I had left it on my dresser, and one of the kitties planted a hairball right on the crown. I’ll bet it was Biff. He is just so cute, how could you not love him?
The walk over to Josephine’s was short, considering she lived in the travel trailer behind my house. There was no indoor plumbing, but it was nice enough, and really, it all winds up outside anyway.
She and her imbecilic husband were sitting in their station wagon, trying to start the thing. I climbed into the back seat.
“When did you buy this piece of junk?” I asked.
“Back in ’87,” Stan answered.
“Are you kidding me? It’s practically brand new, how come it won’t start?” I asked.
“It will, just hang on. Don’t get your depends in a knot,” Josephine snapped.
Suddenly, the car started, and even though it sounded like it would die any minute, we made it to the bingo.
This all happened a couple years back, so I must have been about 72 at the time. There was this geezer named Benny and he had a crush on me. He was hot stuff, don’t get me wrong, but he had a couple of kids, and I really didn’t know if I was willing to settle for that.
As I got out of the car, he spotted me. Waving, he scooted his hover round over to us just as fast as that rechargeable battery would carry him.
“Estelle, is that you?” he took his gigantic glasses off.
“Who else do you know that’s this beautiful?” I asked.
He must have thought I was kidding because he almost fell out of his scooter, laughing.
“You are such a caution, Miss Ferguson,” wiping a tear from his eye “It’s been so long since you came to bingo night. What made you change your mind?”
“I ran out of Jack Daniels.”
“Oh, Estelle!” he cackled, “You really are a cut up! Come on, I’ll find you a seat!”
He grabbed my hand and pulled me along as he headed for the door to the bingo hall.
While Stan helped Benny get his hover round over the bump and up onto the ramp, Josephine pulled me aside.
“Look who’s here,” she said pointing.
There she was, Winifred Jenkins, standing by the gold Mercury Marquis her kids bought for her a few mother’s days back. Today, she was sporting a typical floral print blouse and tan khakis, the kind that fit so the adult diapers don’t show. A flock of chattering old maids stood around her. We could hear them, “ooh-ing” and “ahh-ing”.
“Linda told me that Winifred’s son- you know, that one that manages down at the Walgreen’s? Anyway, Linda said that he bought Winfred a jitterbug!”
“Oh yeah?” I scoffed, “Well, I guess if my son had some crap job, he could afford to buy me a crap present, too. Thankfully, God blessed me with infertility. Look at her over there. Who is she kidding? She doesn’t need that cane, I don’t care how expensive her hip replacement was.”
“Sissy, hush, she’s coming over,”
“Estelle, is that you?” Winifred exclaimed as she dragged her baggy self over to us.
How many times was I going to have to answer that question tonight?
“Winifred Jenkins,” I said with contempt, “Yeah, it’s me. What? Do I look different?”
“No, not at all. You’re just as beautiful as always.”
I narrowed my eyes. I wasn’t about to fall for her niceties.
“I’m glad you came, dear. We’re going to have such a wonderful time! You heard about the prizes, of course. The Slum-bar 300! Isn’t it exciting?” she shrieked in her
glass shattering voice.
“We can hardly wait to get started,” Josephine told her good-naturedly.
“I’ll see you two inside,” and with that, she teetered into the bingo hall.
“I’m surprised that shriveled old bat has the nerve to come up and talk to me, after what she did.” I folded my arms, and glared after her.
“Estelle, she thought you had a problem. She never meant to offend you by signing you up for AA,” Josephine patted my back and together we took our seats in the hall.
“You know, Miss Ferguson,” Benny began as I took a seat next to him, “One of the greatest things about a hover round is that you never have to worry about finding a chair. By the way,” he leaned in, “did I tell you that I got this at little or no cost to me?”
“Only about a hundred times, you old coot.”
“Oh, Estelle!” he giggled like a schoolgirl, before entering a disgusting and particularly moist fit of coughs.
As the cards were passed out, I spotted Winifred a few tables up from ours, showing off her stupid “cell phone”.
“Does everyone have a card? Good, let’s get this crazy thing started,” said the caller-some punk with spiked hair. He rolled the barrel and pulled out a ball.
“B4” he said
“What?” a few people asked as they adjusted their hearing aid.
Benny started laughing again “B4. Pretty funny, huh Estelle?”
I sighed. Why hadn’t I gotten extra when I went to the liquor store yesterday?
As the caller read number after number, I examined the prizes sitting at the head of the room. The pillow looked comfortable enough. But the ensure was strawberry flavored, and nobody likes that.
Suddenly, Benny gasped, “Great Scott, I’ve got bingo.”
He raised his hand, and I heard every joint in his body pop as he tried to get up.
“BINGO!” he yelled, “BING-O,” he choked, as he was overcome with another fit of coughing. He heaved, and shook so violently that his dentures fell out onto the table.
The caller approved his card, and presented Benny with the Ensure.
“For you, my sweet Miss Ferguson,” Benny offered me his winnings.
As another game started, I gazed about the room, wondering what spiked strawberry Ensure tasted like. Then my eyes fell upon Winifred Jenkins. She was smiling, and pointing to her card. All she needed was N32, and she had bingo.
I saw her point to the Slum-bar 300, and whisper something to the handsome new widower that moved into Mrs. Larson’s house after she died.
“G48,” the caller announced.
I searched my card, and began filling it in. I was not about to let that stuck up old prune win.
I filled in the “B”, the “I”, and the “N”, I just needed “O73”, and I would have it!
“N43,” said the caller.
No, you little twerp, “O73”! Come on! Say “O73”!
The balls in the barrel rattled as the caller turned the crank. They pittered and pattered to a stop. He reached in and pulled one out.
“O73,” he called.
“HAH!” I slammed the marker over the number, “Bingo.”
I stood to claim my prize. Upon approving my card, the caller handed me the Slum-bar 300, and a bonus coupon for a free flu shot.
“Oh, congratulations Estelle!” Benny cried, “If anyone deserved to win, it’s you.”
“Yes, I know,” I sneered. We turned to leave, when Winifred caught my eye.
“Wow, congrats Estelle,” she smiled, “You are just going to love that pillow! You know, my son bought me that same one. It is just marvelous. You’ll be buying more, and you know what? My son can get you a discount!”
“Wait,” I shook my head “You already have this pillow?” I asked disbelievingly.
“Oh, of course! That’s why I didn’t raise my hand when I got bingo. I wanted somebody else to win, and I’m so glad you did!”
“Yeah,” I grunted. “Me too.”
“Well, see you around.”
“Is something the matter, Estelle?” Benny asked.
“No, Benny, nothing’s wrong. I guess I just had to learn the hard way never to cheat on Jack Daniels.” I tossed the orthopedic pillow into the manicured landscaping, and headed toward the car, where I slumped into the back seat.
“Estelle,” Stan turned from the driver’s seat to look at me, “What happened to the Slum-bar 300?”
“I chucked it.”
“What? Are you crazy? You won that!”
“I only won it because that Winifred Jenkins let me, and the only reason I wanted it in the first place was to keep her from having it!” I yelled. “But, it doesn’t matter anyway, because she already has one.”
“Her son?” Josephine asked.
“Yes, her son,” I answered, gritting my teeth. “I threw it in the hedges back there.”
Stan hopped out of the car and jogged over to search for the prize.
“Well, at least you got that coupon for a flu shot, that’s good.” Josephine offered.
I sighed, “It’s a sad day when a coupon for a shot is something you win.” I turned the coupon over, and it slipped between my fingers onto the floorboard.
“Well,” Stan opened the car door and slid in, “I got it, check this thing out!” he stuffed it behind his back, and leaned his delicate, feminine vertebrate against the breathable mesh fabric. “Ahhhhh, that’s it. Estelle, I can’t believe you didn’t want this. It’s fabulous!”
“Oh, brother,” I leaned down to pick up my coupon. Just when I thought I had it, my fingers felt something cold. “Don’t you guys ever clean out this car? What is this, anyway?” I pulled out the mystery object.
“Holy cow!” my heart leapt with joy as I beheld the marvelous sight. “A bottle of Jack Daniels! There must be about a quarter left!”
“Stan!” Josephine shrieked, “that isn’t mine, you told me you don’t like liquor in the house!”
“That’s right,” Stan reassured her, “I don’t like liquor in the house. I like it just fine in the car.”
“Stan, I’ll trade you that stupid pillow for the rest of this Jack,” I bargained.
“Boy, am I glad I came!” I exclaimed.
“If I hadn’t come, I never would have found you, Jack! I missed you so,” I glanced at my watch, “Oh, Jack, we should have time to catch the end of Father Goose!”
And if that stupid piece of crap station wagon hadn’t refused to start, we would have. But at least I found him again, the owner of my heart.