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Short Stories: Playing the Bruce and Polly Fantasy Game

white birch clare michigan 2003
House we rented in White Birch, a wooded community north of Farwell, Michigan. At the time, I was pastoring Victory Baptist Church, Clare Michigan 2003

Depression Sea is roiling today, my mind is twisting, turning, and dying.

She knows, she always knows. My face and body language tell a story she’s read time and again.

She worries that this time the story might have a different ending.

I’m at the doctor’s office.

Wasn’t I here last month? I already know the answer, having made the trip eight times and the year isn’t even half over.

As we wait for the nurse to call my name, we play the Bruce and Polly Fantasy Game®.

Playing the game allows me to change the monotonous, deadly channel that keeps playing over and over in my mind.

We look at one another, smile, and begin the game.

The game always has the same answers, but we like to play anyway.

In the Bruce and Polly Fantasy Game®, we take shared places and experiences and meld them into one. A fantasy, to be sure, but who knows, maybe we’ll strike it rich, rob a bank, or write a book detailing where Jimmy Hoffa is buried.

Spring in Ohio, with its promise of new life and flowers.

Fall in Ohio, with its crisp air and changing colors.

Winter in Arizona, no snow for us, we survived the Blizzard of 78.

Summer in the Upper Peninsula , nestled as close to our Canadian friends as possible.

Our rented house in White Birch, Michigan, with a 1970 green Nova SS sitting in the drive.

bruce 1970 nova ss
Bruce putting water in 1970 Nova SS, March 1976, somewhere in Kentucky

Package these things together and magically move them to the eastern seaboard, to a small, out-of-the-way fishing community on the shore of the Atlantic.

Turn the house so it fronts the ocean, allowing us to sit on our deck and watch the sunrise and the fishing boats making their way to the secret spots known only to those whose hands and faces bear the weathered look of a lifetime spent fishing.

Nearby live our six children and thirteen grandchildren. Not too close, yet not so far as to be beyond an invite to a Saturday night BBQ.

This is Bruce and Polly’s fantasy.

She remains worried, wondering if the slough of despondency will bury the man she loves.

All I want is for the pain to stop.

Is that too much to ask?

I already know the answer. I always know the answer.

The nurse calls my name and I  haltingly walk to the exam room.

My vitals are “normal” though blood tests, scans, and X-rays say I am anything but. Refills ordered; sure is hot; how’s Bethany; he’ll be in to see you soon.

The doctor walks through the door and sits near me.  Twenty-five years we’ve danced to this tune, both of us now dance much slower than we once did.

The doctor thinks I am chipper today, better than my last visit.  Little does he know what I’m really thinking. We talk about the Reds, the Bengals, and the Browns. I promised the nurse that we wouldn’t do our thing, “our thing” being shooting the breeze while other patients wait. I lied. He’s behind and I’m to blame.

We shake hands, and afterward, I put my hand gently on his shoulder. I tell him, see you in two months. This sounds like a lie, a hollow promise with no hope of fulfillment.

I want to live.

I want to die.

June 19, 1957, in a building now torn down and replaced with a modern new one, at 9:01 AM I drew air into my lungs for the first time. A new life born into poverty in a nondescript rural Ohio community, delivered by a doctor who also worked as a veterinarian.

The path is now long and how much path remains is unknown.

Will the game be called today or will we get to play, for one more time, the Bruce and Polly Fantasy Game®?

I’m still betting on playing the game.

Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

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  1. Avatar

    Oh, this is a very good game. I admire many things about you and Polly, but your ability to talk through, and imagine and have a game like this with each other–It’s beautiful.

    Also, as always, hope you find some medical things to help with the pain. Pain sucks.

  2. Avatar

    For me, Bruce, my hope is that you play the game for a while yet. I so enjoy your writings. I know you don’t do it for me but I thank you nonetheless.

  3. Avatar
    Jerry Dee

    Oh brother, this is your worst work yet. Although you’re a nasty bastard to anyone that doesn’t kiss your ample backside, your writing is usually solid. Grow up and be a man, leave this drama for the women and children. 😘

    • Avatar
      Bruce Gerencser

      You seem to think that I care about what you think. I don’t.

      Who is the coward? A man who hides who he is, uses a VPN to hide his location, and uses a fake email address and name.

      Who has a callous, darkened heart? A man who considers someone weak when they share their innermost feelings.

      Who is a petty man? A man who who calls people names and disparages them.

      As far as this being my worst work yet. I take that as a compliment coming from the likes of you.

      What do you hope to accomplish? You claim to be a Christian. What does your behavior say about your faith?

      Please repent.

    • Avatar
      Bruce Gerencser

      BTW, this is your last comment. You are permanently banned from commenting on this site. I went back through your previous comments and found out that you have been an asshole from the start.

      By all means, start your own blog and rage away.

      Be well.


      • Avatar
        Jerry Dee

        I’m not sure who you think you are talking to, Bruce. Are you honestly calling me a coward? Perceiving weakness for meekness is a stupid thing to do. Just what kind of a neighborhood did you grow up in? You wouldn’t run your fat trap for long where I grew up.

        You run a public blog, and I thought that I would honestly comment on what I read here. Your regular posters are saying far more insulting things than anything that I wrote. Are you going to remove it? BTW, almost all of them are using “fake” names.

        If you are to fragile to handle feedback on the crap that you write, you shouldn’t solicit comments, punk! One thing I can tell you; not one of the deranged freaks making comments to me on here would EVER say these things to my face! And that goes double for you, you bearded face clown!

        I could care less if you publish this or not. Just know that I’m telling you that you sound like a little girl trapped inside of a man’s body. And when you, or that sick, hate filled, bimbo is attending a funeral, just sit there and shut your mouth 🤐!

        Remember you are just a guest in the church. Neither your mother in-law, or that decadent bimbo’s mother, wanted either of you planning their services. By your own admissions, they left explicit instructions for their arrangements that told you both to but out!

        • Avatar
          Bruce Gerencser

          Oh, I will gladly approve this one. 🙂

          Your threats of physical violence are duly noted.

          My house, my rules. This is not a public site. It is a private blog that the public can read and comment on IF they play by the rules. Don’t like it? Start your own blog. Of course, you won’t do that. That would take work. It’s far easier for you to be a troll, right?

          Lots of Christians comment on this site. They gladly play by the rules. They respect that they are guests in my house. If you played by the rules, you would get to comment too.

          You are a pathetic, misogynistic man — a true follower of Jesus. Are you a coward? Sure. You hide who you are, and even go so far as to attack a wonderful woman you don’t know.

          We respected my mother-in-law’s wishes to the letter. We played no part in the funeral. However, no one is going to tell us how we should feel or respond, especially someone like you.

          Please work on your grammar and spelling. They are atrocious.

          • Avatar

            We insulted him by the comments we made. But Jerry Dee far surpassed us in the cruelty and viciousness of his comments. It’s true I’d be kinder to a complete stranger I met on the street, but I would avoid someone like this man, since he seems deranged.

        • Avatar

          Jerry, if those are your “fruits of the Spirit,” the Unholy Spook inside you is rotten to the core. Thanks for yet another reminder that there’s no hate like Christian “love.”

        • Avatar

          You would be a great star for my new story book titled Dicknnochio. In this story, the more the star talks and attempts to insult, the smaller his most precious male appendage becomes.

          And you are gonna need a reeeallly powerful electron microscope to help you find it based on this small snippet of your vapid attempt to prove your manhood.

          It’s probably lost to you that you are accusing Bruce of belittling and attacking you then do the same to him. And it’s probably useless to point out your vapid comments reveal just how deeply you think about things.

          But it’s ok Dear. As long as you can puff up, look so scary manly, and spout tough he-man phrases, then you will have proven yourself and everyone will see just what kind of manly man you are.

          On the other hand, I do want to thank you for reminding me of how I was acting in sixth grade. Fortunately I grew up enough by seventh grade to learn this only made me look like a shallow, raging lunatic with no true self confidence.

        • Avatar
          MJ Lisbeth

          “(Y)ou sound like a little girl trapped in a man’s body…”

          As a trans woman, I have learned this: It takes balls to be a woman.

          I also know more about being a man—a real man—than you, most likely, ever will or, more important, need to know.

          Oh, and I am trying to discern the “meekness” you claim to have, if I am perceiving your intention. (I think you meant that Bruce perceived your meekness as weakness, not the other way around.)

    • Avatar

      I’ve got a couple of serious question for you, JD, sorry you can’t respond. If I re-convert to your jesus, will I have to make obnoxious, gratuitously rude statements on the personal blogs of others like you just did? Will I have to submit to a misogynistic world view like yours? (I refer to your words…’leave it to the women and children.) Do you actually know anyone who became a x-tian cos another x-tian wrote or spoke offensive and wildly inaccurate comments about them? Nope, me neither.

  4. Avatar
    Brian Vanderlip

    JD sounds to me like so many ‘military-trained’ wrecks that people the most warring nation on earth.
    JD: Fuck off, dimwit.
    Bruce, I’ve been weaning myself off sugar entirely! It’s like trying to insist to your conscious mind that you will not picture that huge pink elephant beside you. Still, it has given me some increasing relief in muscle and joint aches. Been listening to young doc Berg on the YouTube. Keep trying stuff, my friend. Your body does not choose pain like this for no reason. Keep looking and experimenting.
    Much praise for your strength in geting to the keyboard. Thank-you to you and Polly for all the support!

  5. Avatar
    MJ Lisbeth

    I’m late to this game. But I love the game you described, Bruce. Better yet is the way you tell the story: It’s poetry, like a series of extended haikus.
    People will draw inspiration from you long after the JD’s of this world draw their last breaths.

  6. Avatar

    Jerry Dee is a small, petty a$$hole hiding behind a computer.

    Bruce, I like your game. It sounds fun. Sometimes the game is what we have to keep us involved in life when things aren’t at their best. I spent a day last week talking 2 people into staying in the game of life, of not choosing that day to be their last. I don’t know if I had a right to do that, but both thanked me a few days later.

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