MARCH MADNESS

By John Thomas Tuft

I just couldn’t resist the temptation. I tore open the packet of hot chocolate, poured the powder into the cup, and looked around for a victim. Spotting one, I crumpled the foil into a small ball and arced it across the room with devilish delight. It landed in the lap of a 91 year old gentleman named Jim.

He quickly looked up and out of the corner of my eye I spotted his big smile. My reputation precedes me. I’m a 12 year old boy in the body of a 64 year old man. If there’s a ball around I’ll pick it up and make you play catch. If there’s no ball, I’ll make one.

Jim weighed his options. I could see his wife, Bertha, looking exasperated. “Where’d that come from?” Jimmy kept right on smiling as he made his choice. He caught my eye and I swear I could see a twinkle.

The ‘ball’ arced back across the room, bounced off my water glass and skittered along the floor. “Jimmy!” Bertha was beside herself. Other patrons took notice.

Me? Game on! I retrieved our ball. When I looked up, Jimmy was holding up his coffee cup, taunting me. Who could resist?! Challenged by another kid!

I fired. My shot clanged off the rim and into Bertha’s food. Uh-oh, talk about March Madness. Jimmy was undaunted. He fished the ball out of the crowd, his smile growing broader. He fired back. Off the decanter, across the sugar packets, into my chili dogs.

I jumped up, arms outstretched. “Score!!!”

The wheelchair and walker crowd erupted. “He cheated!” “Sit down!” “Where’s the beef?” Waitresses stopped and stared, not unkindly.

And so it went for 5 or 10 minutes. Jimmy crawling on the floor under Bertha’s chair, chasing a loose ball. Me staring down Eileen’s cold stares at the disgrace I was making of dinner. Fans placing side bets on who was going to need more BenGay.

It was marvelous. After dinner, Bertha wheeled her walker over to me. “You two are worse than my grandchildren.” As she turned away, I could see her grinning. Jimmy waved to me, “See you tomor…oh, I forgot, you’re moving away.” His face fell for a moment. Then brightened. “Sure was fun!”

Yeah, it was. Keep your head in the game, Jimmy.

Words are magic and writers are wizards.