Lost and Found, by Christina Ortega Phillips
“Hey, Mickey, hey, Mickey,” my phone sang.
I groaned, recognizing the ringtone. Without opening my eyes, I reached for my phone and rejected his call. But he was insistent.
“Hey, Mickey,” my phone sang again.
“No,” I said aloud, rejecting the Miguel’s call again. This time I opened my eyes and saw that it was four a.m. which meant that I had only been asleep for two hours since coming home from work and I had to be up in five hours to get ready to go back to the restaurant and do it all again. I snuggled back into my covers, hoping he wouldn’t call anymore.
I was wrong.
When he called a third time, I knew I had to answer if only to tell him to let me sleep.
“Carmen, what are you doing?” Miguel sounded wide awake…and slightly buzzed.
I hope he doesn’t need bail money again, I thought, hearing the slight slur in his voice.
“It’s four o’clock in the fucking morning, I didn’t answer the first two times you called so I must be running a marathon,” I snapped.
The jackass just chuckled. I knew I shouldn’t hold my breath for an apology. When you’ve been friends with someone since the third grade, things like apologies fall by the wayside.
“Well, stop running and get your ass downstairs,” he said instead.
“Downstairs?” I echoed. “Are you here?”
“Yup. I’m parked outside, waiting for you so hurry up.”
“Dude, get your ass down here. I’m serious. We’re going shopping.”
“It’s four o’clock in the morning,” I repeated dumbly, getting out of bed. I walked over to the window and looked outside to see him sitting on the hood of his beat up Geo Prism. He saw me and waved wildly. Something about his manner made me nervous. I could hear my mother’s voice reminding me that “Nothing good happens after 2 a.m.” Miguel was proof of that.
“Come on! Get in! I’ll explain on the way!” he yelled out loud enough that I could hear him through the unopened window. I wondered how much he had had to drink. I should’ve said no, but the last time he went to a store drunk he was asked to leave since he had decided to rearrange their DVD selection. I couldn’t let him go out alone like this.
Miguel and I became friends on the first day of school when some bullies had taken my lunch money and he gave me half his sandwich. The next day he borrowed and crashed my bike.
Yup, I thought, nothing good is going to happen. But I got dressed anyway. The thing about Miguel is that after hanging out with him you always ended up with a good story to tell. I hurried out the door before he continued to yell and wake up my neighbors who already didn’t like him…or me, for that matter…I guess I can’t blame them for not liking us. The carpets in the hallway still carried an odd smell from the time Miguel set up a Slip n Slide on my floor and having to take the stairs because we had made the elevator irreparable were pretty good reasons. But those nights had been pretty fun and worth risking the neighbors’ ire.
Miguel didn’t explain in the car. At least not right away. As soon as I got in, he turned on the stereo and blasted Gwen Stefani’s “Rich Girl” before I could ask any questions. And maybe it was because he was more buzzed than I thought and I was still not fully awake or maybe because that song is just so catchy, but we both started singing at the top of our lungs every time she sang the “na na nas.”
And then we pulled into a Wal-Mart parking lot. I looked at the sign, turned to look at him and then punched him in the arm. Hard.
“Ow! What the hell was that for?” he cried out.
I started punching him harder and faster several times, punctuating my words with hits. “You,” punch, “woke,” punch, “me,” punch, “to come,” punch, “to Wal-Mart!” punch.
“Stop, stop, stop!” he said, trying to block the punches.
“You couldn’t wait until a reasonable hour to come here!?” I went to punch him again, but he caught my fist and shoved it back.
“I won,” he said simply.
“Won what?” I snapped. “Dumbass of the year?”
“No, idiot,” he laughed. “I won the lottery.”
“Shut the f—“
“Dude, I’m serious. I won the lottery. I was at home and they said the numbers on the ten o’clock news, my numbers—“
“Seriously?” I asked.
He nodded, his eyes twinkling with excitement. They were his lucky numbers, or at least that’s what he called them. He had been playing the damn things every week since he had turned eighteen.
“I don’t believe you,” I said, shaking my head.
He reached into his pocket and dug out a piece of paper with his numbers scratched on it. “Here,” he said, handing me the paper.
I looked at the paper and then at him. “Miguel,” I said gently, “we’ve been over this. You can’t print your own money and you can’t make your own lottery tickets.”
“No, dummy,” he said, rolling his eyes. “It’s what they said on the news. I wrote it down.”
“Uh-huh,” I said slowly, nodding.
“No, really,” he insisted, sitting up straighter.
“Okay, say I believe you,” I said, crossing my arms. “Where’s your ticket? And what if you did win? Why are we here at Wal-Mart?”
“It’s the only place open right now. I get a credit card, charge it up with all kinds of electronics and stuff and then pay it off when I get my money from the lottery,” he said simply as if it were the most logical thing in the world. He smiled expectantly as if waiting for praise for what he clearly believed to be a bright idea.
“Okay, weirdo,” I said, rolling my eyes. Only Miguel would think of going to Wal-Mart with lottery winnings. Myself, I’d prefer Best Buy. “But again, where’s your ticket?”
“In my wallet.”
“Let me see it.” Not that seeing it would have proven anything. I would have to wait until the next day’s paper to confirm since I had left my smart phone at home in my rush to leave the apartment. And his phone, like Miguel, wasn’t smart so I couldn’t look up the numbers online.
He leaned forward to pull the wallet out of his back pocket which I promptly grabbed from him. I opened it up and found receipts, slips of paper with phone numbers, a condom, some singles, but no lottery ticket.
“It’s not here,” I said.
“Dude, don’t play,” he replied. He took the wallet back and looked for himself. “Where the fuck is it!” he cried, beginning to throw the papers from the wallet on the floor of his car.
I sighed, annoyed that what had started off as a potential adventure had turned into a letdown for now.
“I cannot believe you woke—“
“Did you take it?” he interrupted, throwing the now empty wallet on the floor of the car.
“My ticket! I swear it was in my wallet.”
“I didn’t take anything,” I snapped. “But you’re about to take me back home.”
“You didn’t take it?”
Without another word, he threw the car into drive and peeled out of the parking space, hitting a stray shopping cart. I watched as the cart flew into a nearby car, making the alarm go off. Of course he didn’t stop but instead went faster.
“Slow down!” I cried out, grasping for something to hold on to as he made a sharp turn without taking his foot off the gas.
“If it’s not in my wallet, it has to be at my house,” he said, gritting his teeth and gripping the steering wheel tightly. He was talking more to himself than to me.
I was beginning to think that maybe he had actually won the lottery. I shook my head, trying to wrap my mind around the fact. I needed to wake up more if Miguel was going to be this crazy. And I needed to get out of the car before I threw up from motion sickness.
“Hey, can we stop somewhere and get some coffee?” I asked.
He glared at me.
“Coffee would wake me up. I can help you look for the ticket if I had some caffeine in me.”
“You can get coffee after I find my ticket,” he snapped.
“If we stop for coffee we could probably ask the clerk to printout the winning numbers. If I actually believed you, I’d be more likely to help you look for this supposed ticket,” I tried again.
He gave in and stopped at the 7-11 near his home. We went in together to both get coffees.
“Hey, Miguel, Carmen,” Clark the clerk greeted us. “Have you seen the news?”
Miguel ignored him and walked over to the coffee station, his fists balled at his sides. I just shook my head.
Before I could ask, he printed out the night’s winning numbers. Grinning, he handed us the paper. “You won, Miguel.”
Every cashier at the 7-11 knew Miguel’s numbers since he played them so often.
“Told you,” he yelled at me while serving our coffees. I stared at the numbers in shock.
“Hmm,” Clark said. “I thought you’d be more excited. You do know that the jackpot is up to—”
“Miguel! Carmen!” Rod the stock boy called out coming out from the back room carrying a box. “Hey, you guys are out late or is it early? You get your car fixed yet, man?”
“Yeah,” Miguel said stiffly.
“My bro hooked him up,” I added. What I didn’t add was that he now owed me and my brother money. I found myself getting excited about him winning the lottery. Maybe now he would pay me back.
Rod shook his head. “I can’t believe you actually tried to drift all the way from your apartment to here.” He chuckled, remembering.
“I almost made it!” Miguel said hotly. “If I hadn’t been drunk…”
“When aren’t you?” Rod joked.
Miguel was right. He had almost made it until he drifted right into a delivery truck that had been parked out front of the store. I had just gotten fired from the clothing store and was upset when Miguel decided I needed a distraction and that was when he made me his camera woman for the stunt.
Clark cleared his throat. “You know, it’s a pretty big jackpot this week, Miguel.”
“We should get going,” Miguel said to me, putting our cups on the counter. He looked at me. I guess I was supposed to pay for them. Surprise, surprise.
“He’s not sure of where he put the ticket,” I explained to Clark as I handed him some money for the drinks.
“You lost your ticket!?”
“What ticket?” Rod asked.
“I didn’t lose it. I thought it was in my wallet and it’s not. It’s probably at home.” He shrugged, but I could tell he was agitated as he was now opening and closing his right hand at his side. The left hand now gripped his cup so tightly I half-expected it to be crushed.
“We’re going to look for it now,” I added before taking a sip of my coffee. I let out an “mmm” as I felt the caffeine working its way through my system.
“Miguel won the lottery and he lost his ticket,” Clark explained to Rod who burst out laughing.
“It is never a dull moment with you, man,” Rod said. “I hope you didn’t wash it.”
Clark joined in the laughter. “Yeah, man, remember that time you thought you had lost your iPod?”
I frowned. It had been my iPod. Well, the first time it happened. The second iPod he washed was one of his housemates.
“Come on, let’s go,” Miguel grumbled, turning away from the counter. Normally he loved reminiscing about his antics, but I could tell by the way his jaw was set that he was about to snap. “We’re wasting time.”
I said goodbye to Clark and Rod who were too busy laughing at Miguel to notice as Miguel pushed me out the door.
He sped all the way to his home, making a five minute drive in only two minutes. I don’t know how I didn’t spill any of my coffee. He slammed the car into park and bolted from the car.
He rushed into his house, banging the door open and stomping up the stairs. I often wondered how it was that he had gotten not one but two people to live with him. I couldn’t have done it. I suppose the size of the home sold itself. An annoying housemate was a small price to pay compared to the amenities of the home.
I closed and locked up the front door. I tried to climb the stairs quietly even though it didn’t matter. I was sure that if Miguel’s housemates had been sleeping, there was no way that they still were. I could hear him destroying the living room from the front door.
By the time I got up to the living room, he was nearly done ransacking it. The couch cushions were strewn about and the coffee table had been cleared, its contents thrown all over the floor. He was busy throwing things from the shelves of the entertainment center when I entered the room.
“Miguel,” I hissed. “Keep it down.”
“Look in the drawers, will ya?” was all he said in reply before heading to his bedroom.
I didn’t have a chance to search the drawers of the entertainment center because that was when Ruben came charging into the living room swinging a baseball bat. If I hadn’t gotten that coffee, I probably would not have been able to duck out of the way of the damn thing.
“Ruben! Chill out!” I cried out, lying on the floor to avoid the bat.
“Carmen? What the fuck is going on? What did you do?!” he demanded, holding the bat as if he were ready to swing it again.
“It wasn’t me. It was Miguel,” I said, not moving.
“Miguel? What’s that asshole up to?” he asked and before I could answer, he ran over to Miguel’s bedroom, bat at the ready.
I hurried after them to make sure that the bat didn’t come into play. When I reached Miguel’s room it was half-destroyed and he and Ruben were shouting at each other.
“What the hell is the matter with you?” Ruben was demanding.
“I’m looking for my ticket,” Miguel snapped, still throwing things around his room.
“A ticket? You woke me up for a ticket?” And with that, he swung the bat backwards, ready to hit Miguel.
“Hey!” I cried out, jumping forward and grabbing the bat in mid-swing. “What are you doing?”
“I am so tired of your shit, Miguel,” he said, ignoring me and stepping closer to him.
But Miguel only ignored him, still searching his room. “Yeah, yeah, I’ll take it off your rent,” he muttered.
He might have thought he was being helpful, but that was definitely the wrong thing to say. Ruben grabbed him by the arm and pulled him upright before shoving him against the wall.
“This is bullshit!” he screamed. “You’re the worst roommate ever! You come home, make all kinds of noise and tear up the house and—“
“I said,” Miguel snapped, pushing him away, “I’m looking for my ticket.”
“What stupid ticket!?” the last word was punctuated with a shove of Miguel back into the wall.
“My lottery ticket,” he answered. And then a thought occurred to him: if it wasn’t in his wallet and he hadn’t found it yet, someone else had it. He didn’t say any of this out loud, but I know how his mind works. I could see the hamster running around the wheel. He grabbed Ruben by the neck and shoved him into the wall. “You took it, didn’t you?” he demanded, holding him against the wall.
“I didn’t take anything. You’re crazy,” Ruben snapped.
Miguel let his grip loose and then shoved him back into the wall. “I want my ticket back.”
“Hey, hey,” I said, tugging at Miguel from behind. “He said he doesn’t have it. He doesn’t even know what you’re talking about. Stop it.”
It took him a minute, but eventually he let his housemate go and took a step back. He started to go back to searching for his ticket, but I cleared my throat. He glanced up at me and sighed. He turned to face Ruben, but instead he got a fist in the face which knocked him onto his bed.
“I was gonna apologize, you jerk!” he screamed into his bed.
“Hey! What the hell is going on in here!” a new voice screamed from the doorway. It was Mya, the third housemate. “What happened to the living room?” She saw Miguel on the bed, holding his face and Ruben who had picked up the bat again and then turned to look at me.
I sighed. “Miguel won the lottery and he can’t find his ticket so we came here to look for it. He got a little loud—“
“A little loud! This jerk—“ Ruben interrupted, but I held up my hand.
“He got a little loud and Ruben woke up and they started fighting,” I finished.
She turned to look at Miguel. “You didn’t lose your ticket.”
He jumped off the bed. “You know where it is?”
“Yeah, and so do you,” she answered.
“What do you mean?” I asked.
“You were watching TV and when the numbers were announced, you went all crazy, screaming and everything. Ray was over and he went out to see what you were doing and you showed him your ticket and then you ran out of here.”
“You gave your ticket to her boyfriend?” I asked.
“I-I-“ he stuttered.
“You asshole! You gave your ticket away and woke me up for nothing!” Ruben cried out and tried to go after Miguel again with the bat. Luckily, Mya was close enough to stop him.
“I didn’t give it to him,” Miguel finally said. “I showed it to him.”
“And then you left,” Mya reminded him.
“Where’d you go?” I asked even though I already knew the answer.
“I went down the road to the bar where Rick and the guys were at,” he said. “I bought everyone a couple rounds of shots, had a drink or two…”
“And then you came to my apartment.”
“Wait a second,” I said. “If you showed Ray the ticket and then left, where is Ray now?”
We all turned to look at Mya hoping she knew the whereabouts of her boyfriend.
It was Mya’s turn to stutter. “I – I –“
“Mya,” Miguel cut in. “Where,” he began to step closer to her, “is your boyfriend?” By the time he finished his question he was just inches away from her face.
“He took off.” She shrugged, as if that were a good enough answer.
“He didn’t tell you where he was going?” Miguel demanded. He began to open and clench his fists again.
“No, I –“
Before she could finish, Miguel interrupted her with a string of expletives both in Spanish and English. Luckily his clenched fists found their way to his pillow and not in Mya’s face. I’d never seen Miguel this worked up and I wasn’t sure what he would do next.
“I’ll call Rick. Maybe Ray went down to the bar,” I suggested. “Give me your phone, Miguel.”
Rick confirmed that yes, Ray was there and he had ordered three bottles of Patron (one for himself, one for Rick and the last for the guys to share) and drinks for everyone else who was there at the bar.
I could just picture Ray strutting into the bar and shouting out, “And the drinks are on me!” like they do in the movies.
“That asshole has got my ticket! He’s spending my money!” Miguel cried out, still punching his pillow.
“Well, technically, he—“ Mya put in, but stopped when she saw that Miguel wasn’t listening to her. He was too busy snatching the bat out of Ruben’s hand and was running to his car. “Miguel, no!” she screamed, chasing after him.
“I’ll drive!” Ruben called out, joining in the chase.
I sighed. It was too early for this shit. Reluctantly, I followed everyone. I couldn’t just go home; I had to see how this played out.
Miguel was already gone by the time we all got outside so the three of us climbed into Ruben’s car. Mya was trying to text Ray to warn him about Miguel, but her hands were shaking too much.
We pulled up to the bar just in time to see Miguel walking in, bat in his hand. Mya and I each jumped out of the car before Ruben even put it in park.
Inside the bar, Miguel had found Ray and was screaming at him, switching between his two languages. I didn’t hear what Ray said to him, but I did see Miguel tense up and begin to swing the bat.
“Miguel! No!” Mya and I cried out.
He got in one good whack in Ray’s gut before Bubba the bouncer slammed into him, knocking him down to the ground. He laid on him, yelling out for the bartender to call the cops.
Ray, having recovered from the hit Miguel had delivered to his midsection, began to kick Miguel while Bubba was on top of him. Before Bubba could get up to stop Ray, I saw Rick charge at him, knocking Ray into a bar stool, which fell with both of them to the ground.
I tried to go over to Miguel to check on him, but chaos erupted:
People began shouting at each other. I could hear glass breaking and I saw random people begin to throw punches. I had to push some of them while I tried to make my way to Miguel. Someone threw a drink on me as I forced my way through the sudden rumble. I could hear the bartender shouting but couldn’t make out the words over the noise. He gave up shouting though as someone threw a beer bottle in his direction. He ducked in time for the bottle to miss and shatter against the wall behind the bar. Out of the corner of my eye I saw someone break a pool cue on someone else’s back. I had finally reached Miguel and was trying to ask if he was okay when I thought I heard sirens.
“We need to get out of here,” I tried to yell over the crowd.
He shook his head and I couldn’t make out the words but I thought I saw his lips form the words “my ticket.”
I pulled his arm, trying to start the walk to the door, but I pulled too hard and we bumped into someone who was trying to just sit and enjoy their drink. The person let out a shout and shoved me into Miguel. My foot slipped as there were spilled drinks covering the floor and Miguel and I fell to the ground.
The sirens had stopped, making me think we still had time to get out of there, but I was wrong. As I tried to stand, the bartender must’ve unplugged the jukebox because it was suddenly quiet enough for me to hear the cops shouting as they came running into the bar.
Shit, I thought.
Somehow I got mixed in with the crowd of people who “had started the whole thing,” according to what the bartender told the cops. So while the police were booking Ray, I found myself thrown in the drunk tank with the others the cops had picked up from the bar.
I was sitting on the bench next to Miguel who was talking to himself, grumbling about his ticket.
I sighed and leaned forward, resting my elbows on my knees. I was calculating how bad this was going to be for me to have this on my record when I looked down and saw a piece of paper stuck to Miguel’s shoe.
He was still going on and on about the ticket so he didn’t notice when I put my foot down on the edge of the paper to hold it down.
“You know what?” I said suddenly, sitting up straighter. “Fuck you, Miguel.” I shoved him then, hard enough that he had to lift his foot up, releasing the paper so I could slide my foot away, but not so hard that the cops noticed.
Miguel looked defeated. “Carmen, I am so –“
I think I might have heard an apology from him, but the cops chose that time to come and get him to book him.
When he was out of eyesight, I looked at the paper that had been stuck to the bottom of his shoe: it was the winning lottery ticket. I bit my lip to keep from screaming. The other drunks in the tank didn’t need to know what I had in my hand. Maybe I really would get paid back now…
Christina Ortega Phillips teaches English to international students at Valparaiso University. In addition to teaching, she has a background in journalism. She is a lover of everything “geek” and she is an avid gamer. She has written on topics as fun as pop culture and as weighty as diversity, marriage, and PTSD. She is a regular contributor to Being Latino. To keep up with Christina and her writing projects, go to mywritingdom.blogspot.com.
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