Jack and Betty were looking forward to a happy, relaxing afternoon as their good friends Mick and Maud would be coming for a game of ‘Rummikub’.
Their daughter Carrie, who was visiting at the time, had to go out and was happy to leave the oldies to their own design
‘I’m off then. Be good,’ she said.
‘We will. Have a good time,’ Betty said and soon they could hear Carrie’s car roaring off. It did not take long before Mick and Maud arrived. Soon they were sitting at the table and enjoying coffee and hazelnut cake.
‘Have you settled into your new home at the retirement village?’ Betty wanted to know.
‘Oh, yes,’ Mick said and continued, ‘they call it independent living, but let me tell you, I was pretty independent all my life. Still it is pretty good.’
‘That is the first step to the cemetery,’ Jack said as he picked up the last crumbs of the cake from his plate.
‘Don’t be silly, Jack,’ Betty said, ‘living there would make things much easier for us too and there would be no need for us to look after the house and garden any more. We are getting on, you know.’ Mick and Maud agreed and explained that this was their main motivation too and the kids had less to worry about.
With all this talk time passed and they started late with their game. The first couple of games dragged on, because they had to renegotiate the rules of the game.
‘You can’t do this,’ Mick said as Maud wanted to break up a string, ‘there is a Joker and you can’t break it up.’
‘Why not,’ Maud demanded, ‘we always do it at Smithies’ place?’.
‘But here, we play our house rules,’ Jack said.
Maud blow a raspberry and shook her head, ‘All right, all right, don’t get your knickers in a knot.’
Slowly it became quieter around the table as it took longer to check their tiles against all the possibilities offered on the table. Maud could not help herself saying to her husband:
‘You’re taking an awful long time to make up your mind. We ought to have an egg timer running.’
‘I have to be careful what I’m doing,’ Mick said, ‘and besides, the colours are hard to see. This row over there, is it black or blue‘?
‘Blue,’ the others said in chorus. Tiredness was setting in. Outside the sun went lower as it prepared for the long winter night. They strained their eyes but did not think of switching on the lights. The room filled with shadows and the players got quieter and quieter till hardly a word was said.
Jack was the first to nod off; then Maud and Mick. Betty had only one tile left and tried all sorts of combinations in her head. She wanted to win and she took her time as the others did not complain about her taking too much time. How could they? They were all asleep.
Jack’s head fell back and his mouth opened. If Betty had taken any notice, she would have said, that he looked the same as her father did when he had died. But she did not take any notice as her eyelids too started to drop. Maud’s head fell onto her left shoulder and Mick’s to his right shoulder as if they were sleeping in their beds at home. Finally, Betty’s chin settled on her chest, the right hand on the table still holding her last tile. She was dreaming she was playing ‘Rummikub’.
Darkness took possession of the room and those brave senior citizens, overcome by mental fatigue, forgot about the world around them. Schumann’s Träumerei, the last track on the CD Betty had insisted she wanted to hear, had finished a long time ago.
They did not hear Carrie coming back and entering the house. She was wondering why the room was completely dark. She searched for the switch and turned on the light. When she saw them all sitting at the table, fast asleep, she thought, ‘My God, they are all dead, poisoned or gassed.’
‘Mum, Dad!’ she screamed.
They opened their eyes and were wondering where they were.
‘Must have nodded off,’ Jack said and the others agreed.
‘And I know how to finish the game now,’ said Betty triumphantly. She rearranged the tiles on the table and exclaiming, ‘I won!’
‘Good, we can go home now and go to sleep,’ Mick announced with a smirk.
‘I’m refreshed now and could play another game,’ exclaimed Betty. However, she knew, the others wouldn’t be in it. They said ‘Good bye’ to each other as Carrie started to prepare the evening meal.