Flight 101 (Burning Man 9)

Eddie Sargavy stood in the terminal at the Montreal Trudeau international airport staring at the departure screen. He sipped his coffee and shook his head. He hadn’t missed his flight this time. His flight had been cancelled. He looked at his watch then wondered why since the time seemed to be posted everywhere like an inescapable fate. It was 1:01 pm. Ironically that was his flight number. There was a bad storm moving up the easy coast and all the flights to JFK had been cancelled.

He walked outside the terminal and lit a cigarette. Just as well he thought to himself. Something in his mind remembered that flight 101 was not a flight to be on. He remembered other flight 101’s crashing somewhere. He finished his coffee and spit into his cup. “101st Airborne” he said aloud. The woman standing next to him heard and moved away. He thought about history. The 101st, the Screaming Eagles, that was the “Band of Brothers”. Among their many heroic exploits one was being an integral piece of Operation Overlord in World War II. In Vietnam they were famous for outstanding bravery in the battle of Hamburger Hill. He choked up a bit and wiped his eyes. Eddie was not a man who stood still. He went back into the terminal. He would rent a car and drive to New York.

Eddie flew down the highway in his full size, brand new Dodge Charger. He had passed through customs quickly as he had nothing to declare. Heck he’d been through the border so many times he felt like he should know all the customs agents on a first name basis. It felt good to be on the move again. Never mind that he was tired, he was on his way home.

He thought about his presentation that morning. He had ended up winging the whole thing. The more he had talked the better he felt. Eddie was a pro. It didn’t matter that his heart wasn’t in it. He was glad it was over with and the client, Truefoam, seemed satisfied. He had the radio blasting loudly. The satellite radio was perfect for these extended drives. No station flipping necessary. The October scenery in the Adirondack mountains was beautiful. He only wished it was summertime and the daylight would last longer. A glance at the gas gauge and the rumbling of his stomach told him it was time to refuel and grab a bite. Just outside of Albany he took an exit that offered gas and a bag of cheeseburgers within spitting distance of each other.

Eddie turned down his radio as he pulled off the ramp. He had been blasting a song by Tito Puente. He loved the Latin salsa and was thankful the satellite radio had a station dedicated to that sound. It was dark out now but the air was still friendly. He pulled up to the pump, ready for a stretch. Yawning as he locked the doors he went inside to relieve himself. It felt good to be out of the car if only for a minute.

Returning to the car with six cheeseburgers and a large coffee he noticed a car of teenagers had pulled up a short distance away. The music blasted out of the vehicle. He could hear the vibrations as he stooped inside the Charger to put the burgers and the coffee inside. What was the recent story in Florida? Oh yes, he thought, some lunatic had sprayed bullets into a car when he thought the music was too loud. It reminded him of a time years ago when he was with his precious wife Gloria, a beautiful girl from Cuba. They were taking a road trip in his Pontiac Bonneville which had come with a brand new 8 track player. They had pulled into a full service station outside of Baton Rouge. Birdland blasted from their car. He leaned over and kissed Gloria. Just then a rather nondescript man walked by. “Turn that Spic shit down!” he said loudly. Eddie complied, he felt sheepish. He was nineteen years old and had been married for a month. He wondered where that burst of hatred had come from.

He finished pumping his gas and pulled away. The music from the teenagers’ car still resonated in his ears. He liked a different kind of music but he’d be damned if he’d ever shoot somebody over such a ridiculous thing. “The world is a fucked up place” he said aloud. He hit the gas so hard his tires screeched. The advantages of a rental he thought. He thought about Gloria who had died of cancer years earlier. He knew she could never be replaced so he had never given it a second thought. He was married to his job ever since.

As he hit the entrance ramp to 87 south, Tito came on the radio. It was “Jam En El Bario”. Eddie hit the gas hard and wondered aloud, “aren’t we all our brother’s keeper?”. A light rain had begun to fall.

Get off the cell phone and Drive! — Jake Shween

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