Saturday, June 28, 2008

Flight to Hell

The task was to write a scene in which you are seated next to Evil Editor on a long flight.

‘...and as for slicing straight across at an angle of ninety degrees oh no no I couldn’t bear to cut a sandwich like that has to be diagonally every time from the squarest corner and then all the way across but hey I’m a Virgo so whaddya expect has to be perfect for me boy I tell ya I went into this diner one time and the guy says what can I get you so I said how about a cheese and tomato with a dash of mayo on unsalted wholemeal bread and he says yeah sure so I watch him and he goes to cut at ninety degrees can you believe it and I’m like whoa man I can’t eat ‘em like that brings me out in a rash just thinking about it and another thing I can’t stand it when the bread ain’t buttered right up to the edge so like there’s bread with nothing on it pressed up close to your cheese or your ham or whatever so but never prawns or seafood oh no I just get this icky this horrible icky in my throat makes me wanna retch it’s like I can smell the water you know with all the salt like when I got drunk the first time on brandy and had to make myself sick you know where you mix up a little salt in a glass of water and gulp it down real fast I guess this whole sandwich thing goes back to my summer camp in ‘74 remember the camp I told ya about the guy with the blonde hair? Hey, mister? Mister? Jeez, somebody get a doctor. I think this guy’s dead.’


I was just settling into my seat when she tossed her backpack next to me and said, "Mind if I have the window? I'm claustrophobic."

"Sorry," I told her. "Emergency exit row. The last thing we need is a claustrophobe panicking and opening the door at 20,000 feet just because of minor turbulence."

"Bite the big one," she said, grabbing up her backpack and plopping next to me. She opened the pack and pulled out a laptop computer and started typing away.

You couldn't wait till we were airborne? I thought. What are you typing, your will? I glanced over; it looked like she was typing a novel or story. I caught sight of the first sentence: None of us were crazy about the idea, but someone had to kill Mendelbaum. Catchy opening.

"None of us was crazy," I said.

She looked at me. "What?"

"None of us was crazy. You typed None of us were crazy."

"Nosy bastard. Look out your precious window. Besides, it's "were."

"Madam, 'were' is a plural verb. Plural is more than one. Your subject is "none." Which can hardly be called more than one."

She turned to the man who'd taken the aisle seat and asked him to switch with her. He claimed his bladder problem forced him to use the rest room frequently, so he needed the aisle seat. She called him a jerkoff and returned to her typing.

I tried to stare straight ahead, but a compelling need to learn why Mendelbaum had to die drew my eyes to her screen. She was at the top of page 2, where I read: We were waiting on Murphy; he was bringing the cheese grater, which was the key to our freedom.

"Waiting for," I said.

She slowly turned toward me.

"Waiting 'on' would be if he was a customer in a restaurant," I explained.

She thanked me, but as she turned away she made a sudden leap across me and grabbed at the emergency exit handle. I fought her off until the flight attendant arrived and asked what the problem was.

"I suggest this woman be removed," I said. "If this flight takes off with her aboard, I predict none of us live to see tomorrow."

"Sir," the flight attendant replied, "I believe you meant to say, none of us lives to see tomorrow. I'm afraid you'll have to come with me."

As security dragged me down the aisle I yelled to the woman, "I must know . . . What happens to Mendelbaum?!"

She ignored me, typing busily away, in the window seat.

--Evil Editor

Out of breath and sweating, I slid into my seat as the doors were closed. “Just made it,” I said panting. The woman to my left, over whose delicate knees I’d just climbed, pretended to sleep; the man to the right of me hid behind his newspaper. I shrugged and staked my claim to both armrests: the God-given right of the middle-seater.

After the safety demonstration, I reached for my complimentary copy of “Plummet -- The In-flight Magazine of Wingan Prairie Airlines.” This month’s special feature was: Great People in Publishing. There was an interesting profile of Steve Guttenburg, the man who invented the printing press, and a retrospective of Marion Folsbream, inventor of both embossed foil lettering and those little round adhesive stickers. But it was the profile of Evil Editor -- the man who discovered literary humor -- that sent a shiver down my spine.

My neighbor, who had finished his newspaper and was now pretending to study the distant landscape through the plane window, was easily recognizable as the man in the story. I tugged at the velvet sleeve of his coat. “Excuse me. You’re Evil Editor!”

He sniffed. “Thank you for clearing that up. I was wondering.”

“Sorry, I mean, uh, I was just reading about you.” I pointed at the article. “This is so incredible!”

“I’m having trouble believing it myself,” he riposted.

“This is awesome,” I added. “You, uh, don’t mind me talking to you, do you?”

He sighed like a broken radiator and turned to face me. Facial hair quivered and pince-nez glinted beneath the reading light. “OK, let’s hear it...” He raised his eyebrows. “So, you’re a writer, then?”

“Uh, no. I’m in sales, actually. Industrial shredders.”

An enormous grin lit his face. “My man! Let me buy you a five dollar cocktail: We need to talk!”


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