Bingo Jesus is the second volume in the Chapelkill Book Club, a series of twisted shorts by James Cessford to be released over the coming seasons.
For the last 37 years Thomas Brown has worked as a caller in the bingo hall squatting amidst the faded grandeur of Chapelkill’s once majestic Plaza Theatre. During the final draw, on his last night before he is due to retire, something amazing happens, something that has never happened to him before, something that has never happened to anyone before.
A quick 4 corners
Tonight was to be his last before he retired. Thomas Brown was sat hunched at the old writing desk placed with its usual asymmetry over the stage trapdoor, just as he had done 5 evenings a week for the last 37 years. In all that time he had taken no leave of absence, lost not a single day to illness and had missed only 1 shift 18 years ago when his grandmother passed away.
Thomas opened the small leather-bound notebook he kept inside his jacket pocket and confirmed that this was the 461,760th time he had loaded the battered old tombola, the last of its kind in England. After a vigorous twist of the handle Thomas watched the clumsily painted red drum spin its course in slower and slower gyres, its uneven metal legs rattling against the desktop as if signalling to the audience in some encrypted Morse code. Inside, the numbered balls cascaded over themselves in chaotic harmony, struggling noisily in the wooden darkness, desperate to be set free. When the drum at last came to a rest, Thomas slid open the small hatch and plunged his hand inside. Although he looked lost in the middle of the stage, like a little boy squinting into the spotlight, frozen by stage fright, the moment he opened his mouth his voice filled the hall like thunder, crushing into submission the scraping chairs, the smokers’ rattling coughs and the low rustle of papers.
4… 5… 37… 1… 18… 46… 17… 60…