The story you are about to read is not true. No names have been change to protect anyone because it’s a pain in the ass trying to come up with that many names. Also, in case of emergency leave the glass alone, those who are late will receive no fruit cup, and, as always, don’t trust whitey.
Before the trip to Aruba for our 40th birthdays I had a dream…a long dream…and I wrote it down (in detail). It goes something like this…
Bocko jerks in his sleep, an apneatic convulsion. The plane bounces roughly, a pancake tossed by a high altitude spatula.
I look over the top of In Flight Magazine across the aisle at Doc. “Clear air turbulence. C A T.”
Doc looks back. “Meow, meow, meow.”
Bocko snorts and smacks his chops annoyingly. Back in REM cycle. Head sideways against a miniature pillow, he’s back in third grade and gym class is ruined by a hard rubber ball from point blank range…dodgeball; early child development Darwinism.
Plane settles and drones comfortably. I’m into an article in the airline rag. Weird, eclectic magazines these airlines put out; maps of O’Hare and Dulles, impossible half-finished crosswords, recipes for Cajun fried shrimp. Where’s the dissertation on Hungarian cabinetmakers?
This is an interesting piece about Rosenberg’s H-Bomb. It’s about how close we came to wearing faux fur babushkas and calling each other “comrade” in the summer of 1952. The author implies that asking Mother Russia not to drop a plutonium pile on the Big Apple was like asking Babe Ruth to use a whiffle ball bat. Seems things would have gotten messy in fall-out-land if the wrong people had their chance to sell out Oppenheimer and his gang of geeks. I’m not in MENSA, but it should have dawned on people smarter than me that someone would to try to infiltrate the bomb business, right? Paul Newman wouldn’t let it happen.
I guess team-Rosenberg got theirs though. They say the lights got dim that day in Sing Sing when Julius and Ethel walked their Green Mile.
But that’s another story.
Flight’s a big one; a brand spanking new 767 Boeing-style plane with the little TV’s that drop from the ceiling on command. Only about half full. Gives us a chance to spread out and visit…we’re big visitors. Two aisles cut the fuselage into thirds. Three seat rows on the outsides, four across the middle. I got an aisle seat in the middle, a few rows back from the bulkhead. Wifey’s next to me reading her 100th consecutive Redbook. The curtain to first class is closed, but flight attendants flit in and out, like actors entering stage right. Bocko and Patty are to my left across the aisle. Lots of friends scattered about this flight. Right now I’d like to see one of our stewards take the drink cart for a spin, so we can light this candle.
Our plane, and consequently us, are headed for Aruba. We all know that, all fifteen of us. We know that this will be a great adventure. We know a lot of things, us forty-something, Western New York snowbirds (originally). What we don’t know is anything about the Albino, or the Man in Black, or Tristan the Great, or even Mr. Shoes for that matter.
We’ll learn soon enough.
At 40,000 feet and 700 knots or whatever, USAir takes its sweet time getting the drink cart up and running…maybe they suspect something, like how you avoid making eye-contact with crazy people. The engine-drone is a sleeping potion. I battle head-bobs and try to stay alert. We caught this jet at, like 10am out of Philly after originating at The Greater Buffalo International Airport. It’s now high noon with no go-juice to prime the pump. Almost everybody else is out, short naps to preserve energy. Mike, Doc and Lory are seated to my right across the aisle. Diane and Lisa behind a few rows, so I can’t see them. They might be awake, but nobody’s yelling Yahtzee, so I don’t think so.
Gotta stay awake for two reasons. I nod off and I guarantee you I miss the drink cart. My buddies say, He’s not thirsty to the flight attendant and I’m passed by while everyone snickers and giggles (is that something people do…”snicker and giggle”?).
Also, I once zonked out on a flight from somewhere to somewhere else and when the pilot dinged the “fasten-seatbelt-don’t think-about-smoking” sign I jerked awake so hard I pulled a neck muscle (I also tossed a complimentary apple juice on a big, hairy guy who spent the rest of the flight sticky and pissed). So, I have a little phobia here to deal with…who doesn’t?
Eventually –finally- our stewardess swings by. We order cocktails. I get rum because we’re going to the tropics, and I like it. Doc gets beer. Bocko and Mike get whiskey (I can’t drink the stuff, makes me sick…another phobia, go figure. I see this whiskey-thing as a flaw in my character, like not knowing what kind of shoes go with Bermuda shorts, and wearing a brown belt with a black tie). Wifey and Patty get wine. Lory asks for a Rolling Rock and laughs. Stewardess doesn’t get it, and doesn’t get that she isn’t supposed to get it. I don’t know our flight attendant, she seems like a nice kid, but I bet there aren’t any diplomas in her house that don’t have a USAir logo on them.
Passengers mill about the cabin. Flight smoothed out, conducive for milling and drinking, so I sip leisurely. Over the top of my plastic cup I say, “Bocko. Swarthy guy, bulkhead seat in front of you. Looks at his shoes a lot.”
Bocko looks…not covertly, just squints at the front row. The guy looks nervous, sweaty…guilty?, all by himself in a three-person outside row.
Bocko looks back, “Maybe he’s a lousy flier with corns.”
“Yeah, maybe. I saw him board. No carry-on, but his pockets were pretty full.” I don’t miss much, when I’m sober
“Get’s ya thinking.” Bocko’s turns back to stare some more. The guy doesn’t notice…fortunately. I sneak a look at the lonely flier. He’s either Mediterranean or Arab, and awful agitated for a guy on a trip to Aruba.
Wifey’s in on the conversation. She frowns, hard. “Don’t do anything stupid.”
“Us?” Team smile.
Doc cranes his neck from the periphery. He senses something. “What’s up?”
“Nothing.” I don’t want Doc bulling through the China Shop…yet. He’s a force of nature, like a tsunami, or Robin Williams when he did drugs and you don’t unleash those unless you know you can get out of the way. Good judgment comes from a lot of experience…and a lot of that comes from bad experiences, if you know what I mean.
Our flight attendant flies by with a bag of trash. I try to get her attention, ask her about a certain nervous passenger, but she’s a busy girl. Her name’s Nikki Somethingorother. She smiles a lot. If this guy’s some kind of high altitude nut she won’t be much help. I keep that in mind and decide not to tell her about the suspicious Arab in 6D with shoe issues.
Want to make God laugh? Tell him your plans.
Another drink, and we keep half an eye on the shoes guy.
“Well, what are you gonna do?” Bocko frowns.
“I got a few inchoate ideas.”
“Inchoate? What’s inchoate?”
“Webster’s word of the day. I got one of those calendars.”
“What’s it mean?”
“Look it up.”
“You don’t know, do you?”
“It means imperfectly formed. Formless.” Patty helps.
“Wow…then I definitely have an inchoate plan.”
I look back…our boy’s head goes below seat level again, and I count to ten slowly. He’s still down there, which can’t be good. He might just be making out with his airsickness bag, but then again, he might not.
Okay, that’s long enough. Paranoia trumps political correctness.
Tray table up and I give Bocko a look. He nods, grim. I hope he’s got my back and not just gas. I’m in the aisle and by our boy in a second. He’s still bent looking down at his shoes. Pretty plain that he’s got something wacky going on.
How are we still letting these clowns on airplanes? Being decidedly Caucasian I am not one to expound on the subject of profiling, but we gotta start letting the grandmas on these flights and strip-searching the mustaches with deep tans and funky shoes…know what I mean?
Finally Mr. Shoes looks up. He’s in the middle seat.
I lean in, “Nice kicks, can I have ‘em?”
He’s confused and I like that.
Bocko’s up now and I see him reluctantly put down his drink. Bocko doesn’t like to set his drink down much.
I’m focused on Mr. Shoes, but in the background I hear a PING over the speakers. Captain says something about turbulence and how we should all stay in our seats for the foreseeable future. Mr. Shoes shows me his hands. I don’t particularly want to see his hands, and I start to flush him in the mustache with whatever kind of punch I can muster on legs heavy with rum and jet lag. I swing a left hook from the heels, all the time practicing apologies in my head in case this guy’s an Aruban diplomat with athletes’ foot or something.
The plane jumps. Nice timing. It’s too late to stop now, so I throw the fist anyway, miss completely, and get tossed onto Mr. Shoes’ lap
Meow, meow, meow.
PART II Coming Soon…