Tuesday, December 15, 2009

City Airport


This flash is for the Steve Weddle Memorial Airport Flash Fiction Challenge. Daniel OShea is hosting it. For other stories go here.









City Airport


by Patricia Abbott

Her daughter had booked a cheap flight landing at City Airport rather than Metro. The only high-tech item inside the ramshackle terminal was a TSA system. There were also three vending machines— one for a defunct newspaper—and a TV monitor from the 1980s. Shannon’s departure from O’Hare had been held up by snow and Pam was entering her third hour of internment, made worse by the fact that no E.T.A had appeared on the monitor for over an hour. Even criminals received a specific sentence.

It was 10 P.M. and the building was nearly vacant. Two rows of empty plastic chairs connected back-to-back. Most people landing at City had a car outside rather than a ride There was no taxi stand, no porters. She could go back home, but it was a forty-minute drive and the snow coming down in Chicago was beginning to fall in Detroit.

She picked up the day-old Free Press she’d managed to scrounge from the trashcan. Kwame Kilpatrick’s face occupied most of the front page. The shows that had been on TV the night before looked promising. No snow in the forecast and the Lions were 2 and 11. An unknown assailant had murdered a woman waiting at a bus stop. There were more pictures on each page than print. Were they moving toward a day when the public would glean information through pictures instead of words?

A plane landed—coming from Philadelphia according to the flashing monitor. Although this was not Shannon's flight, the thought of some new faces was strangely thrilling. As passengers quickly deplaned, she felt the row of chairs lurch. Someone sat down behind her. Pam picked up the scent of Vera Wang perfume. The woman was a few seats to the left, probably waiting for a tardy ride.

“It’s me,” Pam heard the woman say. Was there anything more annoying than listening to someone speaking on a cell phone? The banalities of common conversation were never more evident.

“She’ll be out cold on her Ambien.” Pause. “Just go over and do it. Yes, now.” The woman’s voice grew a bit louder as an announcement about the continuing delay at O’Hare came over the speakers. “Just yank the cord.” She sighed. “Look, we’ve been over this a million times. You don’t have wait on her 24-7.”

Pam felt rather than heard the woman put the phone away.

The ring tone, two minutes later, was a song by Otis Reading. Pam couldn’t place the title. “Yeah,” the woman said. “Oh, for Christ’s sake, we agreed on tonight so I’d….” she looked around and lowered her voice. “So I’d be out of town. I’ll have to start the drive home in a few minutes” Pause. “Two hours.” Pam imagined rather than saw her looking out the window. “If the weather cooperates. Although maybe that’s not such a bad thing.”

Pam stood up and walked a few steps away, pretending to stare out the window herself. She could still hear that voice though.

“She can’t breath without that oxygen, you idiot. A few minutes probably.”

Pam could see her clearly now. Fortyish, a business suit, blonde hair, a bit slack from perspiration. Throwing her phone into her purse, the woman walked to the restroom. People like her didn’t do things like this. Except when they did.

Her hair was scraped back into a pony tail when she returned. Pam tried not to stare at her sweating face, her ravenous mouth as she devoured a bag of Cheetos, a diet Faygo, a package of red licorice, crumpling the bag and tossing it handily into the trashcan ten feet away. This was clearly not her usual cuisine but the machines offered little else.

The woman spoke twice to the bored security guard at the entrance. “Think the snow’ll let up. It’s a long drive home.” Pam couldn’t hear his response. Was she setting up her witness?

“Try a Little Tenderness"--that was it--played again. “She couldn’t be,” the woman hissed. “Did the paramedic tell you that?” Pause. “Then she must’ve done it herself.” …. “Maybe it was an accident.” …“That’s impossible. If she’d been dead yesterday, I would’ve known before I left.” …. “No, no, I didn’t check. Just took off for the airport. Never gets up before nine. Has a fit if I wake her. That’s why….”

The woman was pacing again. Pam only heard the odd word or two when she drew closer in her circuit. “Don’t tell them anything. I’ll handle it when….” She was too far away to make it out.

Pam strained to hear her, inching down the row of plastic seats one by one, turning the corner to get as near to the woman as possible. Stopping abruptly as the woman suddenly turned on her heel and clicked across the floor to retrieve her suitcase.

She looked Pam in the face for the first time—her eyes red, her skin ashen. Then she straightened up a bit, put a hand on her hip and said, “You weren’t trying to pinch my bag, were you?”

20 comments:

Kent said...

Great story, Patti. The end is a real corker, too.

Paul D. Brazill said...

'People like her didn’t do things like this. Except when they did.'Nicely done.

Dorte H said...

I like that! Hilarious ending.

Todd Mason said...

Worlds of pain, indeed. Seizing on the smallest detail, you haven't seen a PHILADELPHIA DAILY NEWS in the last decade, have you? Rather as the FREE PRESS you describe.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Actually Detroit has a new newspaper, which I haven't seen yet. Supposed to concentrate on local stuff.

David Cranmer said...

Tops Patti. With my favorite kind of ending.

danielboshea said...

Ah, a little delicious slice of human banality to counteract all the seasonal good will toward men shit -- love it.

Dana King said...

It takes an excellent writer to be have the confidence to allow essentially all the action to occur off-stage.

Well done.

Bryon said...

City Airport. What a pit. Love that it's now named after Coleman Young. This, as always, is a beautiful slice of your talent. Well done.

Charles Gramlich said...

There's a lady you don't want to sit next to on the plane.

John Weagly said...

Excellent, as usual!

Keith Rawson said...

I've mentioned before that you're my favorite short story writer haven't I? You never disappoint, Patti

Kathleen A. Ryan said...

I love being a fly on the wall in your stories. You set the scene at such a comfortable pace and provide such vivid details. I love the comments about gleaning news from pictures and the cell phone annoyance. It provided a great story in this case, though!

Steve Weddle said...

Wow, that's great stuff. The kind of vivid story I read and then tomorrow or the next day I'm trying to remember the name of the movie or tv show I saw. Then I remember it was writing. Great.

Terrie Farley Moran said...

Wonderful, Patti, just wonderful.

Terrie

Richard Robinson said...

Wow.

Evan Lewis said...

Nice work. Next time I hear half of an annoying cell conversation, I'll pay more attention. Could be a story in it.

le0pard13 said...

Well done, Patti. You go girl! And thanks.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Thanks to everyone. I've been gone most of the day and we came close to meeting our maker in an ice storm where it took us 2 hours to go 10 miles. I still have stories to read and miles to go.....

Chris said...

Great story!