Golden Ticket

Submitted into Contest #192 in response to: Set your story at an antique roadshow.... view prompt


Coming of Age Fiction

**This story contains profanity**

I hate this place. It smells like moth balls and old people, and I can’t believe I have to spend another Saturday of my 13-year-old life sitting here watching people get all worked about paintings with cracks in them. Seriously, I’ve lost sleep wondering how my life got me here.

This time we’re at the convention center in Boston, a mere five hours from home, which I guess is better than last weekend in Indianapolis which required sleeping in our car in a Wal-Mart parking lot for two days in a row. Because heaven forbid we spend a penny of the thousands of dollars this stupid relic is supposed to be worth on a cheap hotel room with things like, you know - a pillow and blanket.

I know teenagers have a reputation for being big eye-rollers, but I think I’ve out eye-rolled even the best of them over the past few months.

The insanity began last spring. My mom and I were out for a walk in the woods - our new-founded “free fun” as she likes to call it. “Free hell on Earth” is my interpretation, but nobody asks what I think. Her boyfriend walked out the week prior, leaving us with the small house Mom inherited from Nana when she passed, but on his exit he also drained just about everything from her checking account. Needless to say, we had a roof over our heads, but things were tight. Really tight.

The neighborhood next door was built over a plot of woods, and after the developers decided they were done, they carved hiking paths in between the huge homes and around what was left of forest. It’s about a three minute walk from our front door to the new ‘hood, and Mom likes to roam the woods, stopping in the backyards of the mini-mansions to look at the houses and the people who own them, dreaming of the day she’ll have all they have.

I don’t have the heart to tell her that will never happen. Unless I’m really pissed off, in which case I might have run my mouth a time or two. Don’t blame me - I’m just a normal teenager with an often bad attitude and no consistent filter.

At any rate, on this day (cold, rainy, damp, terrible), we were walking along, my mom blabbering on about her midlife crisis, about how no man can see her for who she is, and about how she needs to go see her psychic to figure out what’s next in her life. Also, she wants to start meditating. Blah, blah, blah. Whine, whine, whine. Make it stop.

As she yammered on, I looked at my phone, deeply engrossed in a conversation with my bestie Samantha about which hair clip matched her new crop top. I don’t give two shits about Samantha’s hair clip (although the crop top is pretty cute), but I’ll take any distraction from having to be my mom’s therapist once again. 

It was just as my mom started to turn up her “I’m going to cry now” voice, when suddenly I felt my foot twist hard, and I fell quickly - my knee hitting a branch, blood falling down my leg, and worst of all, my phone screen cracking on impact.

“Shit!” I cried!

“Alexandra, watch your mouth!,” scolded my mom, suddenly no longer on the verge of tears. That was always like her - scold before making sure I’m not hurt. Maybe she should give that meditation a go. Dammit.

I glared at her, and slowly picked myself up, pissed about my phone. As I reached down to pick it up and dust it off, I noticed something sticking out of a pile of leaves next to my foot.

The little box was gold - my favorite color, so naturally I was drawn to it. I picked it up with my shaking hand, and held it up to my face.

It was square and small, maybe about three inches all around. It was dirty, and some of the gold was beginning to come off on the corners. There was a small engraving on the back - EJB - hand carved and messy. It looked like it had been made by a six-year old.

“Ho-ly shit,” my mom whispered - eyes huge, mouth open. She still hadn’t asked me if I was ok.

“Language,” I said. She ignored me.

“My god, Alex, we’ve found our way out.” My mother could not take her eyes off of the crappy box.

“Out of what, wood shop class?” I asked.

She looked at me with disgust. “It’s like you just don’t get it.” She scolded. Always scolding. 

“This box - this gold - this is our way out of our situation. This is our way into the neighborhood. This is our new beginning. This is it, I just know it.”

I rolled my eyes. This box was not made of gold. It was made of cheap pine and craft store paint. But it had been a rough time for my mom, so I decided to let her have her moment. “You really think so, mom?” Ugh, it pained me.

“I’m taking this to the psychic,” she said, her eyes still wide.

I rolled my eyes and walked home.

The following week she did indeed take it to her psychic. Sandy is about 45 years old, wears mascara like its 1985 on crack, and probably actually is on crack. As expected, she told my mother we had hit the jackpot with our finding. And so, away we went. 

Mom sold a few of Nana’s artifacts from the house to buy bus tickets to the first show - an antique roadshow at the Hillsborough county fair in New Hampshire. I’d never been to an antique roadshow, and after that first one I swore I’d never go again. My mom arrived with her hopes higher than Jesus in Heaven, and left with mascara stains and tears that quickly turned to anger after the appraiser told her she had nothing more than a box made by a small child, discarded in the woods during play. 

Um, duh.

But, as you may have figured out by now, Sandy speaks the holy word, so my mom continued her journey, and dragged me along for the ride. She sold what was left of Nana’s few treasures, including her diamond earrings that were left to me, and then she carted me all over. Maine. Vermont. New York. Illinois. Every state was the same. Stinky room. Pretentious people. Same appraiser response. Same mom response. Zero people who gave two shits about my presence. 

So here we are in Boston, a place I actually have dreamed of visiting for years, although I would much prefer to be exploring the Public Gardens, Boylston Street, and the grounds of Fenway Park than sitting here on this dusty blue carpet in the middle of this stuffy convention center.

Mom is on the other side of the room, working her way around to multiple appraisers. There’s a film crew here today. Apparently some public broadcasting station decided to make this a television show. For whom? I have no clue. Probably Sandy and her grandma and her grandma’s grandma. So boring.

I take my eyes off my mother and spot someone sitting opposite me on the far wall. He looks about my age, and I’m struck by him - not because of his ripped clothes, shaggy hair, and hobo style bag - but because he is literally the only other young person I’ve ever seen at one of these shows. I watch him for a few minutes and notice the way he eyes the different “treasures” being walked around the room. He doesn’t look the type to appreciate “fine art” so my curiosity continues to grow.

I notice he also eyes the bags of food being brought in for the appraisers as lunch time approaches. I’m sheltered, but not that sheltered. I know his story.

I pop out to the lobby and use what little change I have to grab a few bags of chips from the vending machine. I return to the ballroom and sit next to him. He looks at me with a curious eye, and I can’t help notice that he hasn’t showered in a few days.

I hand him the chips, and he takes them without a word.

We sit together for a few minutes, crunching away and watching the world of hope and desperation unfold in front of us. Finally, I introduce myself.

“I’m Alex,” I say.

He nods. “I’m Chase.” 

“You like art?” I ask.

“Not really,” he says.

“So tell me then, how much do you make by swiping one of these artifacts when nobody is looking?” It’s a bold accusation, but hey, I’m a bold girl.

His eyes narrow as he looks at me, and for a split second I worry I’ve got it all wrong. I’m bold, but I’m not an asshole.

“It depends,” he says. “Usually enough to get myself some food for a few weeks. And a bus ticket to get to wherever’s next.”

I nod and eat my last chip. “So you really are homeless.” I’m not sure I’ve ever talked with a homeless person before.

He nods, and I notice the way his sandy colored hair drops from his forehead towards his eyes - eyes that are a deep brown, slightly mysterious, and definitely charming. And then I notice the slight upward bend of his mouth - smiling as he takes in my features as well. It should be weird, but it isn’t. If he were cleaned up, I’d probably find him really attractive. 

“And you?” He asks.

“Um, yeah not homeless. But definitely stuck here with this crowd of old biddies because I found some toy in the woods that my mom thinks was sent straight from God and is actually worth about as much as that speck of dirt by my foot.” I roll my eyes. He laughs.

“Sounds fun,” he chuckles. I don’t know why, but I laugh back. There’s just something about that smile.

Chase I and sit there for what feels like a blip in time, but is long enough for him to tell me all about his situation. He tells me how his two moms died in a car crash three years ago when he was eleven and his only option was to live with his asshole grandfather who promised to beat the gay out of him (he isn’t gay, he tells me - his grandfather just assumes he is because his mother is gay. His grandpa says being gay is genetic, and we laugh because by that logic grandpa has a few secrets of his own). He decided he couldn’t live that life, and his moms wouldn’t want him to, so he took to the street. He’s fourteen, has lived in homeless camps in five cities, and reminds himself every day that the challenges he faces are better than the bigotry he left behind. 

I like Chase. He’s a badass. I hope he stumbles upon George Clooney or someone like that some day. George would clean him up and take him under his wing. I mean, he kind of looks like George Clooney, and he’s pretty damn charming so I think it would be hard for George to turn him away. 

I’m lost in the moment and the story when I hear a huge whoop from the other side of the room. Suddenly I’m back at the roadshow, surrounded by white hair and the smell of dusty “treasures.” It takes a second but I realize the whoop is coming from my mother who, at this moment is running towards me full steam ahead - dodging booths and people and looking positively insane with her hands in the air and her mouth wide open.

She arrives at me, wide eyed and wild. She doesn’t even notice Chase. Typical.

“TWENTY FIVE THOUSAND DOLLARS!!!!” she exclaims. I look at her, puzzled. “The box! This box!! I told you, and Sandy told me, and dammit Alex, you don’t believe anyone, but this box just changed our lives!!” She hands it out to me to take and tells me to guard it with my life. She says she needs to go complete some paperwork and then our real lives will begin. I hear her squealing as she leaves the room.

I sit still, kind of in shock. Mostly in disbelief, and just about totally in denial. My mom takes some stuff if you know what I mean. It’s totally possible the appraiser said twenty-five dollars, and she heard twenty-five THOUSAND dollars. But as I’m sitting, getting ready for another epic eye-roll, I’m approached by a man in a tweed suit. He looks at me with the seriousness of my second-grade teacher addressing the classroom after Bobby Mills drew some graphic male genitalia on the board (gah, it was hard to keep a straight face for that one), and tells me not to move or give the box to anyone. He follows my mother to help complete the paperwork.

It’s in that moment that I make a decision I’ll never regret. I looked at Chase, and those big, beautiful, brown eyes looked at me. I look around, see nobody paying attention, and quickly put the box into his hobo bag. “Fuck the bigots,” I whisper. “Go.”

He gathers his things, winks and me and walks out the door. I wait five minutes to make sure he’s left the building, and then I scream and report a theft.

April 05, 2023 17:59

You must sign up or log in to submit a comment.


RBE | We made a writing app for you (photo) | 2023-02

We made a writing app for you

Yes, you! Write. Format. Export for ebook and print. 100% free, always.