You don’t always win a ‘prize’

Published 11:01 pm Friday, June 18, 2010

All the news about bingo in our state reminded me of my unwanted bingo prize.

Many years ago, when we lived on post at Fort Jackson, S.C., my husband and I went to the non-commissioned officers’ club to play bingo. Winners at those games walked away with some really nice prizes—small appliances, luggage—any number of things with which most people would be pleased. We had no idea when we sat down and primed ourselves for the caller to begin that we had a winning card on our table.

About mid-way into the evening, I got really excited covering one of my cards. If things kept going as they were that minute, I might just be a winner. I held my breath and my heartbeat accelerated. “Bingo!” I shouted as I covered the number that I’d been waiting for. After someone verified my win, I stepped forward to pick up my prize. I couldn’t believe it. “We don’t need that,” I said to myself, staring at a parakeet in a birdcage on a stand that a man was bringing to me. Although disappointed and stunned, I managed to thank him. My husband showed up at my side and set my big prize down next to our table. This was no prize. It was a big problem.

“What are we going to do with this bird?” I whispered as we sat back down. “The cat will be after it the minute we take it in the house.” My husband smiled, nodded, and turned back to the game. He concentrated on the bingo cards in front of us the rest of the evening. I didn’t. Visions of our cat leaping on the cage and poking its paw through to grab that poor bird and destroy it whirled through my head.

As soon as we got home and placed the stand with the bird cage in the living room, the cat crept out of its hiding place under a chair and came to investigate. “Don’t you dare bother that bird,” I warned, as she prowled around the living room. Her eyes never once left the poor parakeet that was perched on a little swing in the cage. It was late, so I covered the cage, and we went to bed. The next morning we found the birdcage on the floor, almost as I had imagined when I first caught sight of my winnings. The cage door was still intact and the parakeet, looking no worse for wear, was sitting inside.

One day I accidentally let the bird out of the cage. It flew over the house with my husband and me in hot pursuit. We knew if it buzzed anywhere near the cat it was a goner. My husband finally grabbed it by the tail and all its tail feathers came out in his hand.

I would have been a lot happier with a toaster as a bingo prize. It certainly would have been a whole lot less trouble.