Searching for Swimmers–Chapter 35
Jason cracked his neck, rolled his shoulders, and crossed his fingers. For the second time in so many flights, he was on the edge of getting two seats all to himself. Despite his failure last time, he was optimistic, though, he thought last time turned out okay. Grace had turned out to be a pretty cool granny.
The aisle had been empty for some time, and the flight attendants were closing the overhead luggage compartments. Jason felt lucky. He had already stowed away his book in the pocket in front of him and was thinking about sleeping on the flight. He’d had another long night with Louise, accompanied by a very nice bottle of Booker’s bourbon. Miraculously, he wasn’t hung ove,r but he also wasn’t exactly a hundred percent. Once the seat belt sign went off, he was going to ask for a pillow and forget this whole mess until he touched down in Austin. Once there, he wasn’t exactly sure of his next move, but he’d worry about that then. Now, he just wanted to relax and get a bit of a catnap, so he closed his eyes and waited for the telltale signs of take off.
His dreamland was eviscerated before it had even begun, when he heard a flight attendant say, “We’ve already closed all of the luggage compartments. Let’s see where we can put this.”
Jason’s eyes opened. Lady Luck had betrayed him, which was ironic given the circumstances surrounding his new found freedom. And just as he thought about the irony, he wished he wouldn’t have. It was ridiculous, but somehow, he believed it meant his freedom wasn’t quite as found as he hoped.
Still, Jason slumped in his seat, as much as the seat in front of him would allow. He closed his eyes and hid, playing a game of delusional peek-a-boo. If he couldn’t see the stranger who had just entered the plane, then the stranger didn’t exist, and wouldn’t be assigned the seat next to him. He did not know why he thought this would work. Mrs. Mallory, his tenth grade teacher always called on him anyway.
Jason’s eyes popped opened and his posture straightened when he heard a familiar voice say, “Give me my damn bag. It will fit just fine under my seat.”
Jason dipped his head to the right to find the source of the familiar voice. Instantly, he smiled. “Grace!” The little old woman bopped her head about, searching for the sound drifting up to her. Jason helped her out by standing up. Grace, in turn, shuffled over.
“It’s good your standing up. Now please move over to the window seat, if you don’t mind. I need my leg room.”
Jason looked at her five-foot frame and laughed. “Sure, no problem.”
Grace handed him her bag. “Could you please stuff this under the seat?”
Jason took the bag. “Absolutely.”
As he stowed the bag, he heard Grace snap her fingers. “Not so fast, missy. We’re going to need two Jack Daniels, stat.”
“Ma’am, we’ll be serving drinks once we’re in the air.”
“Guess that’s why the guys in the front row seats pay so much. When they ask for service they actually get it.”
“Uh, I’ll be happy to serve you when—”
“Get me my drinks now or I’ll go up into your fancy section and take it from the hands of one of those dandy boys.”
“If that’s what you want.” Grace shuffled toward the front of the plane.
Jason thought for sure the Sky Marshalls would have them both handcuffed within minutes, but to his surprise the attendant said, “Your drinks are on the way, ma’am.”
“Given your attitude and service, better make it four.” Grace sat down and patted Jason on the knee. “So, how you doing, Casey?”
“Of course it is. Of course it is. So, how you doing, Jason? Find the belly holding your sperm?”
Jason couldn’t help but blush. “Nope. I’m in the clear.”
“Good, good.” Grace pressed the call button. “Now you can get to fuckin’, have a baby proper.” A different flight attendant approached. “I’d like two, no, four Jack Daniels, please.”
“I will be happy to get those for you, ma’am, once we are in flight.”
“That’ll be fine, dear.”
“You know, you already ordered booze,” Jason said.
“Just getting ahead of the game, son. Just getting ahead of the game.”
The first flight attendant returned disgruntled, but with four tiny bottles of Jack Daniels, two plastic cups of ice and two cans of Coca-Cola. Grace put down her tray table. “Here you go,” said the flight attendant.
“You can take the Cokes back, honey.” Grace looked to Jason. “That is unless you need to water your drink down like a lady, hon?”
“No, I’m fine straight.”
Grace handed the Cokes back along with four airline drink coupons.
The attendant put the coupons into her apron pocket. “You’ll have to raise your tray tables into their upright positions before take off,” the flight attendant said, snidely.
“I know you’re just trying to do your job, honey, but don’t bullshit a bullshitter. If the president can have a full boardroom table on his Air Force One, this little dinky plastic shit isn’t going to cause any trouble.”
Grace was making Jason nervous. He knew flying the friendly skies was no longer a reality. The last thing he wanted was ending up on a no-fly list—or worse—jail. Jason turned his head away from Grace and touched the flight attendant’s sleeve. She glared down at him. Alzheimer’s, he mouthed.
The attendants face softened a bit and she gave him a slight nod.
Grace turned to Jason, “Come on now.” She pulled down his tray table and cracked the plastic tie on one of the small bottles. “Put your cup down.” He did and she emptied the bottle into it, then did the same for herself.
“You’re such a sweetheart, Grace, pouring my drink first,” Jason teased.
“Only way to get your dandy ass to live.” She sipped her drink. “To be honest, I’m getting a bit too old to be convincing men to live a little, take some action.” She put her drink down and looked at him. “Hmmph. Christ Almighty knows you need it.”
“So, San Francisco. Anyone ever tell you, you get around?”
“Not since I was a teenager, what’s your point?”
“Then why are you talking? I swear, men, never know when to just shut up and drink.” Grace raised her glass and clicked Jason’s. “To life. Maybe a little drunk, but all the better for it.”
Jason swallowed his drink whole. “That’s better,” Grace said.
“Yes it is,” Jason responded.
“Now, pour your own damn drink.”
Jason managed to down his two drinks before they started the inflight security video, which no one ever paid attention to. He had to admit there was some truth to Grace’s approach on life. Already, he felt a little better. He didn’t know if it was the company or the booze. Grace produced more coupons, pulling them from her pocket like a magician with a long scarf. Shortly after the seat belt sign went off, the second flight attendant brought the next two rounds of drinks. This time they sipped instead of slammed.
“Austin a stop over to Denver?” Grace asked.
“Sort of,” Jason answered.
“Well, get your answers then find your home.” Grace pressed the call button.
“Think you meant to say, get your answers then go home.”
“No, I said what I said.”
Jason leaned back into his seat and sipped his drink.
“Alright now,” Grace said, “finish your drink then get that shut eye you were looking for.” A flight attendant approached. “One pillow, please.”
“No more drinks?” Jason asked.
“Not for you.” The flight attendant returned with a mini pillow and handed it to Grace. She, in turn, handed it to Jason. “Here. Take it. Now drink up and get some rest.” She looked at Jason’s surprised expression. “That is, unless your dandy ass needs a blanket, too.”
Jason leaned against the window and put the tiny mushy lump behind his head. “No, Grace, the pillow is just fine. Perfect.” He swallowed the last of his drink then closed his eyes.
Shapes rendered into formation. It took a moment, but Jason realized he was on a plane and was startled by the female flight attendant standing over him. “Sir, excuse me, sir. The flight is over. It is time for you to leave.”
Jason straightened and wiped the sleepies from his eyes. With his brain only half cocked, he looked around the plane—mostly empty with a few stragglers. He supposed he was actually one of them. He quickly stood up and hit his head on the compartment above him. After wincing and grabbing his head, he searched the pouch in the seat next to him for his book, Stranger in a Strange Land, and found the pouch empty. Once the attendant confirmed he was conscious, she was long gone, after witnessing his consciousness. Jason stumbled into the aisle and looked through the open compartments for his bag. A few rows ahead of him, he noticed a woman with long, unkempt, wavy brown hair in jeans and a dark green halter-top. He knew her.
“Hey, I know you,” Jason shouted.
The woman turned around. Her face met Jason’s expectations. It was the woman from the bar.
She gave him an intense stare. “End this!” she said and then turned away, walked down the aisle, and off the plane.
Jason found his bag then stopped a flight attendant. “Where’s the old woman I was sitting next to?”
“What old woman?”
“You know the lush that came on the plane late.”
“No offense, sir, but the only lush on this plane was you. And from what I recall, you had row twenty-three all to yourself.”
Jason looked down the empty aisle to the exit where the girl from the bar had departed. He blinked his eyes, grabbed his bag and exited the plane into the Austin airport.