The Ticket by Alice Ruvane ’86

Alice Ruvane ’86 makes her way in the world as a promotional writer. She served on the Editorial Board of The Lyon Review during its inception and her first published personal essay, Creating a Life appeared in The Lyon Review in May 2011. Alice’s other works can be found online and in a yellowing copy of the New York Times Magazine (letter to the Editor and www.poetsagainstthewar.org, Truth & Justice.) Alice lives in Maine where she delights in spoiling her dog and her husband rotten (in that order). When she’s not spending time outdoors, on her yoga mat, on stage or with friends, she can be found at her desk writing. It’s no wonder she’s still at work on her first novel.

I didn’t tell my boy where we were headed the morning I threw his duffle bag in the way back and drove him to rehab. I lied. I waved the plane ticket I’d bought to Canada in front of his dazed eyes, “Maybe your father can straighten you out.” I’d had enough. Even if my boy hadn’t reached his “bottom,” I’d sure reached mine.

I packed his things the night before. Four pairs of tube socks, two pairs of jeans, an assortment of T-shirts and a sweatshirt. It wasn’t much, but it was clean. I picked the clothes off his floor and did the washing, drying and folding. He wasn’t home, but that wasn’t news. For the last two years he only came home to sleep, or really, to sleep it off.

It wasn’t like he was eating me out of house and home or blasting Led Zepplin in the living room. I might not have minded that. At least we could’ve done that together. What bugged me was that he wasn’t here even when he was. Our few “talks” were through closed doors with me doing the talking.

“Where were you?” “Who were you with?” “Why didn’t you call me?”

His answers used to be soft grunts. In the past year or so, it had changed. Now I could hear him clearly through that door: “Shut the fuck up!” “Leave me alone, bitch!” “No wonder my father took off.”

My whole life was about taking care of Père: hiding keys, calling bars, making excuses to teachers, principals, the police; screaming, crying, begging, waiting for the drunken call or the sound of him pawing his way up the front stoop. And he hated me. Maybe he was right about me being a bitch. God knows I wanted him out. I was sick and tired of him mooning over his dad. Ever since he was a little boy that’s all he dreamed about. Plus it made me sick, seriously, body-aching sick to see that if things didn’t change my boy was going nowhere with his life. I figured there was still time to fix it. He was only seventeen.

 

I turned seventeen the week after my swollen belly just about exploded in the hallway at school. Sudden blasts of pain erupted under my skin and between my legs, throwing me into painted lockers. I dropped to the linoleum and when I looked up I saw the widened eyes of Mr. Grady looking down on me. A pink puddle had formed beneath my bottom and Mr. Grady held out his arms in a T struggling against the bodies of thirty or so classmates who were all vying for a better view. I saw flashing lights, a gurney and hands, hands, hands. Soft voices, “Can you hear me?” I tried to speak but my voice came out as fog.

I was fine. Just early.

 

“Molly, you’re early for everything,” Mamma used to say. It was her joke, a little ribbing she’d give me for getting home from school before she’d had a chance to pack off her latest boyfriend. They all seemed to take their leave the same way. Grab hold of the hat, buckle, belt and then squeeze my mamma’s ass. I’d get a pat on the head or a nod, sometimes both before the man headed out the door.

“Don’t you worry your pretty little head, “she’d tell me. “Mamma’s just havin some fun.”

Weeks later when the scent of MAN had faded along with Mamma’s smile she’d squeeze a different tale through her clenched teeth, “I loved that sonofabitch.”

She loved them all.

And me? I dreamed each of her men into our lives in indelible ink. When all the other girls in my class were practicing signatures that matched them with schoolboys, my notebook was filled with the names of Mamma’s men, all of them “Daddy” to me. But you scribble a word too many times on the same page and it turns into a big mess.

That’s what we were in, my boy and me now. Then again, he was only doing what I’d done at his age. He was only doing what I had told him.Dreaming up a daddy. But he was doing it with booze and weed. Trying to conjure a man he never knew. Père made so much room for his daddy inside his head, seemed like he was barely in his own skin. Just another kid going nowhere and gone at the same time. It was only a matter of time before he disappeared completely. Either way, he was seventeen now and I knew our time together was near done.

 

We lived with Mamma until she decided to go with a man instead of being left again. That was a couple of years ago. It’s alright. She did plenty for me and Père. I wouldn’t have got my high school diploma without her pushing me hard. She always told me I was smart and that if I worked hard I could go to college. Didn’t matter what my teachers said. Mamma believed in me. She stood up for me. She even helped me get my job at the Shop & Go. When Père was little I took shifts whenever Mamma wasn’t bartending at the Rusty Nail.

These days I work the deli counter and I work as many hours as I can. Sometimes I come home aching to tell Mamma about the people who need, absolutely NEED bologna at 7AM or midnight. We got our regular crazies, but a lot of them are just passing through town.

 

Père’s daddy was also just passing through. I gave my boy a French name ‘cause his daddy was French. Michel—pronounced just like the girl’s name. But it sounded like melted chocolate coming from Michel’s lips. I didn’t even laugh when he said it. Michel’s family rolled into my town on a  Winnebago camper they’d driven all the way from Montreal, Canada to Cape May Court House, New Jersey. From Court House, you can’t see the shore but you can still taste the salt in the air.

Tourists usually drive straight through but every now and then a few would stay. Michel’s family stayed a whole week.

He and I made the most of it. We rode our bicycles to the beach and spent long days on towels that nearly touched. I pretended not to notice that we were nearly naked, or that Michel’s body was tan, muscled and slick with sweat. All he had to do was smile and something pulsed between my legs. We ended our nights behind Reggie’s Diner. Red neon flashed on our sunburned cheeks as we kissed, long, tongue searching kisses. By Michel’s last night in town our fingers had felt every inch of one another through faded denim and flimsy cotton. We were ready for skin.

“Follow me,” I said, swallowing hard and taking his hand. I led him through the back alley at Reggie’s, across Route 109 and over to the Ocean Breeze Motel. We passed ten blue doors all in a row following the hum of spinning clothes around the corner to the laundry room. Mamma sent me there to do our laundry once a week so I knew the place well. The air was heavy and warm. Light from the bare bulb that stuck out of the side wall was softened by moths that danced in its glow. Dried, dead moths formed a pile on the folding table directly below the light. Poor things found out too late how dangerous it is to want something so hot, so bright and shiny, that you don’t think twice. I pulled the faded string and live moths flitted around my arm, head, face. And then they were gone. Michel and I were alone. I sunk my lips into the curve of his neck and played with his jet-black curls. He fumbled with the button on my Levi’s cutoffs. Then his hand pried my panties from my belly and made its descent. We did an awkward dance, three steps, until our legs hit the drying table. Michel swept the pile of dead moths away with the flick of his free arm and lay me down.

The weight of his body squeezed the air out of mine and my heart started pounding so hard I thought it was going to break through my chest. He lifted himself up on one arm and used the other one to push himself into me.

“This is it,” I thought with surprise. It didn’t hurt, not like I’d heard it would. Then again it didn’t feel so great either. More than anything it felt important.

“Michel and I are doing IT,” I told myself, trying to will my body into feeling ecstasy. I couldn’t just lie there. Michel was thrusting and groaning, like he was really feeling something special.

“This is IT, Molly,” my brain screamed to my body, “DO something.”

I grabbed his hips and pulled him toward me. I knew what all this was supposed to be like. I’d heard all kinds of sounds and seen Mamma’s limbs all tangled up with men’s through the crack in her bedroom door. Each time I felt Michel drive toward me I pushed my bony hips into his. Slap, slap, slap. Drops of sweat flew from Michel’s face and hair onto my bobbing little titties. I swung my head to one side to avoid getting any in my eyes or mouth.

“Aaaaahhhh.” The thrusting stopped. Michel dropped his body onto mine. I could feel his heart racing. Or was that mine? Our bodies were hot and slimy and his penis softened and slid out of me. It lay shriveled and rested on the soft pillow of my inner thighs.

I pulled the string on the light bulb and the harsh glare bore through what had seemed sexy and grown up minutes before. Fluid oozed out of me onto the drying table when I sat up. I hoped Michel wouldn’t see the mess I’d made. My eyes rested on a basket of soiled clothes in line for a machine. I wished a spin cycle or two could wash away the dirty feeling.

“You alright?” Michel asked tipping my chin up to meet his face.

“Me?” As if he could have been talking about anyone else, “Yeah. I’m fine. Fine. I’ll be fine.”

The next morning, the sign at Reggie’s was flat and lifeless. The chipped paint on the motel doors couldn’t hide from the open gaze of the rising sun. Michel’s family had packed up and was ready to roll out of town. Michel vowed he would write to me. His parents and three squealing siblings watched as we kissed. Sweet and neat. Not like our nighttime kisses.

“Come on lover boy,” his father teased, pressing the gas and swinging the camper door open and closed. “It is time to say ‘au revoir’.” The rs rumbled in his throat like the revving engine. Michel looked at me, brown eyes sparkling like sunlight on water. My stomach churned.

“Don’t worry, ma bébé,” he placed his lips against my ear. “Au revoir means until we meet again.” Something throbbed between my legs. I hadn’t even liked sex and my body seemed to be begging for it again. I figured it must be love.

Like Mamma, I was in love and being left behind. Tears rose up behind my eyes. I put on a brave smile and waved as Michel’s family pulled out.

Forty-two days later I found out I was pregnant. Forty-two days of racing to the mailbox and finding coupon flyers and past-due notices but no letters from Michel. Something in me knew even before the twenty-eighth day came and went without a letter or my period that Michel had left me behind and left me pregnant. I’d been “regular” since I was thirteen, but the days leading up to what should have been my period this time felt different. I felt like I could eat a horse but the smell of food made me just about gag. When I stopped by the pharmacy to pick up Mamma’s monthly prescription, I stared hard at the pregnancy tests huddled together all packaged in pink and blue. I didn’t have $15.99 for the fancy one. I didn’t even have $7.99 for the store’s poor twin. Even if I had the money or could get it somehow, I couldn’t very well walk up to the counter and plunk down a pregnancy test. Not in our town. Not when the druggist’s wife Mrs. Bersheer was always staring down disapprovingly whenever Mamma and I came into the store.

“Now let’s see, your Mamma gets this prescription every month so what in heaven’s name do you need this First Response test for?”

Mrs. Bersheer didn’t particularly like Mamma. Mamma being a party girl and a lover of men and Mrs. Bersheer a churchgoing lady hell bent on saving her. Even still, I didn’t want Mrs. Bersheer thinking worse of Mamma or bad of me. And I sure didn’t want Mrs. Bersheer telling Mamma what might or might not be going on with me before I even knew for sure.

I thought about just slipping one of these tests into my backpack and walking out of the pharmacy with it. I’d never stolen a thing in my life. But I stared at those packages and tried to piece together a plan. The orb of a mirror in the nearby aisle looked down on me and I moved on. Bersheer’s was the only pharmacy in town, but I had a bicycle. A few miles could keep my secret safe. All I needed was the money to buy a test. I got paid every other Thursday. And every other Friday,

Mamma would deposit my check directly into our account. First she’d multiply the hours by the rate, $5.75, to make sure the Shop & Go was on the up and up. Then she’d fold the check neatly in half and in half again, before tucking it into her wallet. I never saw the cash.

“That’s my money,” I whined after my first two weeks of unwrapping cheeses and meats and slicing them just so. Ms. Watkins, who carried a hump on her back that weighed her down, liked Swiss “paper thin” and Mr. Granger, the shoe-repairman with blackened hands was very clear, “’bout a sixteenth of an inch on that ham, please.”

One lady with a baby on her hip and three more tugging at her dress showed up every day for a week. She’d count pennies in her hand before pointing to the bologna and raising her fingers to tell me the number of slices she could afford. People liked what they liked. I just did what I was told, tried not to fuss with the hair net, and smiled.

Mamma laughed and looked at me. Her eyebrows formed a “V” and her lips an “O”.
“Your money, huh? And where would you be if I thought my money was my money?”
I couldn’t answer.

“Don’t you worry, little miss smarty pants. This money will be waiting for you when you graduate and go off to college. Until then, you need anything, just tell me and we’ll work it out.”

It wasn’t a problem after that. She’d fork it over when I told her I needed a dollar for this or that. And that’s pretty much all I ever needed. Until I needed a pregnancy test. Not that I thought she’d judge. How could she judge me for doing exactly what she did when she was my age? I just wanted to find out on my own and sit with the answer for a bit. At least have the knowing be all mine.

Turns out, getting the money was easier than I thought. Do you know how many loose coins are sitting in the bottoms of purses, piled on tabletops and dressers, lost under the couch and in its cushions? By the time I fished a quarter out of a pocket of jeans in my bottom drawer, I was only .43 cents away from knowing my fate.

“You got any quarters for the wash?” I asked Mamma when she came home.

She reached deep into her blue leather bag and produced two shiny, ridged-back discs. The future was in my hands.

The cashier at the pharmacy in Mayville didn’t even blink when I plunked the pink and blue package on the counter alongside of my mountain of change. The rhythm of her gum smacking remained steady until she popped a bubble behind her teeth and fingered the coins, one by one into her palm. She didn’t know that my heart was about to burst through my chest for fear I’d see someone who knew me. She didn’t notice me at all.

I didn’t go unnoticed for long. Once my belly started to get round, people lowered their gazes and shook their heads side to side.

“You can’t let them get you down,” Mamma trumpeted over the sound of the toilet sucking my stomach contents down for what must have been the hundredth time. Morning sickness had followed me well into my second trimester and hormones had rendered me perpetually weepy and tired. In my fall from good girl to bad, Mamma had become my champion and defender. Five feet-four of pure determination. People were wise not to mess with Mamma.

She’d been where I was now, right in this very town. And maybe because I was with her through that she never questioned standing by me now. When I showed her the plastic strip with the plus sign she said, “Shit.” That’s all. “Shit.” Then she hugged me.

“When this is over I’m gonna take you to the clinic and we’ll get you on the pill. I’d a done it sooner, but I didn’t realize. Shit, I thought for sure you’d stay a virgin forever.”

“Mamma!”

“What, you’re so serious and smart. Oh well, so much for college.”

Not going to college was a relief to me. It sure wouldn’t surprise any of my teachers. But when Mamma makes up her mind about something she doesn’t give up until there’s nothing left to do but give up. Mamma looked at me and slapped the side of my thigh, “Was it that boy with the girl’s name? That little one with the hair?”

I nodded up and down and she squealed. “Was he your first?”

“Yeah.”

“Oh honey, it gets better. Believe me, it gets better and better.”

 

I couldn’t of had Père or raised him without Mamma. The money she squirreled away from my paychecks thinking it would launch me into my own version of adulthood got eaten up fast buying baby food and diapers. But it was hard to be sorry about that when I looked at my baby’s pudgy legs and long eyelashes. My boy was beautiful.

I named him Père cuz I know what it’s like to go through life without a daddy. I figured I’d work a piece of his daddy right into his name. I picked up the word from Michel. He didn’t have much good to say about his father but the way I saw it, he had one.

I told my boy from the get go, “your daddy is inside of you. He’s not some separate, other person, he’s in your heart. He’s in your name.”

Père would look at me wide-eyed and gurgle, wriggling and giggling beneath my steady palm. He was too young to understand the words, but I said them just the same. Looking back on it, I guess they did get in somehow.

He never questioned me about Michel, though, until he was about seven. That’s when school introduced him to kids who talked about their daddies. He saw kids with daddies and Père decided he wanted a flesh and blood daddy. Not the wide-eyed boy in the mirror, but a man he could talk to and touch. Père was drawn to Mamma’s men. Any of them, all of them, just like I had been. Most of them thought he was cute until they wanted to get down to business and wanted Père gone. I had to wander into Mamma’s room too many times and take him kicking and screaming from the side of her bed.

“That boy needs a daddy,” Mamma said one morning, “and you need a man.”

After Michel, I stopped being all dreamy eyed about boys, let alone men. Mamma’s nonstop romancing had put me off ever wanting a man of my own. They were messy, hairy and loud. Besides, they always left. Being left once was enough for me. And it wasn’t just me anymore. I had a boy to think about. Still Mamma was dead-set about Père needing a daddy.

“I’ll introduce you to a few of the boys at the Rusty Nail.”

“Okay, I guess.”

Boys weren’t interested in me when I was pregnant and in high school and after that my choices were limited. Mr. Dilley, the manager at the Shop & Go, was short, fat and married. Of course being married didn’t stop him from trying to insert himself into my life.

“How’s it going, Molly?” he’d ask, his breath hot at the back of my neck as I punched in or out. His pudgy fingers kept hold of my check each week, long enough for him to brush his arm against mine. Seemed like he was always on the verge of saying something. Sometimes he’d clear his throat and tell me how much I looked like my Mamma. Hard to believe they’d gone to school together because Mamma didn’t look like she’d been born in the same century as him.

She still caught the eyes of guys my age. So when she offered to find me a daddy for Pére, I figured I was in good hands. I figured wrong.

Billy was the first. He looked nice, tall with jet-black hair and eyes that matched his jeans. We went out on Mamma’s night off so she could watch Pére, which was real nice of her. When Billy came to pick me up he was Mr. “Yes Ma’am.” All smiles and nods into Mamma’s big brown eyes. “Now you take her someplace nice.”

“Yes, Ma’am.”

“And it’s your treat, ya hear?”

“Yes, Ma’am.”

“And mind your manners.”

“I will,” he cocked his head and smiled at her

“I mean keep it in your pants.”

“Mamma,” I turned the handle on the trailer door and pushed it open. Billy stood there looking at Mamma for a few seconds before she shoo-ed him out the door.

He drove me to Seaside Putt’N Paradise where we walked and whacked colored balls through a windmill, over a cliff and into a clown’s face. On the first hole he stood behind me and draped his arms around me, pressing his front into my bottom.

“Not on your life,” I hissed, pushing him away and raising my club like a bat. After that he left me alone. He looked everywhere but at me and he barely talked to me. We just went from putting green to putting green watching our balls ricochet off of wooden walls and disappear beneath flagged holes. We didn’t keep score. I got more daring at the game as we played on, wondering what it would take for Billy to look at me.

At the 8th hole I challenged him, “Hey Billy, top this,” I pulled my putter back to hip height, smacked that little green ball and sent it into the air toward the opening in the giant shoe on #17. It bounced off the raised toe and landed in the tall grass nearby. A father on #15, which ran parallel to #17, pulled his child toward him when he saw my ball approach.

“Watch it! You could hurt someone.”

“Sorry,” I mumbled. Billy pointed his putter at the tall grass, “You’d better go find your ball.” Such a gentleman, I thought, as I jumped into the tall grass, parting it this way and that with my putter.

“You find it?” Billy looked down from the raised wooden gangplank between the tee and the shoe.

“Not yet.”

“Well if you don’t they charge you.” His voice landed hard on “you.”

Billy was finally paying attention to me and it was because he was hell-bent on not paying for my lost ball. I had a few dollars in my pocket just in case but there was no way I was going to fish them out to pay for a pocked ball that was gonna get smacked around its whole life.

“Forget it, Molly. I’ll pay for the damn ball.”

When I found that ball a half hour later, I asked Billy to take me home.

“Sure thing.”

I swear his face lit up. I had to trot to keep up with him on the way back to his Dodge Ram pickup.

When we got to Mamma’s, he jumped outta the truck and practically raced me to the door.

“I can get it,” I said pulling my key from my back pocket and sliding it into the lock.

Mamma pushed the door open forcing me down the stoop to avoid getting smacked. A cigarette hung from her bottom lip.

“Thank God,” she said, rolling her eyes at Père and the three-story house he was building out of cards.

“Rough time?” Billy asked, his voice thick syrup.

She sucked on her butt and smiled at him. Her ash had become a dangling comma and I waited for what I knew was coming.

“Wanna go for a drink?” Billy asked.

Mamma barked a laugh and nodded.

“Wait here. I’ll be right back.”

They went off, slamming the door and sending the house of cards adrift. Père moaned and the two of us were left to pick up strewn suits, smiling jacks and frowning queens. There are no princes or princesses in a deck of cards. Mamma couldn’t help it that practically every man she knew fell for her. Billy, and Carl after him and Raymond after Carl; I was sure that they only agreed to go out with me to please her. I was the bait. Mamma was the prize.

So finding Père a daddy wasn’t in the cards. I suffered through enough of Mamma’s picks and gave up about the time she stopped trying. By the time Père turned ten he stopped looking at Mamma’s men like they were heaven sent. Instead he was drawn to what they left behind, half smoked cigarettes and golden liquid at the bottom of bottles and glasses. He took to that.

I laughed in spite of myself the first time I saw him puffing on a cigarette and cradling a near empty bottle between his skinny thighs. I’d done the same when I was his age. But I’d done it once and learned not to do it again. Not my boy. He threw up so hard that first time, I thought his insides were going to sail through his throat and land in the toilet. Yet a week later I caught him puffing and swigging remains again. I spoke to him real nice. I yelled at him. I washed his mouth out with soap. None of it worked. It made him sneaky, but it didn’t make him stop.

That’s how I learned that the worst parts of Pére’s daddy had worked their way into my boy. He’d grown into a sneaky liar who made promises he never intended to keep. Maybe it was my fault for naming him Pére.

The nurse didn’t understand me when she brought my newborn boy in for me to hold, pink faced and screaming.

“And what’s the baby’s name?”

“Père” I answered, marveling at the length of his fingers and the excess skin on his neck.

“No, no dear, you had just the one, not twins. He may have the vocal chords of two, but he’s a singleton.”

“A singleton?” I looked up, worried.

“Not a twin.”

My whole world focused on the rise and fall of his belly. And my tits got hard and wet when he cried.

“May I?” the nurse approached the bed and lifted a corner of the blanket.

“Okay” I wasn’t sure if she was going to tuck me in or strip the bed. Instead she folded a corner of the coverings back, revealing one oozing nipple. She guided the baby’s pink, pursing lips toward my nipple, and soon I felt that child suck everything he could out of me.

“Wonderful. It’s not that easy for most.”

I smiled, “Really?”

She nodded and puttered about the room checking monitors and writing notes.

When Mamma came in hours later, the room was dark, I was asleep and Père was gone.

“Hey, girl!” Mamma jiggled the flesh of my exposed arms. “Where’s my grandbaby?”

“Huh?”

“On second thought let’s keep that word between us.” She peaked out from the curtain around my bed at my still-sleeping roommate.

“What time is it?”

“Oh it’s about 11:30 but I just got off work.” She coughed and hoisted her purse up, resting its weight on her hip like a lazy toddler.

“How’d you get in? I thought visiting hours ended at eight.”

“Let’s just say a few of the night nurses are good customers. Now show me that baby.” She rolled the wheelchair to the side of the bed and patted its center.

You don’t say “no” to Mamma. You just don’t, so I pulled myself up, wincing and shivering. She took my arm, turned my body, steadied the chair and then wheeled me down the hall toward the room of swaddled infants. My eyes scanned the bassinets row after row. I felt my heart start to race.

“There he is!” Mamma pointed at a bassinet in the third row, fifth one from the right. The sign on him said “BABY CONCHUR.”

“You gotta give the boy a name, Molly.”

“I will, I mean, I did. His name is Père.”

“Pear? Like the fruit?”

“No, like… Never mind, it’s French.”

“Well you’re the brainiac in the family. Père it is, even if it is a little fruity.” She laughed and squeezed my hand.

“He sure is a beauty.”

My throat was swollen shut. Joy, pride and a million emotions I couldn’t name had lodged themselves in that soft tissue and wouldn’t budge. I nodded up and down.

Mamma saw my boy for what he is the next day when she watched me feeding him.
“That boy’s a drinker.”

I smiled proudly, “The nurse said he’s a natural.”

“Some are, some just are.” She gathered my clothes and threw them into a duffel bag. It was time to wheel the next generation out of the hospital.

 

I can’t say for sure that Père’s boozing came from Michel, but Mamma swore up and down that no Concher had ever been a drunk. That was before she hopped on the back of a Harley and waved goodbye.

“You’re a grown woman, baby. And Père just wants to drink his way through life. Me, I’m finally going to live mine. You understand I gotta do this, Molly, don’t you?”

I did. I understood completely. But that didn’t stop pure venom from shooting out my mouth.

“Just go. We don’t need you here,” and then I swallowed hard, “I don’t want you here.”
Our eyes met and we shared a few long blinks, sucking on our lips, swallowing jagged words that tore up the back of our throats.

“Yeah,” she nodded. Then she patted Glen’s leather shoulder. Or maybe his name was Roy. He kicked his left foot to the pedal and the engine’s rumble gave voice to my shaking bones. They were gone.

“Better get a move on,” I said, throwing the covers off Père the morning I took him away. He lay lifeless, face-down on his bed. I shook him. “Père. Let’s go.”

“Errrrrr.” He rolled onto his side, curling up like a baby.

The ride to the rehab center was an hour and a half. Mr. Dilley told me about the place. Said they had scholarships and ways of helping ‘people like us.’ I didn’t ask him for anything. Just told him when I was picking up my paycheck that I was saving up to do something to help Père.

“Believe it or not, your boy isn’t the first one to need to dry out.” He chuckled, resting his thick fingers on his belly. He winked at me. “How’s your Mamma?”

“Good, I guess. She saw the Grand Canyon last week and said it changed her life.”

“Really? Well that’s good.”

I doubted Mamma’s life was going to change. I sure hoped Père’s would.

“Wake up baby. You’re going to see your daddy.”

I pressed the plane ticket between my thumb and four fingers and waved it like a flag. As far as Père knew we were going to the airport. But I wasn’t giving him that ticket. Not for 30 days. Not until he got out of rehab sober. At least that was my plan until I saw him lying there, moaning, and felt that ticket, crisp and sturdy between my fingers. It sure would be nice to start over.

Père sat up and started grabbing for the bait. I held tight, “Come on now baby. It’s time.”

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