Sunday, April 24, 2011

Practice Begins

I mentioned practicing in my last post. Well, going through this book on writing that I'm reading are some practice exercises. Here's the first one. Don't be too harsh, I'm new at this.

Everything was going well on the flight. I had a window seat with no one beside me. The flight attendant even gave me an extra pillow. How nice of her.

“Where’d the guy go that was sitting here?”

I started from my daze and looked toward the voice. Standing in the aisle was a guy, mid-forties, bald with a serious weight problem. He was looking in my direction, eyebrows arched. I rubbed my eyes and took a deep breath, gathering my thoughts.

“I’m sorry, what did you say?”

“I said ‘Where’d the guy go that was sitting here?’. Well, where’d he go?”

I could tell this guy was a winner and I sure as hell didn’t want to talk to him. All I wanted was to catch a bit of a nap before we landed in an hour. With the schedule I was keeping today I’d be hitting the ground running. I won’t have the chance to close my eyes again for another 15 hours, one of the great perks of my job-no sleep ever.

“Look guy”, I replied “I don’t know who’s sitting there. I thought I saw someone earlier but I’m not sure. Ask the flight attendant.”

“I did ask the flight attendant and he doesn’t know. That’s why I’m asking you.”

This guy was testy with my and all I did was tell him that I didn’t know who was sitting there. I did know that I was very tired and going to be pretty bad off if I didn’t catch at least a bit of a nap.

“Easy there fella. I’ve been sleeping most of the flight, which is something that I want to get back to doing. If you’ll excuse me I’ll be attempting to do just that again.”

I begin closing my eyes, shutting out the noise and light of the cabin. Trying to sleep at 50,000 ft with a bunch of strangers around you being annoyingly loud is bad enough. Having one of those strangers come up to you and ask a stupid question knowing that you are trying to sleep is something else.

“Hey asshole!” fat man shouted, “I’m fucking talking to you.”

I slowly opened my eyes and turned toward the aisle. There, still standing by the empty seat, was the stranger. I can tell that he was upset now, and not just by the tone of voice that he used. His formerly pale face had turned a shade not far off from the red commonly seen on a beet, visible capillaries added to the darkening shade. His brows were furrowed, eyes blazing. His teeth were clenched through slightly parted lips. I could see the rise and fall of his chest, pumping like an over-worked bellows. This guy was seriously pissed off and was looking like he wanted to take it out on me.

“Don’t you EVER turn away from me again! I asked you a simple fucking question, so answer it. Who the fuck was sitting here?”

I put up my hands and try to remain as calm as possible. With the possibility of violence from this guy I did not want to be here. I was stuck in a window seat, barely able to move my legs more than a few inches forward and back. Defending myself if he decided to come over the seats at me would have been a problem. I was completely screwed.

“Easy man, there’s no need for this.” Isn’t there supposed to be an air marshal on every flight these days to deal with problems like this? Isn’t that way the big hiring push was in the news a few years ago? Where the hell was he and why hadn’t he taken this crazy out yet? “I haven’t seen anyone in that seat all flight. There isn’t anyone sitting there.”

“Bullshit!” the wacko said. “I saw someone here. There WAS someone here. You had to have seen him. I recognized him. You have to tell me who he was and where he went.”

“Look, I don’t know who was sitting there. I didn’t see anyone. You sure that you have the right seat. Maybe you’re thinking of the one of the others further down the aisle?”

“No, he was here” he said. There was an immediate change to the stranger. He started looking less angry and more confused. The color left his face and went back to the natural shade of too pale. His brows were still furrowed, but they shifted from anger to concentration. “He has to be here, I saw him. I saw him right here.”

Now this guy had my attention. He was clearly upset about something. He truly believed that someone had been sitting there, someone that he knew. Or someone that he thought he recognized. And that’s when the late marshal showed up.

“Is there a problem here sir?” the marshal asked the stranger.

The stranger looked dumbly at the marshal, his face beyond pale. “He’s on this plane, I know he is. He has to be, because I saw him here. He was right here” the guy said as he gestured toward the empty seat.

“Who was here sir? Who are you looking for?” The marshal put his hand around the guy’s right bicep, ready to restrain him if necessary. The flight attendant must have told him about the outburst and he was ready, taking no chances.

“He was.” The stranger looked pleadingly in the marshal’s eyes. “You have to help me find him, he’s here.” Getting more frantic now, “He’s on this plane; you have to find him and arrest him!”

“Arrest who, sir? Who are you talking about?”

Seeing this exchange sends a chill down my spine. I know what he’s going to say before he says it. It’s my job to know things first, to know fact before anyone else does. I see where this is headed and wish I’d taken the later flight.

The stranger, tears welling in his eyes, looked from the marshal to me, and back again, his shoulders slumped. All I could see in front of me was a broken man, one that had obviously lost everything.

“He is…” began the stranger. “The guy I’m looking for-the guy I saw sitting here…He killed my wife, two days ago. And he’s somewhere on this plane. Right now.”

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