I have a vague memory of a man who goes to bingo games (possibly at a trailer park); he talks to someone who has been winning all night in the parking lot after the night is always, and somehow is given the curse of winning; it's a curse because it's associated with him becoming estranged from everyone else at the games, to the point that he almost loses the ability to speak (I have a vague memory that he can't or chooses not to, call out "BINGO" when he wins, or maybe that's the person he got the curse from), but he keeps winning.

1 Answer 1


"Mrs. Shummel Exits a Winner" by John Kessel, Asimov's June 1988.

A boy who can't speak isn't even trying to win with his single card:

Schuster called five numbers. The boy had four of them, a clear winning diagonal that shot across the board like an arrow into Martha's heart. He remained mute as a snake, and somebody else won two numbers later. He had both of those numbers, too.

She sat there and, with an anxiety that grew like a tumor, watched him win the next five games in a row, none of which he called out. The room faded into the background until all there was was the boy's bingo board. Schuster would call a number, and it was as if he were reading them off the kid's battered pasteboard. Still the boy said nothing. He let other people take $150 that could have been his.

The card that always wins comes with a curse of losing the ability to speak:


Martha felt flushed. She could see everything so clearly it almost hurt. Her senses seemed as sharp as if she were twenty again; her eyes picked out every hair on the boy’s arm, she smelled the aroma of food from the hall and garbage from the alley. Across the city somewhere a truck was climbing up the gears away from a stoplight.

"You're kidding."


"How will you take my voice?"


"How can I give you my voice?"


What did she have to lose? There was no way he could steal a person's voice. Besides, you had to take a chance in your life. "All right," she said.

The boy nodded. "Good-bye," he said: softly, almost a whisper.

  • 2
    Thank you. I might have found that if I hadn't been sure the protagonist was male!
    – Andrew
    Commented May 9 at 23:16

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