“It never blinks.”
Fred and John were playing chess. John glanced at Fred, and then at the security camera Fred was staring at.
“The camera?” John asked, not hiding the slight irritation in his voice. Fred’s preoccupation with the newly installed security system was starting to get on his nerves. “You’re speaking metaphorically, of course, right?” ¬
Fred nodded but never wavered his focus on the small black orb tucked into one corner of the room near the ceiling. The four-story senior retirement facility where they both lived had installed the security system three days ago. Cameras had been placed in the hallways, laundry rooms, dining area and the community room and Fred had been nervous over it ever since.
“It’s still your move,” John said.
“Sorry.” Fred glanced at the board and moved a piece.
“We can play some other time,” John offered.
“No, I’m okay,” Fred assured him.
“No, you’re not,” John said as he leaned forward. “I’m trying to play a game with you, and you keep staring at that stupid camera.” Studying the board, he moved one of his pieces.
“But, why us?”
“What do you mean?”
“We’re just a bunch of old farts. Why watch us?”
“Safety factors mostly. Or insurance discounts for the company,” John shrugged. “Either way, do something about it if it bugs you so much.”
“What can I do?” Fred asked, confused.
“Flip them off.”
“Oh, no. I can’t do that.”
“I’d get in trouble.”
“With who? You said yourself we’re just old farts. Out of the hundreds of clients that camera company has you really think the people watching the cameras are going to call the cops on the two of us because you flipped them the bird?”
Fred nodded slowly, as if John had read his mind.
“You worry too much,” John said. “Some places install dummy cams, you know. In order to give the appearance of security.”
Fred shook his head. “No, they work. I checked. The computer monitor at the front desk shows the point of view of all the cameras.”
“And the nurse on duty told you it was nothing to be alarmed about, right?”
Several minutes passed before John reminded Fred to focus on the game. “Your move.”
“I’m sorry,” Fred replied. Glancing at the board, he moved another piece. “It just makes me nervous.”
John sighed as he stood up. “The hell with this. I’ll do it.”
Fred, knowing his friend was impulsive, placed a hand over his face, afraid of what John might do.
“Mr. Goodman!” the nurse at the duty station shouted. “Stop that this minute!”
Fred glanced at the nurse and saw her standing up, looking toward them with her hands on her hips. The look on her face told Fred that she was not happy. Following her stare, Fred looked back at John in time to see him buckling his pants. A moment later, John was back in his chair, laughing.
“You mooned the camera?”
John nodded as he continued laughing.
Despite his mood, Fred joined him. It was infectious, and in moments several of the residents sitting nearby who had seen John bending over also laughed.
Just then, a siren could be heard in the distance. Everyone in the room quickly fell silent. It was a noise all too familiar to everyone who lived there. The community center was in the suburbs, so it was rarely a cop chasing a speeder. Most often, it was an ambulance. A long minute passed as the noise reached a peak pitch. Thankfully, after a moment, the siren continued down the road. Once it was quiet again, the residents settled back into whatever they had been doing.
John looked across the table at Fred who was giving him an accusing look.
“That was close,” Fred said.
John shrugged as he reached over the board and picked up a knight. Setting it down, he leaned back in his chair and said, “Checkmate.”
Fred, not happy about losing, frowned over the loss. But only for a moment as his eyes wandered back to the camera.
“Another game before lunch?”
“Sure,” Fred said as they reset the pieces on the board. “Just don’t do that again.”
John smiled as he flipped Fred the bird.
Frank Zubek lives in Ohio and is even now writing more stories.