Wednesday December 1st, 2010

The exercise:

Today we welcome December with writing that takes place: in the airport.

Well, that was a nice, relaxing day. No need to write 2,000 words really opens up the day. Even if I did feel a little lost at a couple points.

This afternoon I finished up the interior window trim (with help from my lovely assistant Kat) and this evening Kat's dad and I got the bathroom another big step towards completion. So all that's left right now before we can move in: a good deal of painting, some sealing work in the bathroom, install new kitchen counter, and putting in the laminate flooring.

That sounds like a lot, but compared to where we started it feels like hardly anything to me.


The man stands staring blankly at the black and white television displaying departure and arrival times. His flight has been delayed, again. He is unsure if this is the sixth or seventh time, and even less sure if the number matters.

He needs a shower, a fresh change of clothes, some sleep. But he has access to none of those things. The airport is rustic, to be kind, and there are no showering facilities to be found. His luggage is being held captive by the airline, or the baggage handlers, or someone. It doesn't matter - whoever has it, that person isn't him. And sleep? He is on his own, with unscrupulous men all around (not least of whom is the security guard). Falling asleep means getting robbed, at best.

So he continues to stand, flies circling his head, cigarette smoke polluting his nostrils. He just wants to get home but is beginning to despair of ever seeing his front door again.

Then the power goes out in the entire building, casting everything and everyone into darkness, and the man's day somehow manages to get worse.


Watermark said...

I got carried away again and not sure where it's all heading but here goes:

In the airport

She sat in the airport lounge, a new book in hand, sipping small amounts of coffee. It was still early she could tell, as she sat at a table edged against the floor to ceiling windows in the café. Daylight was still struggling to make an entrance outside and the grey clouds were not helping. It was a habit she had acquired over the years. Get to the airport early, pick a random book from the bookshop and spend the rest of her waiting time making its acquaintance. Not that the book this time was capturing her interest much, it was the family standing in the queue in front of her that did however.

Her eyes kept drifting off the pages of her new and still unfamiliar possession to the man standing in the queue. His face spoke of an uncanny resemblance that sent her blood rushing like a turbulent current in her veins and her heart missing a beat. The resemblance was so strong that she caught herself staring at him intently several times before forcing her gaze back to the book that she was still holding. All she could see were words floating randomly on a lonely page. Her mind was elsewhere. Voices and announcements around her were no more. Her surroundings suddenly shrunk into a pigeonhole view until all she could see was a distant memory playing catch with her.

It could not possibly be him. Leo had died in that car accident years ago. She had attended his funeral herself. It had taken her years of healing to finally get used to life without him. Perhaps she just missed him. She flicked another glance at the man, this time convincing herself that his features were nothing like Leo’s; that his mannerisms spoke of a different person. Sighing, she dropped the book on the table shut, looked out of the window and reached for her coffee, inhaling its sweet aroma, wishing it would take her elsewhere.

“Honey, did I keep you waiting?”

She turned her head and felt her hairs stand on end. It was his voice, his smell and the way he made her feel that all came rushing back to her. Her mouth dropped in disbelief as the man gave her a quick kiss before pulling a chair to sit across from her.

“The souvenir shop was mad. You’d think at this hour people would have other things than shopping on their minds. Anyway, I found this…” he continued talking but she had stopped listening after that point.

The man she had been staring at moments ago had just called her honey, had just given her a kiss and was now sitting with her, chatting casually. The man she had mistaken for Leo. Or was this Leo? Or was this man pretending to be Leo? Her head throbbed at the temples and she felt herself spinning like she was caught in a multidimensional whirlpool. That was the last thing she remembered before she passed out.

Greg said...

@Watermark: wow, that's a great little mystery you have going on there! I think I might have left the last line off myself, and kept the reader guessing about how your protagonist reacts, but your line is no bad choice. I think you've depicted the airport well too, it certainly brings back memories of many airports I've been too.

@Marc: Do you find that having a deadline each day (such as writing 2000 words) is better or worse than just writing as you please? I've always found that setting the deadline means the writing will get done, but I also feel more relaxed if there isn't one.
Congratulations on getting this far with the cabin! It sounds like there's more painting to do than anything else, but that's comparatively easy now!
I like your description of the airport a lot, though I've not been in that situation (yet). Is it based on a real experience?

The airport
"I'm sorry Sir, but I don't think you have a reservation on this flight." The woman at the desk was smiling and trying to be nice but her feet hurt from wearing heels for the last eight hours. The man in front of her thrust his ticket at her again.
"Look, this isn't for this fli--" she paused. The ticket was definitely for this flight now, but she was certain it hadn't been when she first looked at it. Oh well, when in doubt, put it through the computer.
The computer beeped.
"Oh. I'm sorry Sir," she knew she didn't sound sorry at all, "there must have been a computer error."
She checked the ticket one last time, to see if it had changed again but it now it was staying the same.
"That's an unusual name," she said, half to herself.
"Teapot," said the man as he walked through.
She looked at the next customer in the queue, a gaunt man in ill-fitting clothes and whose breath was like the atmosphere in an abbatoir.
"I'm sorry Sir, this ticket isn't for this flight," she said.

Zhongming said...

Marc – The vivid description of a man in despair is excellent! You had me thinking that the man is showing up in your piece (which is damn real to me), excellent work! :)

Watermark – I could certainly feel the wild thoughts of your female character! I love the way you write from different angle of her thoughts and what she was doing at any particular moments! :)

Greg – Great scene, I could picture how sorry she was and how angry he must have been! :)

In the airport

It kind of brings me back to year 2004 which I leave for Taiwan for a year long. It was an army trip, I was somehow being assigned to station there as a chief in the southern part of Taiwan, Hengchun camp (at first). Eventually I got transferred to Taichung, Puwei and then Meiling camp due to their request of me (they lack manpower apparently)! I think it is actually quite an adventurous experience especially for first timer like me. And it was the first time I ever travel and live alone in a faraway place and work as a chief! I get to cook all day long! So it was fun even thinking about it!

Then I could sense that they’re all equally happy and worried about me when I’m in the airport, queuing up for check-in on the actually day. But then I think they did great, at least they trusted me as an adult, a real man and a solider who is ready to lay his life to defend for his native country. I was quite pleased with their action. I can never forget about that scene which they sent me off in the airport.

Budd said...

Larry looks at the full body scanner. Not that it was a bad idea, you can't trust anyone these days. Also, you are so vulnerable flying, so why not have the extra security. Larry wasn't about to go through the scanner though.

There were only 6 people in front of Larry. He noticed that the next in line to be scanned was pretty attractive co-ed. He watched the scan operators as she went through. A smile and a nudge. Larry didn't expect anything different. Might be a nice job to have, but Larry sure wasn't going through one.

Larry's turn. He makes his request for the patdown known. The security guard looks at him with a look that says, "really?". The lead him off to the side and tell him to spread out lik an x. Ask him if he is carrying anything sharp like a knife or a needle. He responds negatively.

They start at the waist and pat, more of a rub really, his torso, chest and under his arms. They then tell Larry to lower his arms and rub the outsid of his arms. Then the rub down the outside of his leg and move to the inside. A smile slowly crawls across Larry's face. The go across the inner thigh and past the groin once. Larry holds his breath. Across the other inner thigh and back up across the groin for a second pass. Larry kind of shutters.

They didn't find anything. Larry wasn't hiding anything. He looks at his ticket, and hopes his flight isn't late. It will throw off his entire schedule. He has three more flights to catch before coming home tonight and doing the same thing all over. Those scanners can give you cancer, but Larry is really enjoying the alternative.

morganna said...

Bright lights, uncaring
Agents, personal searches,
Delayed flights, trouble.
Yours seems singularly depressing, Marc. Not that the others are any more cheerful. But very nice writing. :)

Congrats on getting so much done on the cabin, Marc. You must be close to the end.

Vicki said...

Los Angeles 10AM August 15th 1985. The early morning August sun beat down on the sidewalk and the white terminal as she sat perched on the trunk. He sisters leaned on other various pieces of luggage that incase the belonging that they were taking with them for the next 2 years. Their Parents had gone to get a couple of carts. A tear leaked from her eye. She felt weak and had not slept in abed for two nights her bed went to the salvation army two weeks ago and she wouldn’t return to her family home to live. The last two years before college would be far away.

She could hear the planes taking off and landing on the other side of the building. Cars were coming and going dropping off vacationers and the early business commuters. Tomorrow morning she would be in England. A second tear leaked from her eye

London 10AM August 15th 1987. She waved good bye to her parents and Justin. Her trunk and suit case were checked and her over stuffed carry on was over her shoulder her purse, ticket and passport clutched in her hands through security she clutched them. Nerves jangled her and she felt weak with lack of sleep. On the other side the security person complained that she had too much stuff in her bag and that it made their job more difficult during the searching. When she stepped away she realized that she did not have her ticket and passport. She had needed them to get this far but she didn't have them now. She searched through her purse and her bag. Tears began to stream down her face. Her first flight alone and she had already lost her ticket and passport. She wasn’t ready for this. A Security person cam and asked what was wrong. She croaked out her problem and after escorting her from one person to another and repeating what had happened a call came from a plane on the runway that someone had found them. She was escorted to the plane given another ticket and sent to Chicago.

summerfield said...

Ruth feels a bit of panic as she swipes the passport on the self-serve kiosk beside the Lufthansa counter. The images on the monitor give her options to press and she chooses them diligently until the machine spits out the desired boarding pass. She pulls at the hem of her blazer and straightens her body as she makes her way towards the departure gates. She has exactly one hour to wait until her direct flight to Frankfurt leaves. Reaching the appropriate gate, she chooses a chair at the very corner of the waiting lounge, a vantage point where she can see everyone and everything that goes on until she boards.

Sunshine floods the interior of the terminal and it gives her reason enough to put on her wraparound Serengeti sunglasses. She takes a book from her small carry-on and pretends to read. A group of student tourists converges near her and her attention is diverted to their loud and noisy conversation.

Fifteen minutes later, the overhead speaker fills the lounge with an announcement: Paging passenger Ruth Marowietz of flight United 867 bound for San Francisco. Passenger Ruth Marowietz of flight United 867 bound for San Francisco, please proceed to Gate 3 on Terminal 1 immediately.

Ruth smiles. Flight 867 is terribly late. It should have left twenty minutes ago.

Twenty-five minutes later, she hears the call for boarding to her flight to Frankfurt and she calmly takes her passport and boarding pass out of her purse and joins the other passengers to line up for boarding. The ground steward scans her boarding pass and looks at her passport, smiles at her and gives her back her documents. Ruth proceeds to enter the gate. The security guard, however, stops her, asks to see her passport and requests for her to lift the sunglasses off her eyes. She obeys. He examines the document and looks at her before giving it back to her and thanking her.

Just as she is about to enter the walking tube to board the plane, she hears the call on the loud speakers: Final call to passenger Ruth Marowietz of flight United 867 bound for San Francisco. Passenger Ruth Marowietz of flight United 867 bound for San Francisco, please proceed to Gate 3 on Terminal 1 immediately. Ruth pauses to check the leg of her pantyhose and long enough to hear the announcement before continuing towards the plane.

Once inside and seated, she opens her passport and looks at her picture and the name beside it: Verna Guarin. Born: August 27, 1958. She smiles and puts her passport back inside her purse.

Heather said...

Marc- You have adequately messed up my morning routine. I was so use to having breakfast with 'Jerry' this past month that I felt quite lost this morning.

Greg- A comment from probably a week ago: I think I would be more likely to corrupt Marc than the other way around.

Vicki- Glad to see you writing a bit more frequently. Perhaps I will see you at the Sow's Ear tomorrow.

I wrote, but didn't have time to read. Sorry
John Luke had worked in the Dallas airport for 43 years and tomorrow was his last day. He hadn't exactly written a resignation letter, but he was sure his supervisor wouldn't be surprised. She was a touchy-feely-micromanager type, a personality he'd never encountered before. Julie was her name. She wasn't bad overall. She seemed to care about others and genuinely want them to be comfortable with her. But she had a habit of looking over everyone's shoulders and checking their reports three or four times for every incident. It was annoying and undermined the trust she tried so hard to build with her subordinates.

John lay in bed thinking about the drama last days used to bring. When Shirley retired, the company bought a cake and a few bottles of champaign to congratulate her on retiring. It was quite the party, but that was long before airlines operated 24 hours a day. He remembered Alan's last day too. That was a couple of years ago, close to the 9/11 disaster. Poor Alan. He was given a card signed by his co-workers and a fond wave just before the exit door. No fanfare. John liked Alan a lot more than he liked Shirley and occasionally wondered if Alan had felt betrayed by the company that he'd served for most of his adult life. He wondered what he'd get for his last day, if anything.

Looking at the clock, he forced himself to turn his mind off and go to sleep. Tomorrow would come early and there was a lot to do before he could call it a day. He had to gather his gear, clean out his space, reassure flyers with a smile (although that part had always come easy to him), and make sure he found Julie before it was too late. It was his last conversation with Julie that was on his mind when he finally fell asleep.

The alarm beeped him back into consciousness. It had been going off for nearly 20 minutes and John was startled that he had slept through it for so long. Quickly he swung his legs over the side of his bed and made his morning preparations before dashing out the door. The first four hours of his shift went well. As the sun set in the deep winter afternoon, he knew it was time to announce his retirement. There were few passengers flying out at that time of day which meant no one would be looking for him anytime soon and he'd have time to find Julie.

Going to his locker, he pulled out his duffel bag and retrieved first the letter that had been mailed to him informing him of the denial of his claim for work related injury and then the letter that followed it a week later letting him know that his name was pulled for the next set of lay-offs based on his most recent performance review. The exact date was unknown, but they would be sure to give him two weeks notice. Next, he pulled the gun from the pocket that typically held his clean socks. Unlatching the safety, he took a deep breath and headed for the small bank of administrative offices letters and weapons in hand.

Marc said...

Watermark - well, around here I like to think getting carried away is a good thing :)

Great scene, loved the twist - was not expecting that at all.

Greg - better for getting work done, sometimes worse for the enjoyment factor. But there were definitely days these last two Novembers that I enjoyed writing.

Not based on experience, but I've vague memories of a few small train stations in Europe that were not far off :P

I loved the subtle use of your two (awesome) characters. That poor woman :)

Zhongming - thanks! That's a neat little story, though I think you meant 'chef' instead of 'chief'.

Budd - haha, delightfully creepy.

Morganna- there is something about airports that just brings that out, isn't there? Ah well.

Great haiku by the way :)

Vicki - I really liked the image of the protagonist sitting on the car with her sisters around her sitting on bits of luggage. Very striking.

Summerfield - well, that is certainly intriguing. Very nicely done and left me wanting more!

Heather - yeah, I kinda miss the bugger myself. And no worries about not having time to read them all, today's prompt seemed to spark a lot of longer bits of writing!

Loved the character you gave life to in your writing, and the ending was surprising but very well setup. Great stuff :)