Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: TOURIST TRAP (08/20/15)
TITLE: Money Well Spent
By Jamie Boettcher
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“Honey, that’s the biggest tourist trap in this state! Really, you want to stop there?” Mom questioned back once again.
I knew I was breaking down her resistance, so I kept on.
“Yes, that’s exactly why we HAVE TO see it. Everyone says that stopping at Wall Drug is part of the Mount Rushmore experience. You don’t want us to miss out on the whole experience after coming all this way, do you, Mom? And we don’t have to buy anything, just window shop.”
At fifteen, I was quite experienced at getting my way with Mom. I knew she was worried about having the energy to drive the many miles still to go.
Mom sighed. “OK, Honey, we’ll stop. I could use a break anyway.”
“Yippee!” I hollered out my window. Out of the corner of my eye, I caught Mom smiling.
I pushed open the door to the biggest souvenir store I’d ever seen. Both of us spun around with mouths agape, not knowing quite where to start. I headed to the row of picture frames, already harboring the idea of purchasing some outlandish, overpriced memorabilia even though I said we wouldn’t buy anything. Just as I found the perfectly corny “I Heart South Dakota” frame, I heard a stifled giggle from a few rows over. I looked up, surprised to find that the sound came from Mom – how long had it been since I’d heard that girly giggle of hers?
“What’s so funny Mom?” I asked as I approached her from behind.
“Look at this!” She turned around holding a palm-sized head mount of a rabbit with antlers.
“You found the Jackalope!” I exclaimed gleefully.
“The what?” Mom replied.
“The Jackalope – you know, the mythical creature of South Dakota, half rabbit and half antelope.” I explained.
Mom’s face went blank for a moment, and then exploded with a load roar.
“Jackalope!” She sputtered between suppressed guffaws.
I was completely taken aback by her outburst – it was so out of character for her - or was it? Truthfully, this was exactly like her “old” self, the one that hid too often in the shadows since her diagnosis last year.
I surrendered to the crashing hilarity, and erupted with laughter. Tears rolled down both our faces as we took turns playing puppeteer with the Jackalope. The laughter was freeing.
As the episode came to an end, Mom commented “Whew! I forgot how tiring laughter could be. I need to use the restroom – I might be a little while.”
“No problem Mom. I’ll look around for a Yeticorn - you know, a Big Foot head with a unicorn.”
Mom smirked back at me, seeming to appreciate my use of humor to cover up the topic of her tiredness. At this point, I was accustomed to her frequent and extended visits to the bathroom. Before I could wallow in self-pity or anger, I quickly made my way to the checkout counter.
As Mom exited the bathroom, I handed her a cup of ice water. “Here, this should help.”
“Thanks Honey” she replied softly.
I escorted Mom outside to a bench under the Wall Drug sign. As Mom sipped her cool drink, I retrieved my phone and one of the items from my shopping bag.
“Selfie time!” I declared with enthusiasm.
I put one arm around Mom as the other held the phone out in front of us. Just as I was about to snap the picture, I tapped Mom’s shoulder and said in a playful voice, “Excuse me Miss, can I be in the picture with you?”
Mom turned her head and found herself staring right at the Jackalope head. As the grin overtook her face, I tapped the button on the camera.
I set the “I Heart South Dakota” picture frame back down on the desk as the memory captured within it faded to the back of my mind once again. I cherished this memory of an unplanned stop at an infamous tourist trap, where I purchased two overpriced trinkets – money well spent to commemorate my last road trip with Mom. A memory that I am confident will continue to sustain me until our heavenly reunion.
I smiled to myself as I adjusted the Jackalope head mount next to the frame, and whispered, “Love you Mom” as I walked away.
This is a work of fiction.
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