Thursday, August 04, 2011

Flash Fiction Friday: if cabin pressure should change

How fitting that this week's Flash Fiction Friday prompt is to write a story detailing the consequences of being late. For I have not merely been late regarding the heralded FFF these past few weeks. No, far beyond mere tardiness, I have been missing in action. Buried in a muddy trench somewhere in the French countryside.

No more!

With that desperate declaration, here then is my re-entry into the Flash Fiction Friday brigade.

If Cabin Pressure Should Change

He didn't even know her name. Names had never been part of the arrangement, had never seemed necessary until now. A superfluous trapping of life beyond the Air Canada cabin, the telling of names would have burst the protective bubble that for the past half year had insulated their twice monthly encounters in seats 19E and 19F.

But even though he didn't know her name, didn't know much about her beyond the fact that twice a month she flew the red-eye from Montreal to Winnipeg, he recalled their first meeting with a sense of nostalgia. His pulse raced a little every time he remembered the first time he saw her, reclining in the window seat, book open but ignored, airline blanket draped across her lap. With her haughty air and the knowing glance with which she appraised him as he settled in the middle seat beside her, she looked more like she was ruling a small European principality than sitting in a cramped airplane on a cross country flight.

She turned a discerning eye to him, appraising what lay beneath his new white shirt, now wrinkled, sleeves rolled back to his elbows. With one shapely eyebrow raised, she tilted her head and addressed him, will you join me in a drink?

Four glasses of wine later, the aisle seat passenger snoring lustily beside them, the airline blanket found its way across both of their laps. As it had on the dozen subsequent flights they had since found each other on, both of them always conscientious about booking their seats early, she in 19F, he in 19E.

Lately, he found himself thinking about her all the time. Who was she really, how did she spend her days, what would it be like to see her on the ground? He envisioned meeting her in a cafe, dreamt of taking her to his apartment for the weekend, but she always refused his muted suggestions. No names, she insisted, you are 19E, I am 19F.

This flight, however, things were going to be different. His first thought, upon awakening early and luxuriating in the faint rays of the early dawn that crept across his bed, was that this time he would wear down her resistance.

The assured optimism of the dawn was now rapidly shriveling as he surveyed with dismay the endless rows of tail lights that inched along all eight lanes of the freeway. As the radio broke the news of the multi-vehicle collision and the resulting bridge closure 20 kilometres ahead, he feared the worst. When the deepening dusk on the horizon settled into impenetrable gloom, he realized that digital clock on the dashboard was moving more rapidly than the tires on the car.

There was no way he was going to make that flight.
Wally couldn't believe his luck, getting the final seat on the flight. He didn't hold out much hope when he had agreed to fly standby, so he was astounded when he was called to board moments before the flight was due to depart. He shuffled his way to the back of the full plane, knees bumping into his carry-on bag, until he reached the final empty seat on the plane.

He thought that the woman in the window seat looked oddly startled when he squeezed his way into the row. Out of the corner of his eye, he could see her affixing him with a perplexed stare while he thrust his bag under the seat, so to set her at ease and to make up for taking the last bit of space on the cramped plane, he turned to her and smiled. Good evening, he nodded to her.

She looked him and up down slowly, raised one eyebrow and titled her head. Then, a slight smile began tugging slowly at the corners of her mouth and she asked, will you join me in a drink?


Anonymous said...

Wally? You called the new guy Wally? He sounds like such a dweeb, he has to go!

Moxie said...

Great story! Color me very impressed!

Flannery Alden Jenny Shaw said...

Fantastic! I loved the line about the clock moving faster than the tires.

So glad you're back, Barbara!

Barbara Bruederlin said...

Perhaps Wally can be turfed off the plane in Toronto, Kelly. But the fact that you think he is dweebish because of his name could possibly explain why she didn't want to use names. Maybe her name is Dorcas.

Why, thank you, Moxie! I'm glad you enjoyed it.

Many thanks, Flannery! I'm very happy to be back in the fold; I've really missed the challenge of weekly fiction writing, and particularly reading everyone's stories.

Anonymous said...

perhaps you're right. Maybe I was just rooting for the other guy. Or maybe we weren't meant to like Wally because his was the only name we knew.

Speaking of names, because of my name being Kelly there has been mail sent to me as if I was a Miss or Mrs. I've been told I have a girl's name.

Unknown said...

Welcome back, Barbara.

WOW! What a great "mile-high" adventure! I have so missed your stories... they always captivate me from word one... and this one is no different.

I love the end... absolutely love it!

"... join me in a drink?"


Beach Bum said...

The assured optimism of the dawn was now rapidly shriveling...

The whole story was great but the imagery of that paragraph blew me away. I could feel the urgency.

Barbara Bruederlin said...

I know quite a few boy and girls named Kelly, Kelly. I think it's one of the few remaining unisex names. So fear not, your masculinity is safe.

It's great to be back, Veronica! I've really missed the weekly exercises and especially reading everyone's creative ventures.
I'm thinking of using that as my go-to pick up line.

Many thanks, Beach Bum! Although perhaps part of the urgency that you sensed came from the fact that I was madly scribbling (digitally, of course) to get the story finished before deadline.

Anonymous said...

I don't know if it was a show or a comedian or where I heard it but the response to "join me in a drink?" is "do you think we'll both fit?"

Barbara Bruederlin said...

Har har, Kelly!

Anonymous said...

He will not wear her down, not this time...

Liti said...

oh! The slutty woman on the plane!! Wally is in for s HUGE surprise (lucky guy..). Very well crafted story.

Barbara Bruederlin said...

She is not wear downable, Leazwell.

Thank you, TC! It was fun to write, because of course this sort of thing happens to me all the time!