Due to a very hectic spring and summer, I took some time out of the Writer's Studio. I very much missed my Wednesday evenings gathered around tea, among books, with fellow writers to talk writing, books, and workshop what we had written that week. It was as though a crucial element was missing.
Now I'm back, and very happy to be so! It was a struggle to get back into writing, particularly writing in this format (based off an example to employ certain techniques). So here it is, the first piece back, with some minor edits from last night's critique (there is a great deal more than can be edited, but that will come in time.)
Prompt: "The 400-Pound CEO" by George Saunders
The plane made another sudden drop and that’s when the passenger in 23A began to scream. 23A was a fat woman who arrived with a teacup Yorkshire Terrier in tow because she couldn’t travel without her ‘Pookie.’ Her screeches were ear splitting and high-pitched. They carried rather well back through to the galley where we were sitting. Sheila, the cabin manager in charge of the flight, scurried down the aisle to muzzle the deranged woman. Honestly, the turbulence wasn’t even that bad. We had had much worse before. Nevertheless, passenger 23A continued to scream. Several small children, brilliantly deducing that they, too, must be in grave peril, began to cry and wail in support of 23A. Pookie, sensing her owner’s distress, took that moment to express her own fear by taking a piss on passenger 23B, who leapt up cursing. The smell of ammonia began to waft through the cabin. Sheila sent a withering look down the aisle at us and jerked her head in a motion that clearly said, “Get your asses over here and DO something!”
It took a good twenty minutes to get the situation under control. We relocated the passengers next to 23A, including the piddle stained 23B, to First Class. After that it was a matter of sitting down and holding 23A’s hand until she shut her trap. I was given the honor of hand holding. I sat there and talked nonsense in a gentle, soothing voice. I couldn’t stand watching her chins wobble as she released whimpers and screams or the way her sweat drenched chubby fingers clenched mine. I asked her who she was and where she was going, despite not giving a rat’s ass. I reassured her that soon she would be on the ground with her family, even though I felt they would be better off not seeing her again. I did it all with a smile. But then again, I was the one who got top marks in flight school for ‘passenger security,’ airline-speak for ‘how to deal with crazy shit at thirty-two thousand feet.’
As I held her hand, I tried to remember all the things that made this job worth it. Failing that, I tried to remember why I took the job in the first place. The career counselor who advised me was a middle aged divorcee. She said a pretty girl like me shouldn’t bother with college applications. Instead, a job with glitz, glamour, and world travel. Handsome pilots. Exotic destinations. All that for a minimal of training and no need to wait until I finished another degree. It was a shock to start working and find out that world didn’t exist.
While I was busy with 23A, my colleagues decided that drink service would mellow out the crowd. When I was finally released from the clutches of the wobbly woman, Sheila signaled me to take her place on the drink cart. That kind of work was far beneath her. I mechanically stepped into dispensing beverages. It was during this process that I felt a hand on my ass. I looked down to see a balding man twice my age wink at me. I smiled wanly, removed his hand, and moved the cart down the aisle, effectively trapping him in.
When I started work as a flight attendant I adored the attention I received. It was well-deserved of an elegant flight attendant in a chic uniform. I always accepted the invitations of pilots or handsome passengers (particularly First Class passengers) to spend the layover together. It wasn’t until I went to a party with a passenger, and woke up in the bed of his roommate that I understood the attention was not what it seemed. I felt horribly guilty until I heard the two men in the kitchen talking. My so-called date said, “Dude, now you can’t say I don’t ever bring you back any souvenirs.” Since then I haven’t gone near any man onboard, crew or passenger notwithstanding, giving me a frigid reputation.
After the drink service, we met back in the galley. I busied myself with putting things away as the Sheila and Lizzie busied themselves with chatter.
“Hey ice princess, I saw the guy in 17D was into you,” Lizzie shot at me.
“You should totally get his number,” Sheila quipped.
“Or maybe you’re more into the fat dyke in 23A seeing as you were holding her hand for so long,” Lizzie laughed.
Their remarks hurt, but I kept my professional smile, counting the hours until I could finally get off this plane.