I heard a “ding” first and then a voice told me that the seatbelt sign was off, but it would be preferable if I remained seated unless I had something important to do. Not those exact words, but I get paid to read between the lines.
Not sensing any treaties between world powers needing immediate facilitating, I heeded the advice. Instead, I slowly opened my eyes and looked around. Rows of seated people. Small confined space. Steady vibration & mechanical noise in the background. My initial assessment – that I was on a bus – was quickly replaced when I looked out of the window and noticed a pronounced absence of asphalt anywhere in the near vicinity. Accompanying this in close proximity was a serious lack of any land, apparently hanging out wherever the asphalt was. There was, in fact, nothing but a lot of feet and the blue ocean below. And me without my swim fins.
The presence of a wing was the final piece of the puzzle. In case you’re not used to detective work, let me spell it out for you: I was on an airplane.
Like I said, I get paid to do this.
Not a lot of difference between a bus and a plane. Sure, your survival rate is a little higher on a bus if the engine suddenly decides to quit, but overall, not too different. We were stretched out in first class, me on the aisle and Simon next to me fogging up the window. I decided Simon had milked out this hangover thing long enough and taped over his mouth and nostrils. It took almost three minutes before his brain registered that it had no oxygen supply and would be legally dead in another 60 seconds.
His eyes popped open. “Mggfleduh,” he said.
“Look, Simon,” I said. “If I want to talk gibberish I’ll strike up a conversation with Jimmy.”
He looked at me quizzically which I thought was a pretty funny way to look and told him so. At about the same time that I realized he couldn’t breathe, he realized that his hands were not tied together behind his back and he reached up to rip the tape off his mouth. We both breathed a sigh of relief. Him, because life giving oxygen was again pouring into his lungs. Me, because his silly Groucho Marx moustache was ripped off with the tape. I thought it was an improvement. Simon then screamed, either in agreement or pain. Remembering my first aid training, I put a handy alcohol swab on his upper lip.
“Welcome back Simon.”
“Yes, thank you. And a good morning to you as well.” He removed the remaining strip of tape from his nose, pulling out a fair quantity of nose hair with it. Good tape.
“Looking a little green this afternoon,” I said.
“Ohhh, my head. Where are we?” he asked.
Since I had already figured this one out, I shared the answer with him.
“I can see that we’re on an airplane,” he snapped, “ but why are we on it, how did we get on it, and where are we going?”
See, this is the thing with Simon that pisses me off. I mean, if he was so sure that we were on a plane, then why did he ask in the first place? And you notice how he immediately throws in not one, but four – possibly three – more questions on top of it that he knows damn well I haven’t had time to work out yet. Just goes to show you can’t believe what they tell you about Ivy League schools.
I shoved a knuckle sandwich down his throat and the questions stopped real quick.
Though I hated to admit it, Simon had brought up some valid questions. I decided that I should probably address them. But first, I had to satisfy a more important question. Like, where was Jimmy?
Fortunately, with only a few surreptitious glances around the cabin (this is where a trench coat and fedora work wonders), I spotted him across the aisle two rows back. For the next several minutes I got a little ticked off since the words “aisle” and “isle” sound alike, but are spelled differently and have completely different meanings. Not to mention that both of them have a silent “s” for crying out loud which is just about the stupidest damn thing since the entire plot of the James Bond movie Moonraker. No doubt some uppity Brit with nasty teeth had thought up both things. Probably Roger Moore. I mean, he never quite “got” Bond, so why should he know shit about spelling? Didn’t hold a candle to Connery. And don’t even start on that dickhead in Her Majesty’s Secret Service. That was the lamest Bond movie ever. Not only does he have the gall to replace Connery, but he falls in love and gets married? Please. Bond get married? Why? At least they knocked the chick off before the end of the movie.
But I digress.
I spotted Jimmy across the aisle two rows back. Dammit, I already said that and now I’m pissed off all over again. Have you ever seen a boy named “Kaisle” or “Kisle”? No, never, it’s “Kyle”, always Kyle. Silent “s” my ass. The English language is so fucked up.
I heaved a sigh of relief at finding Jimmy, though whether that was because he was with us or because he wasn’t at large among the general public I couldn’t tell and would rather not speculate on.
About this time I also noticed that I was a humming a song. It was either Meet Me in St. Louis or Metallica’s Enter Sandman, both classics in their own right. Regardless, the humming was a trigger, and it all came back in a rush; Rok Hard, the Barking Spider, Stinky Pete’s mysterious disappearance, and some damn fine two part harmony if I do say so myself.
Rok was going to provide me with some information on the Spy Moose. Something to do with a foreign country. He must have given me a lead or we wouldn’t be on this plane, but I couldn’t for the life of me remember what.
My mind was blank between my late night warbling with Rok and waking up on this airplane, and try as I might, I couldn’t fill in the gap. It was almost as if an entire portion of my memory had been erased.
That’s when I noticed Chapter 10 was missing.
“What do you mean Chapter 10 is missing?” exclaimed Simon when I informed him. “What the hell happened to it?”
“Two possibilities,” I told him. “First, we must take into serious consideration the fact that it may have been removed by the Spy Moose to conceal vital information as to his whereabouts. Obviously, something important happened in Chapter 10 or he wouldn’t have risked taking the whole thing.”
“Is he capable of doing that?” asked Simon skeptically.
“I don’t know,” I replied, “but we have to assume that he may have powers that weren’t included in his dossier.”
“That’s pronounced ‘dos -ee – ay’, Dick,” said Simon, “not ‘dos -ee – er’.”
“What’s the other possibility?” he asked.
“Well, this is only an outside theory. And it’s a little vague. But it may be that the author wrote the first nine chapters on an IBM compatible laptop that he was using from work. Then, when he left that job for another one and turned the laptop in, he continued writing on an iMac at his home which, as we all know, doesn’t have a floppy drive to back up his work. Then, in a fit of anger, and in an effort to purge the iMac of all of the unnecessary files that their 16 year old son had downloaded from the internet, his wife deleted almost everything on the hard drive, including the aforementioned Chapter 10.”
“You’re right, that is a little fuzzy around the edges. A little far-fetched too, don’t you think?” Simon asked.
“Yeah, I think. My money is on the moose.”
That settled, we began to contemplate where we were going and what we were going to do when we got there. About that time Jimmy stood up and announced to the entire cabin that he owned a planet. Apparently the fact that no person, country, or entity had yet claimed any of the planets had just struck him. Or maybe it had struck him a few days ago and he had been secretly plotting since.
“You what?” I asked Jimmy.
“I want Saturn. I’m just letting everyone know now, so it’s like, official and everything.”
“Well, I was just thinking, you know? About how in the old days dudes like Columbus and Magellan and Socrates used to just land on these countries, you know? And they’d like, say, ‘Hey all you dudes, this land is like, mine and shit’. So, I was thinking that, like, well, there’s nothing left to claim, you know? Except, like, you know – whoa dude – who owns the planets? Like nobody, you know? So, I want Saturn.”
Whoa dude, indeed. I was amazed. Not so much at the prospect of Jimmy wanting a planet as him stringing together over 50 words in one stretch.
“Yeah, you know, I mean, I think it’s fair and all. I mean, nobody’s claimed it yet have they?”
I assured Jimmy that no one had. I looked over at Simon to see if he had any input. He said nothing, but I noticed that he continued to breathe my air.
“So. Cool. It’s mine. So if anybody ever asks, you know, like, who owns Saturn, it’s like, hey man, Jimmy does.”
“Okay. But why Saturn?”
“It’s just way cool, you know? I mean, like the rings? They’re like, you know, ‘Get back’ dude.”
Get back indeed. I assured Jimmy that we would register his claim with the Federation of Planets at the first opportunity. Just to make sure it was on record. Jimmy seemed satisfied, but as a precaution, stood up and went around getting signatures of witnesses to his proclamation.
“So, okay, you guys can have, like, the other planets,” he explained to the other passengers. “Jupiter too. I just want Saturn.”
He was received with a few smiles and not a few looks of utter bewilderment, but Jimmy didn’t seem to notice. Instead, he slipped the passenger next to him – an attorney as it turned out, but is that really surprising when you think about how many of those little bastards there really are? – a smooth Abraham and had him start preparing the official paperwork for his claim.
Simon informed me that he had to pee and asked if I had noticed whether anyone had recently gone to the bathroom, because if I knew they were occupied, he would just wait until he saw someone come out rather than stand outside the door, which would be not only embarrassing to him (since people would be looking at him and obviously would know why he was standing there) but might also make whoever was in the bathroom feel pressured, which might cause them to freeze up and actually take longer to go –
I could feel a brain embolism coming on if I didn’t get away from him.
“Listen, Simon, not that you’re boring me to tears or anything, but I’m gonna have a look around this tank,” I said getting up. “Something here doesn’t feel quite right.”
“You mean . . .”
“Yeah, Moose-Business. Antler hanky panky. Call it what you want, it ain’t good.”
“But how can you – ”
“Hey, with the fucking questions already. Just a hunch, okay? I’m gonna do a little looking around.”
And with that I pulled the brim of the fedora over my eyes like the little kids playing T-ball for the first time do. You know, pull it down all the way to your ears and just over your eyes so you have to tilt your head back to see. Makes you look like a geek, but the little geeky boy look has landed me some prime tail in the past. And if my hunch turned out to be nothing, maybe I could score with some chick back in coach. It’s all about priorities and options.
Timothy Dalton was okay, I guess.