Traveling Home from ThrillerFest

Coming home from New York City started out easy enough. We got on the ferry at Ellis Island, rode back to Battery Park, got on the subway, and rode back to Grand Central. We walked past the shops that line the train station and went back into the Hyatt. We got our bags and made our way to the meeting spot for the shuttle. It was only a short block and a half away. We had no troubles getting our shuttle tickets and it arrived soon after we got there.

We got to the airport with an hour and a half to spare before our flight left. While checking our bags, we found out that our flight had been delayed by about 30 minutes. Okay. No big deal. Gives us plenty of time to get through security and grab something to eat. There was no line at security. It was well staffed and we were through pretty quick. We meandered around on our aching legs, got some pretzel bites, and found seats at our gate.

We were early enough that there was another flight already waiting there. By listening to and getting drawn into conversations with the others around us, we learned that their flight had already been delayed by about three hours. A plane finally arrived for them, they boarded, and the waiting area in front of the D2 gate was occupied by a sparse few waiting for the flight back to Kansas City. Our flight went up on the board behind the gate desk, saying that it was leaving at 9:42. We had time, so we kept reading.

Since we were coming home from an authors’ conference, we both had a bunch of books. And both of us just so happened to choose to leave out the same book to read at the airport. “No Middle Name” by Lee Child. We were even still reading the same stories in the airport, even though we’d both started reading it the day before. Awesome book, by the way, but of course a review is already up in two separate blogs. As we’d come to amazing parts in a story that takes place when Jack Reacher was a young teen, we’d turn to each other and sing, “Tiny Jack Reacher, tiny Jack Reacher.”

Nine-thirty rolled around and there still wasn’t a plane at the gate. There was no one behind the desk. There had been no announcements. And our flight was no longer being shown on the screen at the gate. I turned around and saw on the departure board that our flight had been moved to a different gate. No big deal. It wasn’t far—just a few gates down. At least they hadn’t moved our flight to a different terminal like they did last year.

We packed up and relocated. Our flight had been delayed again, this time by a whole hour. We found somewhere to sit and pulled out our books again. Cue more rounds of “Tiny Jack Reacher” along with a few “Na na, na na na na, na na na na, na na na, hey Lee.”

I must admit, though—I was getting cranky. I’d been wearing pantyhose all day while we walked around the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. I don’t know how many miles we walked on our last day in New York, but it was a shit-ton. My freaking tracker died pretty early on at Liberty Island. Last time I’d checked it, I was at about 4.5 miles. And given the ache in my calves, I’m going to guess I at least tripled that by the time I made it home.

Finally, some crew people showed up and occupied the desk and started to make announcements. The fucking flight was fucking delayed again. Fuck. Expected departure had now been moved to 11:15. Fuck you, American Airlines. Oh, you want to give us little snack packets to try to make up for the fact that my flight has been delayed for over two hours? Meanwhile, three separate flights for Chicago have left from the opposite gate? Fuck you. Shove your snacks up your fucking ass. Get a fucking plane to the gate. We all just want to go the fuck home.

Departure moves later again.

Fuck you, again, American Airlines.

Finally, they got a fucking plane. People got off. They had to clean the plane and stock it or whatever. Apparently, they forgot to stock the snacks, though, because we were never given any on the plane. They only gave snacks to people who got up at the gate and grabbed handfuls of them. There weren’t any left after a couple of minutes. You know…earlier.

We got on the plane. It smelled foul, but I quickly got used to it. Kind of like when you go to the monkey house at the zoo—you just stop smelling it after a while. They didn’t dally much and we were in the air by midnight. I was cramped and cranky, but content enough while I read Reacher stories.

About an hour into the flight, they served drinks. Dude in front of me bought liquor and paid with a large bill. Flight attendant asked if he had anything smaller. Nope. She took a few minutes to make change and had to get some money from her coworker that was working the other side of the plane. By the time she got him his change, he’d pounded his drink and wanted another one. She gave him a look, but also sold him another drink. At least he had exact change this time since she’d already given him a bunch of smaller bills. I got my drink—a ginger ale since I didn’t want caffeine. My niece was asleep, so she didn’t get one.

I’d hoped to make my drink last for the rest of the flight. Sometimes I get a tickle in my throat and need a drink. I always-always-always have something to drink on hand, so that first hour of the flight was a little hard for me. So I had my tray table down, with my drink in the little cutout that is in the table, and I was reading my book. The drink cart was still moving down the aisle behind us to serve the last five rows when the jerk in front of me slammed his seat back hard and fast. It knocked over my drink, of which I was only able to save less than an inch of liquid. All of the rest of it spread across the plastic surface, spilling off of all four sides.

I yelled out. I’m not sure exactly what I said. Probably “What the fuck?” The teeny tiny napkin that came with my drink was saturated before I could even reach for it. My book jacket was wet. So was my dress, my shoes, my phone, and other assorted items in my purse. I swiped at the fluid on the tray, flinging it against the wall. I hoped that it splashed off of the wall and onto him. He slowly raised the seat upright.

“What the hell, man? You don’t give any warning or anything? Have you never heard of common courtesy? You just throw your seat back hard and fast right after they serve drinks? Not everyone chugs it, you know.”

He peered back between the seats at me. I didn’t need to see his whole face to know he didn’t give a fuck at all. The flat, disinterested tone in his voice confirmed this when he muttered a fully insincere “Sorry.”

I was furious. I slammed the tray table up and locked it so that I could bend over and check the contents of my bag. It sat between my feet, and I felt the cold soda in both of my shoes. “Fucking asshole. How about you learn some fucking common courtesy? What kind of monster puts his seat back in coach five minutes after drinks are served?”

He slammed his seat back again, hitting me in the forehead.

“Fuck you, you fucking piece of shit!” I slammed the heel of my hand against the back of his seat. “Put your seat up, you fucking bastard.”

The woman who had given me my drink ducked into my aisle. “Is there a problem?”

By this point, my niece was well awake. My first outburst had roused her and she’d watched in silent horror as I’d ranted. “Her drink got spilled. Do you have any wet-naps or anything?” she answered for me.

“We don’t but once we finish serving the drinks and get the cart out of the way, I can get you some towels from the bathroom.” She walked away again.

I continued a low, running string of insults, accusations, and suggestions. I was shaking I was so angry, and there was no shutting me up. I didn’t give a fuck that they were trying to sleep. My courtesy for them evaporated when they demonstrated that they didn’t give a fuck about the others around them. Like, seriously—you can’t be a dick to other people and still expect them to be nice to you.

After enough time has passed that the soda is soaked deep into everything absorbent, and dried to a sticky grossness on everything else, the flight attendant finally came back with some towels. They were all completely dry. Not wet. Dry towels to clean up the dry, sticky soda. Thanks, bitch. Thanks for the dry fucking towels right before the seatbelt light is turned on for the rest of the flight due to turbulence.

My litany of invectives continued. Asshole’s bitch turned around because she wanted me to shut up. “He said he was sorry. What else do you want? Are we gonna have a problem?”

“Look, we all had a long delay. We’re all tired and cranky. But that doesn’t give him the right to be an inconsiderate prick. What I want is to not have my full fucking drink thrown on me. I want him to put his fucking seat up—” I hit the back of his seat a few times to punctuate my words. “—so that I can check the damage to my purse and my brand new phone. But I can’t reach my bag until he puts his fucking seat up.”

He cursed at me in Spanish, settled back into his seat, and tried to go back to sleep.

I kept up the string of swearing at him. I called him a fucking monster, asshole, piece of shit, mannerless bastard, etc. I still had my last dribble of soda. I imagined how vindicating it would feel to pour the rest of it over his head—to see how he liked spending the rest of the flight being wet and sticky. But I could see how it would escalate from there. Punches would be thrown. Arrests would be made. Charges would be brought. Immense legal costs would be incurred that I could not afford.

So I breathed. In and out. In and out. I took deep breaths, trying like hell to calm myself. It didn’t work. I’d stopped myself from ranting, but I still wanted to stand up and pummel the top of that fucker’s head.

More time passed. More deep breathing. I managed to pull my book out from between me and the armrest and I committed myself to reading it. I couldn’t let myself think of that asshole, or I’d continue to fume. It was hard, but I eventually found my way back into the world of Jack Reacher.

It was difficult to not still be mad, though. I didn’t even have room to hold my book comfortably because he’d stolen my space. When they announced that seats needed to be moved up, he sat up, repositioned himself, and leaned back in his still reclined seat. The flight attendant had to come back and tell them both to put their seats up. No one else on the plane had to be told more than the first time.

Continuing to show their lack of common courtesy or consideration for others, they shoved out into the aisle instead of waiting their turn.

Whatever. It’s over now. But my mind was still brewing. What if I was a worse person than I am? What would a serial killer do? Could this be a story?

I got my luggage, said my goodbyes to my niece, my brother, and my sister-in-law—who had both come up to pick her up from the airport—and made my way outside to wait for the shuttle back to my car.

I remembered my phone, pulled it out, and turned it back on. Once it was up, I turned off the airplane mode, and tried to open Facebook. The app opened, but crashed. I tried again. It crashed again. I tried my email. It wouldn’t load anything. I was starting to freak out, but tried my text messages. It sent the message to my husband, though I knew he was asleep. Then the phone shut off and restarted itself.

That was when I saw the asshole couple again, making their way across the parking lot. A serial killer would have followed them. I merely climbed onto the blue shuttle bus and settled into a cushioned seat, fuming over my fucked up phone.

I was the last one off of the bus. My plane had landed so late that the bus even started picking up a couple of passengers that were leaving on early morning flights. I’d parked right next to a shelter so that I’d be close to my car when I got back home.

I wedged my bags into the trunk and settled into the driver’s seat. The familiar contours that cradle my ass for fifteen hours a week felt like home and I sighed in relief. I left the door open, turned on my car, and blasted the A/C to try to clear out the stale air that filled the interior. My old iPhone—still full of podcasts, but without phone service—got plugged into my stereo. I hit play on the last one I’d been listening to before I’d left Kansas City a week before.

Following the exit signs, I made my way out of the expansive series of parking lots and back onto the highway. The podcast that came on after listener mail ended was about anger, rage, and the control of violent impulses. Yeah? How incredibly fucking interesting and eerily relevant! I listened with a laser focus, which can’t usually be said of me when it comes to podcasts. It got my gears turning so hard, that I had to turn it off so that I could explore my own thoughts, motivations, and ideas.

I would kill those monsters after all.

Oh, yes. I’d murder them brutally, but I’d do it on paper. Okay, computer screen, but the sentiment is the same, right? They’d inspired a horror story. If you were one of the lucky few who got to read my “Death by Pizza” short story before I submitted it, this new one is way darker. You thought the dude upstairs was creepy? Oh, no, my friends. That fat Buffalo Bill’s got nothing on Sunchi.

Picture, if you will, a cute, demur, young, Japanese woman. She travels the world as a sought after sushi chef who just so happens to lead a secret life. Okay, a few secret lives. She’s also a talented, classically trained geisha; a bondage proficient, high-class callgirl; and a maniac serial killer whose victims are all assholes. She feels that it is her duty to kill people who offend her so that she can prevent them from ever hurting others again.  

I’ve reached a point in the narrative that I believe I can split it. I will leave out the darkest parts, but next week I will post the beginning as a teaser. And what will happen to the rest? There’s a horror anthology that I’ve got my eye on. I’m going to shoot for the target of 10,000 words and if I can get close enough, I’ll be submitting it. Woot, woot.