The Anti-Midas Touch
By William Musgrove
I couldn’t afford a car, so I walked everywhere. The bottoms of my shoes looked likesanded wood. Each day, I visited the statue in the park. The plaque screwed into the base read: Marigold, Daughter of King Midas. Gold was in her name. As a kid, I loved the parable, envied her father’s god-gifted ability. All I ever transformed into was mediocrity.
I’d never touched the statue, was afraid of leaving behind greasy fingerprints. Instead, I sat on the swear-riddled bench and talked to her like I was speaking into a recorder. I told her about my scratch-off passion, how before you scraped away the silver coating anything could be underneath. I told her how I bought a bundle of them each afternoon but hadn’t won anything yet except for a few bucks, which I converted into more tickets, more luck. Once I hit it big, I told her, I was quitting my retail job and traveling the world.
The day I finally shook her hand I was walking home after purchasing a stack of scratch-offs. I wanted to say thanks for listening. I gripped her fingers and tried not to think about anything but gratitude. Then I felt skin, bones. When I jerked my arm away, she was alive.
She wore a white dress and sandals, had brunette hair. I’d turned gold to flesh.
“Marigold,” I said, fanning out my cardboard dreams, not knowing what else to say or do, “want to help me scratch these?”
I removed a quarter from my pants pocket, sat on the bench, and began scratching. She paced, looking every which way. I thought about giving her a ticket to scratch, but I’d just won five dollars and didn’t want to mess up my rhythm. When I’d gotten through the stack, I was down twenty slammers.
That was when I started thinking maybe I had hit it big after all. Maybe Marigold and I could go on tour, charge people to see the gold woman. Maybe we could sue Midas, the automotive service company, for using her family’s name.
I took her to a coffee shop down the street. Marigold headed to the restroom. I got us a table, where I scribbled money-making ideas on a napkin. A half-hour passed, and Marigold still hadn’t returned. I knocked on the restroom door, asked if she was okay. A middle-aged woman came out, said a woman fitting Marigold’s description had fled through the restroom window.
I ran back to the park, described her to some joggers, who all shook their heads. I went back to where she’d been a statue and flopped onto the bench.
“One day,” I said, wiping silver shavings from my index finger. “One day I’ll get my break. One day I’ll go places.”
When I realized I was alone, I stepped onto the base. I remained still, frozen, until the king himself scratched me into gold dust.
Will Musgrove is a writer and journalist from Northwest Iowa. He received an MFA from Minnesota State University, Mankato. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in TIMBER, The McNeese Review, Oyez Review, Tampa Review, Vestal Review, and elsewhere. Connect on Twitter at @Will_Musgrove or at williammusgrove.com.