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.
Audrey Wyatt, right-brained to a fault, has worked in various arts – most notably acting, teaching and creating children's theater curricula. Now a fiction writer, she bases her novels, short stories and even a television sitcom on her experiences and culture. Her stories often feature strong-willed, quirky women. One of Audrey's essays appears in the anthology, Letters To My Mother, and another in Silver Boomers Anthology. Her novel, Poles Apart, took second place in The Sandy as well as semi-finalist in the international Summer Literary Seminars annual fiction contest. She has published numerous short stories and essays in various venues. Always one to foster aspiring artists, Audrey founded Bay State Writers and teaches Creative Writing in continuing education and memoir writing to seniors. Find Audrey at www.audreyrlwyatt.com.