Flight (part two)

Life-jacket-floating-in-sea

(See previous post for Part One)

The plane vanished from radar screens about 400 kilometers southwest of Bristol. The last report suggested that everything was proceeding nicely. A particularly strong tailwind had put the flight almost 30 minutes ahead of schedule.

The rescue planes first picked up the escape chutes at 10 PM, the yellow bulks bobbing on 6-foot swells. Whatever happened to US786, it resulted in a controlled water landing. And the escape chutes suggested at least some of the passengers had gotten out before the fuselage went under.

It would be an hour or two, however, before the helicopters could get close enough to see.

* * * * *

Jocelyn was cold. Colder than she thought humanly possible as she clung to the surface of the chute.

Time had ceased to have any meaning for her as she had been awaken from a dead sleep by the crash and had no idea if the sun had just set or was about to rise. The absence of a Moon said she might not know for some time.

All she knew was that her left arm hurt like hell and her right leg didn’t feel at all. Whether from cold or injury seemed moot at this point.

Jocelyn slowly unclenched her left hand, letting the key chain and keys dangle from her palm, the key ring encircling her ring finger.

In the darkness, she could really see the inscription on the plate, but she knew what it said: Best Daddy. A token of remembrance, perhaps, of the man who’d forced her onto the chute as she floundered, drowning after the crash. She’d felt it press painfully into her arm as she scrambled atop the limp plastic. By the time she’d finished spewing water from her lungs, though, the man was gone and her hand fell onto the keychain.

For now, the pendulous weight gave Jocelyn some deep comfort as she felt the keychain rock on her finger as she rocked on the waves.

* * * * *

Captain Teresa Wei strained her eyes, searching the darkness for the yellow blobs she knew were down there. Somewhere.

The roar of the helicopter rotors had ceased long ago to be a distraction for Teresa. Her attention was focused and intense.

“We don’t have much time left,” the pilot called.

“A few more minutes. The current was strong but steady,” she replied. “They have to be somewhere around here.”

Before the last word even dissipated in the rotor wash, Teresa’s second spotter tapped her shoulder.

“Over there!”

Teresa turned just in time to see a glint of yellow roll down the backside of a wave. She took a deep breath and willed one or more people to be attached to the chute. This wouldn’t be like the last fiasco. There was no way she would leave people to die like she had on her last flight.

* * * * *

A flurry of fish roiled the water around the chute as Jocelyn’s vomit dispersed on the current. She wondered if there could be much left in her stomach as she hadn’t eater much more than a canister of Pringles since the airport.

Her tongue could feel her lips as they pruned from the salt. The light was only now cresting above the horizon, so she couldn’t have been out too long, but those lungs full of brine hadn’t helped.

And the only thing she wanted more than a bottle of water was a blanket.

“Oh, to be warm again,” she thought to herself. “Snug in bed or under a throw in front of a fire.”

Jocelyn felt a sudden downdraft, which sent a wracking chill through her, and caught a furtive movement and splash to one side.

Shark!

Something was moving toward her in the water. Something big and dark.

Jocelyn did what she could to move from the edge of the chute, but all that accomplished was to sink the middle, filling it with icy water.

She considered her rubberized platform and quickly surmised whatever was approaching could easily puncture the chute, submitting her to the ocean’s swells and its own appetites.

Her terror pounded in her head, pulsating as the downdraft continued.

* * * * *

Teresa manned the lift herself, hauling the woman achingly toward the hovering helicopter, knowing she’d repeat the process with the rescue diver. Step one, however, was getting the woman stabilized and hydrated.

* * * * *

Jocelyn felt as though she were an angel ascending to heaven, although her real angels were above her and still down in the water.

She was serene, at peace, and oh so tired. But she wasn’t about to release her grip on the guide wire, despite the pain in her left palm where her grip was embedding the keychain into her flesh.

If you looked really closely at her palm—even months later—you could just make out the faintest of words: Best Daddy.

Jocelyn was marked for life.

(Images is property of owner and is used here without permission because I float that way)

Flight (part one)

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His shoulder kept throbbing and it seemed there was nothing he could do about it. He wanted little more than to sleep, the flight to New York having left ridiculously early and his sales meeting having ended quite late, if you call a cab ride from bar to airport ending.

Terry’s body wasn’t as young as it used to be and he seriously started to wonder if 32 years in sales was 2 years too many. The awards that lined his shelves said no. Salesman of the Year. Millionaires Club. Best Daddy.

The last one had come from his daughter Ronny almost 25 years ago and it was the one he cherished most, perhaps because it helped him forget that it was a lie. Terry had been a terrible father and an even worse husband, but no one could say he’d been a bad provider. The family wanted for nothing, save perhaps for time with Terry.

He tried to convince himself that he’d spent so much time on the road for them, but he knew better. He wasn’t cut out to a husband or a father, the marriage had been a mistake of hormones and responsibility.

Terry looked up to see the flight attendant awaiting a response. Apparently, he had zoned out.

“Can I offer you a beverage?” she repeated, her smiling eyes betraying no sense of impatience. She would wait for him as though she had nowhere else to be.

“Coffee, please. Black, no sugar.”

“Certainly, sir.”

Terry watched her as she located the carafe on the cart, the way she slid the cup from its tray. Her hands were delicate but purposeful.

Her hair was short, brown, tucked behind her ear to expose the tiniest stud earring. Just a hint of down along her jawline and the back of her neck, which was paler than her face. She’d recently worn her hair longer.

Just a touch of makeup, to accentuate rather than disguise.

Rather than let her place the cup on his tray, Terry took it from her, his fingertips grazing the backs of her fingers as the weight shifted from her hands to his.

She smiled at him as she released the cup and quickly followed with a tray of biscotti. Terry took two, despite abhorring the stone-like biscuits.

His eyes lingered on her as she served the passenger on the other side of the aisle. She was shapely without being too curvy and her calves said she worked out. A regular spin class, perhaps, or a runner. Again, fit but not muscular.

At another time, he might have ended his flight with her number and managed a bit of exercise of his own during his business trip. Despite being confident he still could, Terry was presently content to sip his coffee and let the caffeine revive his sense of humanity. Besides, he needed to keep his focus if he was going to make this his last flight.

* * * * *

Dave could feel the eyes of the other passengers on him as he laughed raucously, but he didn’t care. Just like when he was a kid, Rocky & Bullwinkle made him laugh. He couldn’t help himself. The moose was just like his younger brother and the squirrel his mother, right down to the voice.

As Dave tapped the volume button on his arm rest, his seat mate smacked her book closed in annoyance and shoved it into her seat sleeve. She unbuckled her seat belt, and stared at Dave to let her by. Reluctantly, he yanked his ear buds and unclipped his seat belt, pulling himself to his feet using the seat in front of him. Navigating the narrow aisle, he let the woman pass to the back of the plane.

The row now empty, Dave shuffled to the window and gazed into the abyss. The sun was nowhere to be found as the plane sped toward morning. The sky was largely cloudless, so Dave could only guess how high they were, lines of waves barely visible on the ocean below.

This was Dave’s first time over such an expanse of water. He’d flown the Great Lakes and the length of the Mississippi, but an ocean was something else, indeed. A vast expanse of nothing. No boats. No land. Dave didn’t even see another plane. It was like that Kevin Costner movie.

“Water?” a voice asked over his shoulder.

“And plenty of it,” he responded, before turning and realizing it was the flight attendant with a stack of plastic cups and a two-liter bottle of water.

With a sheepish grin, Dave slid back to his seat and reached for a glass. If this was going to be Dave’s last flight, he wanted to grab all the amenities he could, even if it was only free water.

He wondered what the boys would say back home to see him living it up. Free drinks and free movies. Riley’s Pub may be cheap, but this was like an open bar.

He could still hear his boss’s voice: “Don’t embarrass us over there!”

His boss had always treated Dave as something of a retard, so Dave played along. If nothing else, it meant he had pretty light duties and medical insurance. His buddies wanted him to stand up for himself, but he didn’t see the point.

By the time the plane reached Europe, all of his problems would be over.

* * * * *

Jocelyn slept fitfully, her head and arms resting on her tray, memories of her last fight with her fiancé rousing her with a jolt. Turning, she found the bear in the next seat was still snoring for all he was worth. That the plane’s fuselage hadn’t disintegrated from the sonorous vibration was a surprise, but that wasn’t the way things worked for Jocelyn. No, her pains had always been slow and lingering.

She had hoped to be an Art Director for a magazine or ad agency, her art teachers had always said she had the talent, but an indiscrete moment in the back of Jake Bentley’s dad’s Camry had changed all that. Despite a quick visit to the next State, Jake’s parents insisted that they get married and weren’t the type to support a woman who had more than their boy.

Within a year, they had their first two grandchildren—a boy and a girl—but not from the same mother and neither of those women was Jocelyn. It would seem that Jake specialized in indiscretions.

Even with all that, it still took Jocelyn more than two years to get her freedom, but it was too late to reclaim her life. Her family was more invasive than ever, and her dad made sure she got a job in his factory.

That’s where she met Darryl, the dick.

Life had been bearable until Darryl started to get serious. Suddenly, every man who talked to Jocelyn was trying to get into her pants and every woman was trying to talk her into leaving him. The pressure was on to cloister her in the house so that he could feel more secure.

The slap was the final straw. But alternative plans take time, and Darryl’s growing aggressiveness didn’t give her much. Luckily, Jocelyn was pretty good at makeup and just looked like she hadn’t slept much, which was true.

The only thing Jocelyn knew about Sweden was Ace of Base, ABBA and those horse meatballs from Ikea. That, and it was thousands of miles from home.

Today, Jocelyn’s world was going to change.

* * * * *

Part Two to follow in next post

(Image is property of owner and is used here without permission because I grabbed it on my last flight)