A Hollow Victory

My father was a player in his day, but you wouldn’t know it now. He’s got all the nurses conned. I saw him push ten dollars into the hand of the male nurse who takes him into the bathroom to do his business. My father is dying. We both know this, but we’re not talking about it. For a laugh, my father pulls on his skin and shouts, “Hey, look what happens when you get old.”  His skin droops, flaccid and pendulous.  He looks like he belongs in a wax museum.  His face is gray, all angles and points, but he still talks like a player, still telling his stories. The guy in the bed next to my father has the TV turned up so loud  I have to lean over my father’s bed to hear him.

“What?”

Death may be the elephant in the room, but we’re still playing dominoes every week because we’ve always played dominoes, and because we both know this may be our last game. When I was a kid I use to imagine this day, our last game together, me old and him older.  I imagined my pin looping around the cribbage board while he contemplated his next move. “5 for one,” he’d say and draw six dominoes from the bone-yard before laying an insignificant dom on the table. I would come back with, “25 for five, 30 for six, and I’m out.”  He’d lay his doms out flat for me to count, all fours, fives, and sixes. My horse would be racing down the cribbage board to the finish line while his horse was still left at the gate.



“Set ‘em up,” my father said. I rolled a table between us. My father is shrewd. He knows his game. He use to play for money. I mix. We each pull a domino. He plays first. His hand shakes with the effort. He lays down a blank five and reaches for the bone-yard.

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Trifecta’s  weekly challenge: HOLLOW (adjective): lacking in real value, sincerity, or substance : false,meaningless  ishollow and without triumph — Ernest Beaglehole>

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My offering uses the challenge word in its title. I suppose that it might disqualify the piece, but I’m playing just the same.

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23 thoughts on “A Hollow Victory

  1. We play dominos and cribbage so I could imagine the whole scene. “Boneyard” used at the end was wonderful. I played “Kings in the Corner” with my grandmother almost to the end just like this. Great story.

  2. The ending line, the elderly, ill father reaching for the boneyard is perfect. I’ve played dominoes a lot, but am unfamiliar with the use of the cribbage board during the game – I definitely want to try this.

      1. The inevitable of the obvious is overwhelming, so one skirts around the
        topic. Thanks for reading on your phone. I’ve not gotten dexterous
        enough to use my phone for commenting. I’m a slow texter.

  3. this made me thoroughly depressed as i hate to think about anyone in my family passing, especially with them aging everyday. i try to deny the signs. i hope i can be as calm in the end.

    1. Sorry to depress you.
      I wasn’t thinking about the passing of a family member so much as I was thinking
      of family dynamics.
      I was thinking of the stories we tell ourselves when children and carry through
      adulthood.

      1. oh no don’t worry about it! i know what you were going for, and i think you did that well. it’s just thinking about family naturally makes me think about them passing one day. i guess i’m just rather morbid.

  4. This was amazing, and the use of the domino game was brilliant. It a great job of reflecting the mood and personalities, especially with the unevenness of it. I strayed from using “hollow victory” because I couldn’t think of a way to use that phrase in a new sense, but this did it. Nice!

  5. Wonderful depiction of this scene. I’m not familiar with dominoes, so some of the terminology was lost on me (sounded good, though :)). I’m very familiar with the knowing death is right there but not talking about it. It’s like talking about it is a jinx and it invites death to make itself at home.

  6. What an excellent story. The descriptions are spot on, the language superb. One true sentence after another. Congratulations.
    Oh, and the title FTW! Way to use a prompt word.

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