Patsy Cline Airlines
An email from Patsy Cline Airline is in my work inbox. It’s got to be spam, but it somehow made it past my spam filter. The subject line reads: Laissez-Faire. That’s a banking term: economics: whatever. This has to be a coworker’s joke from inside the bank. I’m waiting for sort of flash animation to pop up and do something funny.
Is my computer going to explode?
Is this how they tell you you’re fired?
I know I could get in so much trouble with the IT department, but I open it for a laugh.
There’s a seating chart for an eight-seat plane in the email. At the top in bold, flashing letters reads, “We’ve got one seat left! Reserve it while you can!” John Denver; Buddy Holly; Glenn Miller; Ricky Nelson; Will Rogers; and Richie Valenz all have a spot on this plane. The pilot and co-pilot are listed as John F. Kennedy, Jr. and Amelia Earhart. There’s one seat not assigned in the back of the tiny plane next to Buddy.
Someone went to a lot of trouble on the graphics. The email looks pretty real. There’s even a picture of the plane: a Hawker 400XP.
At the bottom of the email it says that the plane will depart from LaGuardia Airport in two days. I am assuming there’s a scheduled crash, too, considering the passenger list. I’m kind of amused.
What’s the point of asking someone to reserve a seat on a fictitious doomed airplane? It’s not exactly a chain letter. What is this?
I know I should just delete the silly email, but I don’t. I’m intrigued: if I could get away with it, would I really want to dispatch someone to their death in a fiery plane crash with Buddy Holly and Rickie Nelson? Does the empty seat have to go to a musician? Does the person need to be famous? It’s a pretty impressive passenger list. I can think of lots of famous people who deserve to be on that plane: Charles Manson; OJ Simpson; George W. Bush. Since it came to my work email address, I start considering people at work. There are a few people here that bug the shit out me, but I would pick Julia Trapnell, hands down. She’s a stupid, manipulative bitch. She’s really a waste flesh and doesn’t contribute anything good to the bank, or to society for that matter. Life would be so much better if I she was gone. I fucking hate her. I’ve often fantasized about throwing her out the window and watching her drop the eighty stories down to the plaza.
The hell with it: I’m signing her up. I forward the email to my anonymous account (that I use for porn) and put her name on the seating chart next to Buddy Holly and click on the box to send. What’s the worse that can happen? She gets a computer virus for opening something that she should have been smart enough to delete. Besides, who would be stupid enough to get on a plane with Patsy Cline Airlines painted on the side?
I don’t care about Julia Trapnell any more since she died. Yeah, I know, it’s sad; the bitch was only thirty-two and she had family and all that crap. She continued to piss me off right up until the end.
It was a car accident, not a plane crash. And it’s been a months since that stupid email. For a fraction of a second, I wonder if there’s a greater goings-on in the universe where if you wish for something really hard, you can make it happen; even if it is not ethical; even if it causes someone’s death.
I don’t believe in that. The email was some unexplained joke that I still don’t quite understand. I never told anyone about it and I forgot about it ten minutes after I replied. Julia never mentioned anything peculiar to me about Patsy Cline Airlines. No one else at work ever said anything about it, either.
Everyone at the bank is being respectful about her death, but clearly she’s will not be missed. There’s going to be a little, tiny memorial for her. A couple of people asked if I was going and I said no. Why should I? I mean, come on: if I disliked her enough to wish her dead, wouldn’t it be tacky of me to go to a celebration of her life?
The elevator’s full and it’s taking forever. I’ve got my coffee in one hand and a pastry in the other. My watch says 8:30. I should already be at my desk. I push my way out on the 80th floor and make my way to the office. It’s a beautiful, sunny day.
Fall is my favorite time of the year and the last thing on earth I want to do is sit at a desk and crunch numbers. I’ve barely started up my computer and I hear the loudest explosion I’ve ever heard in my entire life. The whole building is shaking and swaying back and forth. Everyone’s running to the north windows and they see that Tower One is engulfed in flames at around the ninety-fifth floor. I just heard someone say that a plane actually flew right into the building: a passenger jet.
It looks really bad. I’m glad it’s not us.
We’re told to stay at our desks.
It’s going to be a long morning.
Seven houses in a semi-circle frame The Grove with a circle drive and a small traffic island in the middle. It’s quiet as the summer evening approaches. The temperature’s cooling everything off as the sun begins to set. Yet there’s always a feeling of anticipation. The residents listen; peek out their curtains. Everyone knows where their money and shoes are.
About 8:45pm a deep base can be heard off in the distance. The beat vibrates louder and louder and there’s an audible electronic jingle and some faint vocal track in the air:
Ahhhhhhhh, love to love ya, baby.
“I can hear it!” Myrtle Webb yells to her husband from the living room window of 3221.
Everyone’s starting to get excited. Simon Stimson from 3226 is running around like a chicken with his head cut off.
“I see it! The cocktail truck is coming! The cocktail truck is coming!” Loella Soames screams. She’s already jumping up and down in her front yard waving a fistful of ten dollar bills.
About fifty residents of the The Grove are gathering in the middle of their cul-desac as the twenty-foot RV gets closer and closer.
“George, Rebecca, stay in the house. Call the sitter. This is Mom and Dad time,” Julia Gibb reminds her little ones. Mrs. Wilder from 3230 is already preparing a big bowl of fruit punch with Benadryl to administer to all the kids door to door. The cocktail truck’s been making the rounds for about thirty years: same branding, same uniforms (now vintage). It’s a mom and pop business that only serves two dozen neighborhoods and nobody seems to know it’s schedule. But from May to September, around sunset, everyone knows they could get a visit.
“Please, oh, please, oh please! I’m thirsty!” Miss Thornton says standing out by the mailboxes.
There’s always a female DJ dressed as 1980’s Madonna spinning dance tunes in the back of the cocktail truck. Her dance tracks gets everyone bouncing and swinging. Colored fresnel and LED are swaying all over the sky and streaming off the giant mirror ball on the roof. The lights quickly transform the mid-century houses of The Grove into the walls of a dazzling nightclub that would rival Studio 54.
Joe Cromwell from 3224 almost pees his pants as the cocktail truck turns into the cul-de-sac. A few stragglers are walking along side the vehicle. God only knows where they’re from. Depending on how far away the music can be heard, the truck can draw an enormous multi-neighborhood crowd of several hundred people. The klieg light pointing in the sky tells everyone where to go.
When the truck finally arrives, two bouncers that look like the 80’s duo Wham (the owner’s sons) jump out of the passenger door. The blond one starts setting up sawhorses to block off traffic. The dark haired one is responsible for several feet of velvet role and stanchions to keep the crowd in line before they begin checking IDs. One by one, the folks of The Grove step up and order their drinks from the bar station window that folds down on the passenger side of the RV.
“What’ll you have, baby?” the bartender dressed like Billy Idol asks.
“I’ll have a Bee Gee on the rocks with no lime.”
“What about you, Sugar?”
“Disco Inferno. Make it a double.”
Gloria Gaynor; KC and the Sunshine Band; Cher: the music and the liquor build a full fledged party. People are happy and smiling and hanging all over each other. The basketball court in the driveway of 3222 has become a dance floor. Some folks sneak behind the shed at 3220 to smoke some weed. There may be a little cocaine back there, too.
“The cocktail truck has been so random this summer. I’m so glad we were picked this evening. I had a hell of day at school today and I just want to relax and cut loose a little,” Mr. Willard tells Sam Craig. He teaches at the university and rents out his basement to his students.
“I know. This is so much more fun than that sports bar truck,” Sam says. For four hours, the truck serves the residents of The Grove. But not surprisingly, things get a little messy.
Simon Stimson has passed out on the traffic island again and Mrs. Soames is sitting in the middle of her flower garden. She drank too fast and now she’s got a headache. An altercation is happening between Wally and Emily behind the truck. She’s been flirting with Joe Cromwell again. Wham takes care of the problem quickly and makes Wally go inside his house.
“Last call. Last call for alcohol,” comes over the loud speaker as the DJ-Madonna plays Never Can Say Goodbye.
Dr. Gibbs just got home from the hospital. “Fuck me! Did I miss it?” he asks his tipsy wife.
“Just in time. Here, honey, finish my Hustle and I’ll get us two more.” “Thanks, dear. Are the kids asleep?”
“Yeah. They drank Mrs. Wilder’s punch right after the drag show.” Rebecca slurs her words as she orders another round and slips the Billy Idol-bartender her cell phone number.
It’s time to wrap the evening up. The Wham-bouncers walk around the cul-de-sac and start collecting drinks and picking up trash out of the yards. They dutifully point people in the right direction and make sure they get safely into their own house. Billy Idol and Madonna shut down their stations and have a smoke.
It’s 2:20am and everyone in The Grove is hopefully asleep. Once again, the cocktail truck has turned upper-middle class adults into giddy children; and nobody got a DUI. The rig pulls out of the cul-de-sac and exits suburbia. It will be cleaned and restocked for tomorrow nights surprise visit to Loman Way.
The Kiddie Pool
It’s six o’clock in the morning; the first day of summer vacation and I’m very excited.
Mom carries me into my grandma’s house. Grandma and Grandpa are going to babysit me and my twin cousins, Delia and Donna, so our moms can go to work at the factory across town.
Mom gently lays me on Grandma’s couch and kisses me goodbye. Before I go back to sleep, I hear Mom remind Grandma, “Don’t let him get wet at the kiddie pool. I don’t want him to get another sore throat.”
Me and the twins will all be in first grade this fall. I don’t have any brothers or sisters, so I’ve really been looking forward to spending the whole summer with the girls at my grandma’s house.
Grandpa leaves after lunch and Grandma announces that we’re all going swimming. I really want to go and splash around and get wet with the twins really bad, but I know I’m not supposed to. I don’t say anything and hope that Grandma forgets what my mom said to her this morning.
Delia and Donna go to bathroom together to put on their brand new swimsuits, but I don’t have one. This is my mom’s way of making sure I don’t get wet. My swim trunks are at home.
Grandma comes out of her bedroom with something in her hand. “Do you want to play with the girls at the kiddie pool?” she asks me.
I shake my head, “yes.”
“Then you can wear this. It should fit you just fine. You can get a little bit wet and I won’t tell your mother.” Grandma hands me a one-piece girls swimsuit. It’s pink and has flowers and a skirt attached. I don’t know what to say.
“It’s one of the girl’s old swimsuits. It’s been here since last summer.”
Grandma looked real happy for me, but I’m very confused. I don’t know if I should put the pink swimsuit on or not. It’s for a little girl and it feels way too naughty for me to wear anyone’s clothes but mine.
“You want to go swimming, don’t you?” Grandma says to me.
I shake my head “no” and give her the swimsuit back.
We pack up the station wagon and head to the park. My twin cousins run to the entrance waving their arms and singing, while Grandma and I find a bench close by. I’m very sad and I can tell that my grandma is sad, too. We sit and watch all the kids play and have fun. After a while she takes my hand.
“Follow me, kiddo.”
She walks me to the car, opens the back door and hands me the pink swimsuit with flowers again. I can’t believe she brought it with her. She bends over and gets right in my face.
“I know you want to put this on. Go ahead. Nobody can see you.”
I tilt my head down to the ground. My grandma wants me to go swimming more than I do. I’m scared. My eyes are starting to water up like I’m going to cry.
“You’re going to put this swimsuit on and go have fun with the girls. Understand me?”
She’s getting mad at me. She makes a mean face and starts jerking my all my clothes off, even my underwear. I don’t like being naked in front of anyone. She pulls the pink swimsuit up over my waist and spins me around and ties the ties in a bow at the back of my neck. She was right: the suit fits me. I‘m afraid to say anything.
“Now run along and go get in the water,” she tells me.
My stomach hurts as I go over to the kiddie pool and step into the knee-deep water with the twins. I wish the water was deeper so I could hide all the way up to my neck. I’ve never been this uncomfortable before in my whole life.
Delia and Donna look at me confused. I think they can tell that I’m upset, but they’re afraid to say anything.
There are lots of kids in the pool today, but I don’t see any of my classmates. The big kids are all in the big-kid pool. But there are moms and dads all over the place. I keep wondering why nobody says anything about a boy wearing a girl’s swimsuit in the pool.
I see my grandma sitting on the bench on the other side of the parking lot. She’s smiling and laughing with a man I’ve never seen before. They’re smoking cigarettes. I’ve never seen Grandma smoke a cigarette before.
Today’s the worst day of my life. My throat’s getting sore all over again.
Donna pulls me aside and whispers in my ear, “It’s okay. You just look like a girl with really short hair.” People really think I’m a girl. Maybe I‘m supposed to be a girl. I don’t want to be a girl.
My grandma’s one of those bad women.
The man kisses her on the mouth and it makes me snap. I pull the pink swimsuit down to my knees and pee in the water right in front of a lifeguard. All the little girls around me scream and a loud whistle is blown. Everyone’s told to get out of the water and the kiddie pool is closed down.
Grandma leaves the man at the bench and stomps over to the kiddie pool to get us. I don’t even get to dry off before she jerks me into the back of the station wagon. No one talks to me the rest of the day and nobody dares mention the kiddie pool when Mom picks me up at four o’clock this afternoon.
We don’t go back the park the rest of the summer.
Dennis Milam Bensie lives in Seattle and work professionally in theatre. He has two books published through Coffeetown Press (SHORN: TOYS TO MEN in 2011, and ONE GAY AMERICAN in 2012)as well as numerous essays and short stories around the web and in print. His third book entitled A FLIT: POETRY MASHUP OF CLASSIC LITERATURE will be released next October. You can learn more about his work at: http://dennismilambensie.com.