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The Treasure Hunt  photo

It’s been a long time since you’ve spoken to another human being. You haven’t reported to work for thirteen days and can safely assume you’re unemployed. Ironically, you left a message with your mother that you’re on business travel to India and won’t be reachable for the next month. This doubling down on lies makes you sob with abandon in the shower until you realize the crying might be due to the frigid water and the fact that you haven’t washed your hair in two weeks. 

Coping hasn’t always been your strong suit, but persistence runs through your bloodline. Life’s just a game of take or be taken, treasures in the hands of the longest arm and strongest grip. Or so your family’s taught, and family ties bind. Unbreakable. Indisputable. This you understand.

Newly showered, you empty your bank account of the $1,326 and sink it all into Facebook advertisements. Your ads say:

International Treasure Hunt: $1 million prize to the winner. Entry fee $500. Items list provided upon remittance of entry fee. One winner guaranteed (provided all items delivered). See Terms and Conditions here.

You paste a link to a WordPress page you have yet to set up. You’re not sure if your ad constitutes a contract for which you’re liable, but luckily, you don’t give a shit. 

In fine print, you add: 

Participants responsible for their own travel and lodging.

Two days later, you set up the WordPress page for your treasure hunt and, between gulps of vodka tonic and bites of Pop-Tarts, you get to work on the items list. 

Item 1. A photocopy of the log book at the oldest B&B in the Hamptons, page 63.

Item 2. A photo of the sidewalk in Manhattan containing a heart with initials L.S. and J.T. 

Item 3. Three profiteroles from the French restaurant around the corner from item 2. Note: the profiteroles must be frozen until delivery. 

You finish your last Pop-Tart and wander over to your empty fridge. You stare at the inside until the light goes out and goose bumps rise on your shins. Back at your desk, you wonder how long you can survive on profiteroles alone. 

Item 4. A copy of the marriage license between one Lisa Sandberg and one Jesse Tucker issued in 2011 in the state of New York.  

Your phone rings—something that hasn’t happened in weeks. Granted, it’s been off most of that time, but you’ve just now powered up and wonder what to do with a ringing phone. You choose to ignore it. 

Item 5. A copy of the deed to a single-family home in Westchester County issued to one Jesse Tucker in 2012.

You down the last of your vodka and decide to go for a walk. In Walgreens, you spot someone you know, hightail it outta there and head to the liquor store instead. You buy three packs of Oreos and a magnum of Smirnoff Classic and put it on a credit card you don’t plan to pay off. Back home, you soak in the tub, lean over the edge to upchuck in the toilet, then fall asleep partially submerged, the bottle open between your breasts. 

Item 6. A copy of the birth certificate of one Olivia Grace Sandberg-Tucker, Westchester County, 2014.

Your phone rings again, possibly saving you from drowning. Your bottle is empty, your skin red and raw, your bathwater like a martini. You rise up, smelling faintly pickled, dry off and toss the phone in the tub like an olive. In the morning, you find bits of Oreo in your hair and decide to change your pillowcase. 

Item 7. A memory stick with a YouTube video of Jesse Tucker driving with a double-D cupped blonde in the passenger seat. Note: Cut out the second half of the video after the double-D bra comes off. If the second half of the video is included, you’re automatically disqualified.

You log into PayPal periodically and watch the balance mount in $500 increments. Still light years from the $1M payout, you figure time is on your side. Plus, if you give the winner what you’ve got, there’ll be nothing left to sue for.

Item 8. A photo copy of the divorce and custody agreement between Lisa Sandberg and Jesse Tucker, 2018, in which Jesse Tucker retains all custody rights and Lisa gets only supervised visitation on the weekends. Do not include the mention of blood alcohol tests in advance of visitation or the four DUI indictments against Lisa Sandberg, all dated after that disgusting YouTube video. If any of this is included, you’re automatically disqualified.

You finish off the Oreos and spend the next two days in bed with a new bottle of rum. You’re vaguely cognizant of loud pounding but can’t tell if it’s coming from your door or your head. You don’t get up to check. 

Item 9. Olivia Grace Sandberg-Tucker, age 5, delivered in excellent health with a smile on her face, a large, stuffed bunny in her arms and an ‘I-Missed-You-Mommy’ banner in multi-colored crayons. 

Someone’s shouting outside your door. “Ms. Sandberg, it’s the super. Are you in there?” You wonder if the neighbors snitched on you again. The super mumbles something about your mother—that long arm, the strong grip, the family ties that bind. She can’t see you like this. Not yet. For precaution, you dress in your finest pajamas, take your laptop and slip out the fire escape. You head for the nearest Starbucks and connect to their Wi-Fi.

Item 10. The heart of one Chrissy Bulinsky, former Hooter’s waitress, now enrolled in Farmingdale State College’s dental hygienist program. New York driver’s license number D9182278. Note: No need to freeze this one. 

You order a cold brew and down it black and bitter. Life’s just a game of take or be taken. This you understand. With your back to the wall, you maintain an optimistic attitude about the treasures that await you. 

image: Laura Gill