Word Count: 1,163
We had been too tired to do anything interesting the night before. We mostly just watched some TV and read a couple of magazines. The next day however was a little more adventurous. Once I had showered and changed into a fresh shirt and a pair of khaki shorts Mum informed me that we were going down town, probably to one of the casinos. I wondered if they had forgotten how old I was. It was a well-known fact that you had to be 21 to gamble in America. At least, I was pretty sure that was the case.
‘You know there’s no way I’ll get in?’
‘Well we’ll have a look. We won’t leave you on your own.’ Mum replied. Doubt flooded my mind at her words. I knew there wasn’t a chance I’d get in.
We headed back outside into the heat and started down the road. Cars drove past, each kicking up a little bit more heat and dust from the side of the road. I felt the back of legs and neck burning already and knew it was down to my naturally pale complexion and ginger hair. I had always burned easily and it was never a particularly attractive look.
‘Oh yeah Joseph I packed a hat for you,’ Mum reached into her bag and pulled out a hat my granddad might have worn if he was still alive. It was one of those really old fisherman hats with the words ‘Gone Fishing’ on the front.
‘There’s no way on Earth I’m wearing that mum.’
‘But you’ll burn.’
She frowned. ‘Well at least put some sunscreen on.’
‘Fine,’ I relented. She handed me a bottle of sun lotion and I began rubbing it into my skin. It instantly soothed my scorching skin.
Dad had a small map in front of him and he was turning it all the way round. ‘I can’t make heads or tails of this.’
‘We should just ask for directions.’
‘No, I can do this.’
‘What is it with men and asking for directions?’ Mum sighed exasperated. ‘Oh look a bus stop!’
Sure enough, a little way ahead of us was a small bus shelter, completely empty. It had a timetable attached to the glass wall and the words Downtown Reno above it.
‘I guess this is the bus station we need.’ Dad reached into his pocket and pulled out a handful of coins. One thing that takes some getting used to when you go to America for a holiday is the money. I left dad to it, counting out the dollars and the cents and whatever else he had. I watched the cars passing by, every now and then meeting the casual glance of a driver or a passenger. I wondered what we looked like to them. Typical tourists? Stereotypical Brits? There I was, in my dark sunglasses and bright orange hair and slightly shiny skin from where the lotion had melted before it had soaked in. Mum was wearing some flowery maxi dress that she insisted she looked good in but I thought made her look twenty years older. Dad had taken to wearing the fisherman’s hat and was wearing these hideous brown sandals.
I spotted a bus coming down the road with the number 41 on the front. I looked back at the bus timetable and saw that Downtown Reno was number 41.
‘Our bus is here.’ I said, sticking my hand out. I wasn’t sure if that was what you needed to do when catching a bus here but it was what you did back in England. I’m sure the customs weren’t that different.
It screeched to a halt and the doors swung open with a reluctant groan. The bus driver looked utterly bored and viewed us all with wearied eyes. There were only a few people on the bus; an elderly woman at the front and a couple towards the back of the bus.
‘Downtown Reno please,’ Dad announced. ‘Not sure how much it is. We’re not from around here.’
Oh sure, my dad: Captain Obvious.
He handed over a handful of coins and the driver took what he needed and handed the rest back. He printed out three tickets for us and told us to take a seat. I chose a window seat behind my parents.
The bus jerked to a start again and I watched the world pass us by as it sped down the road. Reno was so different to the town I lived in. Everything was much bigger and busier. There was also the fact that they drove on the right here which took a little getting used to. I kept expecting some car to come crashing into us.
It took about five minutes to get to “Downtown Reno”. There really was no point at all catching the bus; we could have just walked it.
It was so busy here, so full of life that I was a little disorientated at first. I immediately clutched at my mum’s arm, frightful I was going to lose her. We passed several shops each selling very different things. There was a liquor shop, a pawn shop, even a shop that offered “Wild West Souvenirs”. There was an arcade just ahead of us with bright lights and loud music but we walked straight past that, towards a casino.
‘This one looks tacky enough that you won’t get IDed,’ Dad joked.
‘Do we really want to head into a tacky casino?’ Mum fretted. ‘You hear all sorts of stories about scammers and thugs.’
‘You watch too much Panorama,’ Dad replied. ‘Let’s sit down somewhere first and get something to eat.’
We headed over to a place called Dolly’s Diner and took a seat outside. Dad picked the menu up and began browsing it. I settled for a burger and chips with a coke, mum had a salad and dad got a Panini. We ate in silence, perfectly content in people watching. We didn’t seem to be the only tourist here; people with cameras hanging round their necks accompanied other avid sandal-lovers. It seemed like a real tourist-y place to go.
Once our stomachs were full and the bill had been paid we went down the road to the casino we had mentioned earlier. Bright lights decorated the entrance and I counted five bulbs that had been smashed in. I hovered behind my parents, reluctant to go inside.
‘They’re going to ID me,’ I said. ‘I don’t exactly look 21 do I?’
‘Joe, when are you ever going to be here again? This holiday is for you. We can just try it and if you get IDed we’ll leave straight away.’
Mum frowned. ‘We shouldn’t really be encouraging this.’
‘The kid’s nearly sixteen, he deserves this.’
‘Yes but what kind of parents are we if we try and get our underage son to sneak into a casino?’
‘Who cares?’ Dad scoffed. ‘We’re on holiday!’
‘Okay,’ I nodded. ‘Let’s do this.’
I followed them inside.