*Featured Artwork: “Rails 3” by Francis Raven
Ticket to Ride
by Audrey R.L. Wyatt
I’ve bought this ticket before. I remember it clearly. I didn’t intend to go to the ticket booth; no one plans to ride this particular roller coaster…
When I first met Mary at the entrance gate, she had a speculum in her hand. Not the usual amusement park paraphernalia. Toward the end of the exam, she found a lump in my neck and handed me my ticket. Line formed in radiology. When I finally got my seat it was small, stuck in a cluttered corner, and I began to feel fear looking up that steep first hill.
The clickety-clack of the chain moving the undercarriage forward was deafening. As the car chugged upward toward the specialist my ticket was taken and I was given a wristband. Apparently, I was not limited to just one trip.
As I plunged down the big hill they stuck needles in my neck, determined to discover the quality of the growth within. This led into an upward curve and another incline, and a repeat of the same procedure when the first elicited no information.
Maybe I’d grown too old for roller coasters, but I wasn’t enjoying the ride. I was plunged into a tunnel, dark as pitch – the poking, probing and prodding yielded nothing definitive.
Just out of the tunnel there was a second huge ascent, not something you often see on a roller coaster. As I was hauled, clickety-clack, up another hill I explained to my daughters that I needed to have surgery. I hugged their sobbing bodies as we plummeted downward, trying to reassure them, trying, without success, to keep them off the coaster.
Surgery done, the ride slammed to a stop. The cancer was removed and I was pronounced cured. The car coasted blithely back to the platform and I leaped out, walking away without a backward glance.
I went to see Mary again the other day. As I was getting ready to leave she pulled out a ticket. She had a sad, resigned look on her face. Terror welled up inside me. As a child, I couldn’t get enough of the roller coaster. But here – now – I couldn’t even bear the thought of another ride.
It didn’t matter if the circuitous track was the same as before. I knew the big hill filled with the clickety-clack of tests and pronouncements would be there, and the painful plunge as I was forced to terrify my children yet again. I could only hope I’d return to the platform at the end, able to leave the ride behind.
This time the line started at mammography. When I finally got my seat, in the procedure chair, the ride operator looked at me and told me to get off. She said I didn’t need to ride today. They had apparently reserved this seat for someone else. So I leaped out, walking away without a backward glance.
* Ticket to Ride has been published previously in Survivor’s Review in 2008.