Attention! Your Contention Please

by Terry Sako

The onlookers are restless; the stall in the action has made them fidgety. They shift uncomfortably in their chairs, and their disgruntled murmurs echo from the walls of the confines. The air, electrically charged from the tension, seems to hum like a dynamo, and hangs heavy like swamp fog.

At a table sit we two, la Russian roulette-bright, blazing lights overhead. Nervous sweat drips into my eyes, and my hand trembles as I take large gulps of water to slake my parched gullet. Every tendon in my body strains with the inflexibility of steel cable, in turn bunching my muscles and making them cramp. I strive to ignore the pain in my keester from hunkering in the hard wooden chair.

I'm gettin' to old for this, I think.

I gaze at my opponent, trying to get a line on her, but she is about as readable as the Rosetta Stone.

Then I scowl at her, trying to intimidate, to bend her will to mine, but no inch is given. Ominous, drab tombstones materialize out of the depths of her eyes-my name etched on the slabs-then fade away.

Finally, the showdown continues, and the crowd breathes a collective sigh.

I drum my fingers on the table, trying to break her concentration, and she flashes me a look of defiance. I sigh deeply and look down to the floor-the classic fake out of giving up-in a last-ditch attempt to throw her off. Suddenly, I look up and meet her eyes, blazing fires burning in my pupils.

She grins at me, feral! I am predator she conveys. You . . . are . . . prey.

I mentally implode, humbled by the swell of her confident vibes. Knowing what is coming next, I want to jump up and flee the scene. But I instead remain to accept my karma.

And as I hear my granddaughter Desiree's dreaded utterance, my body wiggles like a worm on a hook.

"Go fish, Grampa!"

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