Downgrade – Lois Morrison

I’ve been downgraded by a no-fluff international airline, reassigned to the back of the plane, row 41, seat E, in the middle.  The seat backs up against the wall with no recline, my knees are pressing the seat in front of me and the tray table and I must share the same space.  Well, fluff me.   I’m stuck between two Indian brothers from Delhi who are arguing in Hindi right through me.

By meal time the warring factions have made peace.  They’re sharing food brought from home, passing little Tupperware containers back and forth in front of me.  The food looks like dog vomit and calf scours and it smells like……..well, actually it smells pretty good.  My fluff-free meal has no aroma at all.  By the time the meal cart reached row 41 my choice was pasta, or more precisely macaroni and cheese, though the macaroni has mostly dissolved into the colorless, tasteless cheese sauce.  About now I’d like to take a spoonful of that Delhi dog vomit or maybe dip my cracker in the calf scours.

It takes two hours for one hour to pass.  I squirm, I shift, I twist.  I feel queasy.  The Hindi on my right keeps scratching at his crotch.  I hope it’s not contagious.  The one on my left is picking at his teeth with a plastic fork. 

Whoa! The plane hits a sudden bump, turbulence, then downdraft.  We take a drop.  A loud ‘pop’ tips the plane markedly to the left before it straightens itself again.  Passengers break out in fearful gasps and panicky murmurs.  Interminable seconds of anxious speculation pass before Captain Van Dirk announces that we’ll be making an unplanned landing.  He does not use the word ‘emergency’.  The malfunction is in one of four engines and the Captain assures us he can continue to fly the plane safely.  Not to worry.

Still, I hold hands in solidarity with my two new Hindi soul mates as we descend roughly through storm clouds and more turbulence.

Lois MorrisonLois Morrison’s stories have placed first and second in the annual Butte Literacy Council Short Story Contest. Two of her Ten Minute plays have been selected and performed at the annual OLLI Summer Play Fest in Chico, CA.