what i do on the plane

22 11 2006


Flight 481 nonstop to Chicago now boarding. Would Nicholas Ishmael please come to the information desk.

Nick walked (quite slowly in fact) with his carry-on luggage including Mira, his four-year-old daughter. They approached the desk and Mira saw upon the attendant’s face a half-smile, one that made you feel comfortable but at the same time fake and forced so that in the confusion you felt all the more strange. Nick promised the brown-eyed Mira, “Stay here with the lady, my princess; there was a problem with one of our bags, I will be right out.”

He walked into the small interrogation room was shot quietly in the forehead, bent over towards the desk, and died. There was a man standing behind him to catch him and place a cloth over his forehead to cover the bleeding. The woman and the man left Nick in the small stainless steel compartment. Mira stood outside sobbing, waiting hopefully and as patiently as any toddler could, for two hours before anyone claimed her.

At 2:00 that day, Nick had been in a rush to get Mira dressed and ready for the airport. Packing a few days worth of clothes, her toys, a few movies, and her teddy bear into a small blue child-sized suitcase, Nick left Mira in the car for about five minutes. Outside, Mira watched at the opposite end of the street (the one Nick would not drive towards on his way to the airport). Mira witnessed a car accident; steel and steel came together rapidly consuming a small family of four and not the one drunken teenager. Nick was inside, reviewing his notes for the last time about how to pass a small handgun through security. He was ready, God willing.

Immediately upon entering the car, Nick turned on the ignition. Mira was crying in the backseat, but he neither cared to hear what it was about nor could – his music player was pounding sound at full volume. He was dedicated to the goal in a way. It consumed him in his sleep, and in the morning he could not recall his dreams. Mira seemed to be in the way, her wailing seemed to penetrate his harmonic focus. He turned once, only once, glaring at her in such a distant and unfatherly way that she internalized her tears with her face sinking into the dim, gloomy corner of childhood.

The young vivacious Mrs. Ishmael who bestowed upon little Mira all her beautiful features died in a Chicago suburb doing an interview for the Times. Nick’s wife had gone to a small liberal arts college becoming famous for her redefining essay on literary theory. The essay was published in a number of translations and is now included as either a subsequent essay or as a preface to many novels. Her death sparked a wealth of empathy for Nicholas and Mira nationally; the whole case was notorious for its confusion – the body was recovered but lost, the police captured a runinng suspect but instead convicted him for a different homicide done on the same night in Texas. Her name became a symbol for the failed social attempt towards progress. She was a flickering candle of literary genius, a proven hero who had redefined the postmodern movement.

Twelve days earlier to his flight, Nick received a single cryptic phone call: “Bring Mira – you will not lose her. Bring a gun – we have the man, you will have one chance. Bring your strength, the one we have seen on television, and see to it that one of the greats of our era has not perished in vain. We will send you information.”

In truth, beneath the state of calm anger he seemed to exude towards Mira, Nick was nervous. Driving towards the airport, he feared for Mira’s life as well as his own. Mira, “lovely Mira,” he thought. Nick thought about his wife and how hard it was at first for Mira to understand that Mommy was not going to come home tonight. He remembered explaining to Mira that Mommy was never coming home and how Mira had cried. She thought her father was keeping Mommy away, she pleaded with Nick to stop hurting her. “Mommy would never leave me. You just took her away. Please Daddy I want her back, please. Please.” Nick had hardly felt human then. About a few weeks later, Mira found him crying alone in his bed and gave him a hug saying, “I’m sorry Daddy. We both miss Mommy.”

He knew that they would not let him down, the group whoever they were had proven themselves over the last few days. Like a God that answers faith, Nick asked for a sign and they showed brilliantly. He won at the races, he got a raise, he saw letters written in the sky. Even once, just once, they sent him a girl for the night. But he was still shaking, trembling in fear. Passing the gun through security. For a brief second he asked himself, “If they could arrange all this, why did they not arrange for the gun?”



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