Most of the people I follow on Twitter are folks involved with things I dig — mostly writers or artists in comics or crime fiction, or both. Which means they’re mostly a bunch of degenerates, but that’s beside the point. I’m finding it’s a pretty friendly community, though, and I like it. They’re every bit as fun as the dirtbags and misanthropes I rub elbows with in the music community.
Even though I’m not much of a short fiction writer (hadn’t done it at all until I enrolled in a 406 Writers Workshop earlier this year), I threw my name in the hat to participate in this little flash fiction challenge, originally posed by Steve Weddle, a writer (from Virginia, I think, which actually explains a lot) who also posts Mondays on one of my favorite blog sites, Do Some Damage. Another writer, Dan O’Shea, whose first car was a ’64 Ford Falcon with the 260 Sprint V8, did the leg work to round everyone up and make it happen. So cheers to both of those guys.
Anyway, the idea was to write a flash fiction piece around 800 words that had something to do with an airport, or took place in an airport, or something of that nature. Since I’ve been in an airport or two, I figured what the hell. What follows is my offering, as yet untitled. I suck at titles. I’m open to suggestions.
The man in uniform grunted as he hefted each cooler onto the conveyor. There were four such crates, light blue, lids snug with nylon straps, each with a bright yellow ribbon tied to one of the handles.
“That’s a lotta meat,” the man said. “About a couple hundred pounds or so, eh?”
Kirby shrugged. “I dunno,” he said. “Buck fifty, maybe.”
The baggage handler grunted, then straightened. He was winded from stacking the coolers. “Elk?” he asked. “Moose, maybe?”
“Yeah,” Kirby said, then nodded at the crates disappearing down the conveyor. “We good here?”
The TSA agent gave him a puzzled look, then said, “Sure. Enjoy your flight.”
Kirby strolled away, glancing at his watch. Plenty of time for a bite to eat. He remembered the airport restaurant was not far from where he checked in. There was a lounge – dark and cordoned off this early in the morning – connected to a large room with booths running along the walls with tables in the center. As he entered, the short, gray-haired woman bustling about said, “Sit anywhere you want. Coffee?”
Kirby nodded. He took a seat in a booth near the windows that faced the runway. From here he could watch both the plane being loaded and the entrance to the restaurant. He took off his coat, a thick, puffy thing he’d picked up at a Cabela’s store in Minnesota, with a camouflage print on the outside and a screaming orange lining, and put it on the seat next to him.
The woman – the tag pinned to her dark green apron read “Connie” – appeared with a menu, filled his cup, explained something about a special, and was away again. Kirby sipped his coffee and scanned the menu. Moments later Connie was back for his order; steak, medium rare, no eggs, extra hashbrowns instead. English muffin, well done. And a side of bacon.
While he waited for his food, Kirby glanced around the room. Besides a couple business travelers staring at the pages of the Wall Street Journal, a young couple with a fussy brat in a stroller, and an older couple that hardly looked at each other, there were two tables with fat Midwestern men also wearing camo outfits. They all could have been related, Kirby thought. Guys with a little too much money who thought flying out to the wilderness to kill something magnificent made them worthy of their positions at the top of the food chain. Kirby loathed them and their softness. One of the men, his face pink and blotchy, was looking at him. Kirby stared back until the man looked away.
His breakfast came. It was surprisingly good for airport fare, not the usual plastic food court shit he was used to whenever he had to fly. Probably because it was a small airport. He liked these regionals, the ones that served maybe a couple airlines, where the people that checked you in were also the ones who loaded and unloaded the planes. He looked out the window. It was dim outside, the mountains not far in the distance silvery with snow. He understood why some people dreamed of running away to the wilds like this. Or tried to, anyway. Few people could ever really run and get away with it. He knew that better than most.
Kirby ate his breakfast and, on a whim, left a fat tip. He made his way through security – a term thrown about loosely here, with the collection of what looked like retirees and empty-nesters poured into their smart TSA uniforms – and up to the second floor to wait to board his flight. Soon they were announcing pre-boarding for First Class, Gold, Silver and Platinum medallion members, and anyone who needed a little extra time to board the aircraft. Kirby made his way to seat 4A. He liked these Embraer 175 jets; the “A” seat in First Class was both an aisle and window seat, which meant he didn’t have to share any of his space with anyone. He sat down, plumped his coat up behind his head for a pillow, waved off the flight attendant offering him something to drink, and settled in to try and sleep away the two-plus hour trip to Minneapolis.
Marzetti was waiting for him as he cleared the hallway that dumped him out of the secure area. Kirby kept walking, turned right and stayed in the flow of people. Marzetti fell in beside him.
“How’d it go, I heard you found Mikey?” Marzetti said.
“Yeah, I found him.”
Marzetti glanced around. “Where’s he at?”
Kirby was walking with long, swift strides, purposely making the shorter, fatter man struggle to keep up. “He’s gonna meet us at baggage claim.”
“Meet us? What if he fuckin’ tries to run again?”
The pair reached baggage claim. Knots of people waited around the long, metal conveyors that tumbled luggage into ovals about the room.
Marzetti stood next to Kirby, breathing hard. He pulled a metal flask out of his inside jacket pocket, unscrewed the cap, and took a swig. He glanced around. “I don’t see fuckin’ Mikey, Kirby.”
Kirby watched the conveyor. A light blue cooler, strapped in nylon, with a bright yellow ribbon came tumbling down the ramp onto the conveyor. “Here he comes now,” he said.