BY DONAL MAHONEY
It was Ladies Night at the AMVETS Hall and most of the older ladies in town had come to try their luck at bingo. On Ladies Night there was no stench of cigars, pipes and cigarettes filling the air as it did on other nights when their husbands would be there playing poker, talking about the harvest or the planting season to come.
No cuss words, either, on Ladies Night, at least not many. One lady sometimes got carried away when she needed only one number to win and some other lady would shout out “Bingo!” Then you might hear a quick “Damn it!”
It was either play bingo or stay home and watch TV or maybe crochet. It was too early to put up the quilting frame. Right after Thanksgiving was the right time for that. Otherwise not much else to do on a Tuesday night in a small farm town on a fall night.
Irma and Hazel had been playing for an hour and neither had won anything. Irma was fed up so she decided to ask Hazel about something that had been bothering her. She couldn’t talk about it at home because her husband would go bonkers just thinking about the possibility.
“Hazel, I don’t care either way but what’s gonna happen if she’s elected president,” Irma said, taking a sip of her cocoa.
“What’s she going to do with him around the White House all day?
“Can’t chain him to the water cooler. I doubt they still have those. Maybe she could hire only male interns.”
Hazel wasn’t really interested in politics but she too had thought the idea of a woman president was intriguing. But she would wait until the election got closer to see who was running in both parties before she made her decision. She could vote either way and had done so in the past.
Usually, though, both women voted for the candidate they thought would do the least harm to farmers and that was often a tough call.
“Irma, my husband wouldn’t even think about voting for her,” Hazel said. “He might vote for a woman but not the wife of that fellow. It was tough around the house during those years when he’d come in from plowing and turn on the news.
“And like you say I don’t know if she’s elected what she would do with him around the White House all day.
“She’ll be very busy as president and I don’t think they have water coolers any more. But hiring male interns might be a good first step.”
Irma thought Hazel had a good perspective on the situation. But right now it looked like a good possibility the lady might be elected if the election were held today. So she reminded Hazel about Bozo, the fat Basset Hound she and her husband had on the farm a few years back. There was quite a commotion when Bozo started climbing over the fence and heading for the place across the road where the “fancy lady,” as she was known in town, lived. She wasn’t a farmer but she used the place to breed her dogs.
“You remember her, Hazel, the lady who bred toy poodles and won all kinds of prizes at dog shows. She sold their puppies to city folk who drove out to buy the pup they liked best. I think she got a lot of money for those little things. They were cute but not much use on a farm.
“Well, Hazel, you probably remember when one of her litters had pups that looked a lot like our Bozo. Two of them had the same black patch over one eye, and all hell broke loose. Then another litter came with three pups that looked like Bozo. And the fancy lady had a lawyer drive out from the city and threaten to sue us if we didn’t do something about Bozo.
“My husband didn’t like her any way but Bozo was nice to have around. That dog kept the rabbits to a minimum and that meant we got more vegetables out of our kitchen garden. Well, after listening to the lawyer, my husband finally gave in and had Bozo neutered. We had to pay her lawyer’s fee and quite a large sum for the puppies that looked like Bozo.
“Bozo was never the same, Hazel. He lived another couple of years and slept most of the time out by the barn. He never jumped over the fence again. And no more half-poodles with eye patches turned up again across the road. But the rabbits in our kitchen garden got fat. We were happy when the fancy lady moved to a bigger place about 100 miles from here.
Hazel had to admit that neutering was a drastic step and it didn’t turn out too well for Bozo. But if Irma was suggesting what Hazel thought she was suggesting, then there would be peace in the White House and the new president could hire female interns as well.
“I think my husband would even pay for the operation,” Irma said.
“I think mine would, too,” said Hazel.
“Maybe they could pitch in half each,” Irma said.
Then she boomed out her first “Bingo!”
Maybe it would be a profitable night after all.
Donal Mahoney, a native of Chicago, lives in St. Louis, Missouri. His fiction and poetry have appeared in various publications, including The Wisconsin Review, The Kansas Quarterly, The South Carolina Review, The Christian Science Monitor, and The Beloit Poetry Journal.