I wrote this short story for my creative writing class. The rule was to use an opening line suggested by the instructor. I hope you enjoy it as much as I enjoyed writing it. 🙂
Chris began to question the wisdom of this trip. First, nothing went to plan. Second, his plane crashed.
It all came back to him now: the smell of burning rubber in the cabin, shrieks of a woman two rows behind him, cries for help, a deafening BANG! and an endless gut-wrenching scream above the din.
He jolted in his seat and gasped. Someone was tapping him on his shoulder. Chris opened his eyes. A young flight-attendant`s face was hovering above him.
“Are you Okay, sir? Would you like some water?”
Chris nodded, his heart still in his throat. The flight-attendant rushed to get him water.
“A bad dream, hon?” A soft voice asked.
He turned his head: a benevolent-looking elderly woman was peering at him from above her reading glasses. He recognized her at once. She was the old woman with the cat, and she was responsible for this mess. When they boarded the first time, the stupid cat ran off and hid in the cockpit among some stupid wires where no one could get at it for several hours. And when they boarded the second time, Chris was seated next to the woman, with her stupid pet tucked in a cat carrier under the front seat.
“I get them sometimes. Nightmares,” The old woman continued, ignoring Chris’s resentful stare. “I even scream in my dreams.”
The woman gave him a reassuring smile. Her teeth were white, in stark contrast with her saggy wizened skin covered with brown age spots. Dentures, no doubt. She looked like she could be 80 or 100. Her eyes though…
“Your water, sir,” the pretty flight attendant was back with a glass.
Chris swallowed water in one gulp and felt almost himself. He glanced furtively in the old woman’s direction. There was something vaguely familiar about her, but he couldn’t place it. He decided, she looked like a really aged Mary Poppins from the old musical. Besides, she had this really odd looking bag, and sticking out of the bag was today`s paper with the front page headline “HUNDREDS DIE IN A HORRIFIC PLANE CRASH…”
“Excuse me, sir?” The flight-attendant was back.
Chris turned toward her. Why did she have to be such a nuisance?
“Would you like some lunch, sir? We have chicken and vegetarian lasagna.”
Now everyone was busy eating lunch. Chris searched for the bag with the newspaper, but the woman must have put it away. He ate his lunch, stealing glances at his neighbour, while she was daintily picking at her vegetarian lasagna, smiling to herself, as if it were a funny joke, her cat getting into the cockpit and causing all the commotion and delays. There were a lot of angry and tired people, who had missed their connecting flights and had been late for their meetings and conferences — all courtesy of the stupid feline. Maybe after this incident, they will ban cats, or any pets, in the cabin.
As if she’d heard his thoughts, the old woman dabbed her lips with a napkin, and said,“You are not a cat person, are you?”
“No, not particularly.”
“Are you a dog person then?”
“Uh… don’t know, never had a dog.”
“Would you like to meet Casper?”
Before Chris knew what was going on, the old woman looked around to make sure no one was watching, then reached under the front seat and pulled out the cat carrier.
“Casper – Chris. Chris – Casper.”
The carrier inhabitant was snow-white and fluffy. He gave Chris a cursory glance, squinting his bright-blue feline eyes, and yawned wide showing all his sharp teeth and a pink tongue. Then he rearranged himself inside the carrier, so Chris could only see his rear end with a bushy tail, which meant the audience was over.
“He is a special kitty,” the old woman said, putting the cat carrier back under the front seat.
“Oh yeah? What’s his specialty?”
“Oh…” The old woman suddenly looked hesitant. “He can perform… tricks.”
“Like the one he pulled off just several hours ago? How many hijacked planes does he have under his furry belt? And how do you know my name? I don’t think I’ve introduced myself.”
Oddly, the woman seemed relieved with the new turn in conversation. She produced a business card that read “Chris LaLonde, Business Development.” It was his business card.
“I must have dropped it,” Chris took his card and put it back in his pocket. He already regretted his angry outburst. Besides, the old lady and her fluffy, if a bit snooty, friend, radiated such peace and tranquility that his anger melted away.
“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to be rude. It’s been a long day and I feel exhausted,” he said.
“No worries, hon. No worries.” The old lady purred.
Chris closed his eyes. Although he was quite spent, he didn’t want to fall asleep, lest he had the same horrible dream and screamed again. The dream seemed so vivid though, almost real, and the acrid taste of burnt rubber was still flickering on his tongue. Deep in his reverie, he missed the point when his thoughts turned from his nightmare to the old lady. Why was she traveling alone? Why would she bring her cat along? Wouldn’t it be better for everyone, including the cat, if it had been left at home? Cats can do that; they are not as attached to their owners as dogs are. Maybe the woman was moving in with her children, or grand children, and couldn’t leave her beloved cat behind. Something about her was still tugging at Chris. It must have been her eyes, so blue, so clear, so young, so out of place on her wizened face.
By the gate, waiting for him was Irene, young and pretty, beaming with joy, her lovely blue eyes deep with love and affection. She kissed him passionately and hugged as if they haven’t seen each other for an eternity.
“Let’s go home. I’ve a surprise for you.”
When they got to their little cozy apartment on a quiet street, Irene opened the door with her key, and asked Chris to cover his eyes. He heard rustling in the kitchen; then Irene moved to the living room and called out softly; then she was back and instructed him to open his eyes. He did. Staring at him were two blue buttons on a tiny ball of white fur. The furball yawned wide showing his pink tongue and tiny sharp teeth.
“Casper – Chris. Chris – Casper,” Irene announced and kissed the cute little creature on its face. “I found him on the doorstep last night. He is a very special kitten.”
Later that evening, when things quieted down a bit, and Irene was in the kitchen, doling out treats to Casper-the kitten, Chris searched the Internet for the news of today’s plane crash, the one he saw in the old lady’s paper. There was no mention of any plane crash on the Internet though. The only big news today was that of a cat wreaking havoc with the air traffic in early morning and delaying hundreds of passengers. One news website featured a photo of a white cat. It was Casper all right. And although the media said the cat was “scared and miserable,” he looked quite satisfied, almost smug.
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