Lunch Ticket

by Carolyn R. Russell

Something shiny fell out of Michael’s pocket on the last day he drove me to school. He was ahead of me, halfway across the front lawn when it happened, a gleaming that streaked from the pocket of his gray hoodie into the new snow, where it sank without a sound; I picked it up as he stomped his feet a few times against the driveway hardtop and unlocked the car door, and I hid it in my backpack before he turned his head and gestured for me to hurry - my brother had the new grin on his face, the one he aimed in my direction without seeing me. I waited until lunch to investigate; in the girl’s room I found a stall with a lock that worked, and standing with my back to the door, I brought the thing into the light. It was a silvery metal rectangle with rounded corners, like a container that had been mostly flattened, with a cap that I unscrewed and sniffed at; the stuff inside smelled brown and made me gag, but daring myself to taste it, I filled my mouth with the liquid before spitting most of it out into the toilet and going back to class. My parents were called into school soon after my math teacher leaned in close over my shoulder. In the principal’s office I offered no explanation, no defense; I watched my dad’s Adam’s apple go up and down, and my mom’s fingers twist together in her lap, but still I said nothing, aiming my face in their direction and swallowing hard against them, the rough fire still alive on my lips, a ticket out of a place I couldn’t name.


Carolyn R. Russell is the author of “In the Fullness of Time,” a dystopian thriller published by Vine Leaves Press in 2020. Her humorous YA mystery, “Same As It Never Was,” was released in 2018 by Big Table. “The Films of Joel and Ethan Coen,” her volume of film criticism, was published by McFarland & Company in 2001. Her poetry, essays, and short stories have been featured in numerous publications, including The Boston Globe, Flash Fiction Magazine, Club Plum Literary Journal, Ekphrastic Review, Reflex Press, and Dime Show Review. She holds an M.A. in Film Studies from Chapman University, and has taught on the college, high school, and middle school levels. Carolyn lives on and writes from Boston’s North Shore.