L.A. SHORT STORY - Part 2 of 7
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Continuation from Part 1 of 7.
(c) 2018 - TEXAGONIA
"Put your change, keys and watch in the DOG BOWL!" the TSA agent barks at the queuing travelers. "Take off your shoes!" she bellows. "Remove your belt!" she screams.
Alex continues her vituperations aloud, "...and anything else you could use to hang yourself!" causing travelers nearby to snicker. "This feels more like prisoner intake, than anything else!" The TSA agent slowly turns her gaze to Alex, with upturned corners of her mouth. "You've been singled out for "ENHANCED SCREENING, sweetheart."
"Be gentle," I said. "I bruise easily."
"Bruise, meet Bruce," she juts her chin to an ample-girthed gentleman, who cascades generously-drooping folds of flesh from every one of his oversized overhangs. Large, tortoise-rimmed eyeglasses, brown-tinted half-way up the lenses, sit toward the tip of his nose, due to the low-set ears on the side of his head.
"This man fits perfectly, the tropism for a typical pedophile," Alex muses nervously to himself, knowing that the agents have been screened for ideal, sociopathic tendencies, and trained for optimal officiousness and contempt.
Bruce flashes a fluorosis-encrusted smile, gestures him over with a double-flick of his blue-gloved index and middle fingers, then follows him with a hungry stare.
Alex clenches his teeth as the pot-bellied TSA agent caresses him below the belt, punctuating the examination with approving grunts and admiring falsetto-sighs. He resigns himself to the only alternative to subjecting himself to the known dangers of millimeter-wave technology, affectionately dubbed "Naked-body scanners."
"Your daddy must be really proud of you," Alex casually says with a mild look of insouciant disapproval, "seeing you affectionately cradle grown men's what-nots. You should have finished middle school." The closet-pederast quietly slumps his shoulders in defeated acceptance, and signals with a dispirited wave of his arm that the groping session has ended.
Alex absently pulls his pants back on, and heads to his terminal.
The boarding announcement, to the uninitiated ear, resembles, "mwa mwa... mwa mwaba mwa," redolent of condescending admonitions from Charlie Brown's schoolteacher. To Alex, however, in his element when amidst sketchy vernaculars and obscure patois, understands without hesitation, that it is time to board the flight for LA.
Jaw set in determination, he heads toward the plane on the deserted tarmac, he shields his eyes from the buffeting gulf winds. His summer wool pants ripple desperately, as if throttled by an unseen force. "Had airplane engines ever sounded this shrill before?" he asks himself, imagining his skull about to crack open, from the noise. The click-clack of his Bostonian cap-toes is drowned out by the whine of the engines. The collar of his windbreaker snaps sharply against his neck in a blurring tabla rhythm, flicking out hybrid, post-colonial Karnatak staccatos, often heard in Wembley desi dance clubs.
The red strobe from the underwing markers cast a stark glow on his face. The unforgiving strap of his laptop bag, black and sharp-edged, slowly chafes its course down his shoulder, ready to clatter to the floor. At the last moment, he shifts it from one shoulder to the other.
Gazing sullenly at the two moribund batteries, he resigns himself to spending the rest of his evening tweaking his post-Descartesian treatise on the socio-gender aspects of "Go Dog Go."
While people are still boarding and getting situated, he nestles uncomfortably in his cattle-class seat, between a father and daughter. The mother of daughter emerges frequently from first class to talk animatedly with the daughter, only to return to her seat a couple of minutes later. Fellow passengers begin to notice with veiled curiosity and annoyance why the woman keeps returning from first class, sweeping the curtains aside, with great flourish.
Alex, continuously interrupted from his writing, beholds this spectacle several times, before speaking up in a beneficent, magnanimous tone.
"I certainly wouldn't want to be the one who separates you from your charming daughter..." he says, smiling at her. She leans in, intrigued at his lead-in.
"This is going to be a long, four-hour flight, and obviously you two have a LOT to talk about..." he continues, noting her growing eagerness.
For a final pluck at her heartstrings, he drops his quivering chin and gazes diagonally up at her, "I... I... I just COULDN'T look at myself in the mirror, having knowingly split up a beautiful family such as yours..."
She can hardly contain herself.
He sets the hook, "Why don't you and I switch seats?"
She inhales quickly, eyebrows arching, as if he were saving her life. "You'd do that?? For us??"
He closes his eyes, and shakes his head slowly in mock gravitas, "Ab..."
He alights from his cramped seat, extending his meaty hand to the mother, as if to flick her from shark-embroiled waters, and gestures her to his seat.
"...so...," he turns to her daughter, smiling,
"...LUTELY, ma'am. This is just the way I was brought up."
He strides up the aisle. Before reaching the curtain to the luxury beyond, he turns back, only to witness dozens of pairs of eyes, scowling enviously after him.
Sinking into the buttery-soft seat, he watches the stewardess approach, reading from the manifest. "Good evening, Mrs. Evelyn Greenblatt. Would you care for a glass of wine this evening?"
He smiles, as he pores into the last few pages of a Portuguese translation of Tragedy and Hope, "Bourdeaux, please."
Stay tuned for Part 3 of 7 next week.
Read "Part 1 of 7" here.