MAY 8, 2000 -- "In the midwest," Frank Boxer said, "the sky is an idea written across a canvas of infinite space."
I would look at that sky as I sat in the white Chevy van awaiting deliveries soon to arrive at the Columbus Airport.
Years ago, I was a delivery driver for a kennel. I would deliver and pick up dogs (mostly) and cats to the airport. Occasionally I was afforded the luxury of waiting for a flight to arrive. I would sit outside the cargo hanger and read or listen to the radio and watch the sky.
Some twenty years later, as I sat in a jet on the Boston runway, I thought again of those animals. Of how some of them arrived completely drugged and lifeless. Others, like a Saint Bernard named Nicolas the Fourth, were completely beyond the fray. Roaring, tearing at the cage and those of us bound to handle it.
As the turbines whined and we shuddered and moved toward the sky, I suddenly thought of my own cat awakening in a jet's dark belly, her ears filled with the shriek of the plane. "Poor Ruby," I said, and the woman across the aisle said, "Are you talking to me?" I assured her I was not, and we climbed six miles into the canvas of night space.
The flight was smooth. No clouds, no turbulence, and the meal arrived complete with dessert. Two minutes after being served, the woman across the aisle began complaining that her chocolate brownie was stale. I said nothing, but poked a finger into my own piece and thought, "Cold, maybe, but not stale."
On and on she ranted, to no one in particular, even extolling 'America' at one point in her tirade. Poor Muffin, the passengers wept, how you gonna eat with your mouth duct-taped shut?
142 passengers. Eating quietly. Enjoying their meal. And I end up beside the Betty Crocker of the airways venting about the demise of America all because she thinks too much oxygen danced with her in-flight dessert fix.
I could take no more. Slowly, silently, I unbuckled my seat belt. Solidly, deliberately, I stood tall. Quickly, firmly, I stepped across the aisle, reached out, and without permission, picked up the woman's brownie.
And then, with great zest and gusto, to the cheers and applause of all my fellow passengers -- I clubbed this woman repeatedly with her own dessert and gave new meaning to Chocolate Death.
Life is nothing if there is no reach.
And at 30,000 feet over the middle of Lake Michigan, the reaches are black. Small comfort that I had been assured my seat cushion could be used as a floatation device. I saw myself below, far below in the middle of that freshwater bath of cold, black coffee, dog paddling home ashore with my seat cushion, my in-flight magazine and a stray pet I rescued from a sinking cage.
The flight was uneventful.
The darkness gave way to the lights of Chicago. Chicago gave way to the lights of O'Hare. As we touched down, I smiled at the lifeless, crumb-ridden body of the woman across the aisle.
Fortunately for all, she had fallen asleep somewhere over Michigan. An accountant from Maine had quietly stapled cocktail napkins all over her forehead and they rippled lightly as she snored.
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