Today is the due date for this self-explanatory flash fiction challenge. The title of my contribution is oddly not a reference to Steve Weddle:
So Long, Stevie
by Gerald So
I cabbed to LaGuardia in a downpour only to discover departure had been emergency-switched to JFK. Another cab took me there, and I boarded with half an hour to spare. Middle seat, last row, Coach.
"Ladies and gentlemen, welcome aboard American Airlines Flight 1855 to St. Louis. I'm Captain John Smith. Honest. The weather is tricky at the moment. We're having you stay aboard so we can take off as soon as a spot opens up."
Great. Last week I decided I didn't want friends thinking I was too distraught to see Stevie off. This is what I get for booking late.
The rain kept pouring. Half an hour became an hour. Two. Three. I didn't mind. I became more patient as others became less. I had a lot to think about. Damn eidetic memory.
I'd met Stevie six years earlier—spring semester, junior year. Dan caught me singing "The Impossible Dream" before Journalism.
"What's that song from Don Quixote about a woman?" he asked.
I stopped singing to say, "It's The Man of La Mancha, not Don Quixote."
"Whatever. The song, is it 'Carla'?"
"Yeah. You should sing that for Stevie."
I looked up at Stevie. And kept looking up. She was six-one with red hair in long curls. After class, I called Mom and asked if it was okay to marry outside our religion.
When I worked up the courage to ask Stevie out, she gave me the "just friends" talk right there. Shortly after which she began dating Dan. My memory didn't go there, but it could have.
I had to let Stevie go. Look her in the eye, say goodbye, and not think about her serving two years in Nigeria with the Peace Corps.
"Ladies and gentlemen, we've begun descent into St. Louis's Lambert Airport. Please fasten all safety belts, and make sure all seats and tray tables are in their full upright and locked positions. Local time is 1:30 A.M."
Five hours behind schedule. At least five hours until the next flight to Denver, then an hour bus ride to Boulder. A whole day gone.
My legs were still asleep when we landed. I forced myself up and got my carry-on from the overhead bin. The man from the aisle seat brushed past me and ran forward. Maybe he forgot which way the restroom was.
The woman from the window seat slipped past me, too. She tackled and handcuffed the man from the aisle seat.
I was still processing what happened when she shouted, "Sir!"
"Me?" I asked.
"I believe this is yours." She held up what looked like my wallet.
My pocket was empty. I checked the wallet. Yup, mine.
"Thank you, Miss..."
She flashed a badge. "Federal Air Marshal."
I let her get a few steps ahead of me escorting her detainee. I'd seen her license for two seconds:
320 DAGGETT STREET
BROOKLYN, NY 11217
SEX F EYES BR HT 5-06
So long, Stevie.
Growing up, I'd take any chance to go to the airport. I couldn't help but imagine where the people had been or where they were going. This story was inspired by an actual five-hour delay on my way from New York to Denver. Fortunately I had two friends along, and we managed to keep each other entertained.
By the way, Federal Air Marshal Alice Oleynik was inspired by the roles of Alicia Coppolla, especially obsessive-compulsive JAG lawyer Faith Coleman.
Others Tackle the Topic
Patricia Abbott, "City Airport"
Cameron Ashley, "Airportopia"
Paul Brazill, "Warsaw Dawn"
Chad Eagleton, "My Airport"
Kevin Fenton, "Here is a Heaven"
Kent Gowran, "Holiday Stitches"
John Hornor, "Bangalore Shell Game"
Dorte Jakobsen, "Take-Off"
Dana King, "Shoeless Joe"
Chris La Tray, Untitled
Evan Lewis, "Skyler Hobbs and the Man Who Couldn't Fly"
Matthew McBride, "The Cleaner"
Fester McFardle, "Transgressions"
Dan O'Shea, "Two-Phones"
Bryon Quertermous, "Cinnamon's Last Dance"
Keith Rawson, Untitled
Kathleen Ryan, "Victims of the Night"
Kieran Shea, "Behind the Curtain"
Beatrice Underwood-Sweet, "The Airport"
John Weagly, "The Resurrection at Hasenpfeffer Field"
Steve Weddle, "Terminal"
Chuck Wendig, "Airport Bar Before Boarding"