Have you ever had one of those days when you wake up with the feeling of impending doom?
I had a day like that yesterday. When I woke up in the morning, I would almost swear that the Sword of Damocles was hanging over my head.
I didn’t know why I felt this way. It was a pleasant day, after all. The sun was shining. The birds were chirping. And the clouds were looking especially fluffy.
Maybe it was just nerves. I was getting ready to fly down to Phoenix, AZ for a meeting with a representative from the SyFy Network to discuss optioning my story, Giraffealanche, for their latest SyFy Original Movie. Now, now, I know what you’re thinking. “Chris, your writing is so clever, sharp, and witty,” says you. “Why would you waste your great talent writing such schlock?” To which I reply, “Because the money is really good.”
I shook off this feeling of dread as best as I could and prepared for my journey. I arrived at the airport, checked my luggage, and flew through security. Armed with my new Kindle Paperwhite, I sat down at my gate and read the latest Adrian Monk mystery while I slowly sipped a Dr. Pepper. Still the heebie jeebies remained within me.
My flight was slightly delayed, but that was no cause for concern as my meeting was scheduled for the following day. Normally, I prefer window seats when I fly, but, this time, I took a middle seat right in the front of plane. For some reason, I just felt that I needed to get off of that plane as soon as possible.
It was the smoothest flight I’d been on in years. There was nary a trace of turbulence to disturb me as I read my novel cover to cover. Upon landing, I grabbed my laptop and bolted out of the plane. As I walked down the hall, I remembered a very similar walk I had taken roughly six months prior. Before my mind could seize the memory, I became aware of a powerful, fetid stench that filled my nostrils. Then all went black!
The next thing I remember was an airport employee waving some smelling salts under my nose to revive me.
“Hey, pal, are you OK?” asked the employee.
“Yeah, I think so. What happened?” I asked.
“You passed out.”
“I remember smelling some foul odor,” I said.
“Oh! That’s probably from our local attraction,” said the employee.
“A skunk farm?” I queried.
“Nah,” said the employee with a chuckle. “I’ll show you.”
The employee led me down the hall and that chill down my spine began to grow sharper and colder. I now had a hunch of what I was about to see, though it defied belief. Just past security, I saw a crowd of people around two men and I wanted to weep.
It was Arizona Mat and Tall Square.
For those of you who are new visitors to my blog, I refer you to the archive section under the series entitled “The Arizona Chronicles” in which an odd set of circumstances thrust me into meeting Arizona Mat, a so called explorer, and Tall Square, his goofy sidekick.
They were exactly as I had left them back then. Each still had the other’s hand locked in a death grip of a handshake. They had lost a considerable amount of weight and were using their free hand to hold up their pants. Feeding tubes had been inserted in their noses and IVs pumped water into their bodies. You could almost see the B.O. wafting from their bodies. The crowd was taking bets as to which man would finally yield and break the handshake.
“You have got to be kidding me,” I said.
“Nope,” said the employee. “These guys have been doing this for six months now. It’s been really good for business for the stores around here, if somewhat stinky.”
Now, I suppose I could have slipped quietly away, checked into a nice hotel, and avoided what was to come. But I made my first mistake. I said hello.
“Uh, hi, guys,” I said.
Tall Square looked at me, then let go of Arizona Mat’s hand to wave at me. Time seemed to stop.
A stunned silence fell over the crowd. Finally the duel had ended. A maniacal light gleamed in Arizona Mat’s eyes. A huge smile split his lips.
“You lose!! You lose!!” crowed Arizona Mat. “I’m the winner! You’re the loser! Winner! Loser!! Loser!! Winner!! I am such a winner!! You are such a loser!! I am such a winner!! You are such a loser!!”
Arizona Mat had broken into a conga dance, shaking his butt in Tall Square’s face. I could tell Tall Square was about to explode and the following seemed to occur in slow motion.
Tall Square cocked back his fist for a mighty punch and had just begun the follow through when a people mover ran into him from behind. I watched in horror as the upper half of his body bent backwards in a 90 degree angle. His body flipped up and over the people mover, sailing through the air. I covered my eyes as I braced myself for the sickening crack of his body hitting the ground. Instead, I heard a thump.
I peeked through my fingers and saw that Tall Square’s body had somehow landed on a luggage mover going down the opposite direction. I turned to look at Arizona Mat who had fallen to the ground due to weakness, yet he still had that cheesy grin on his face and he was pumping his arms up, chanting, “Winner! Winner! Winner!”
I pursued the luggage mover, but the unusually high level of people in the airport slowed me down and I was unable to catch up with it. I looked through the window and watched as Tall Square was blithely loaded with the luggage onto a plane bound for Nome, AK. Poor Tall Square.
I returned to Arizona Mat, still pumping his arms on the ground. I could have walked away at this point, but then I made my second mistake. I decided to do my Christian duty and help.
I loaded Arizona Mat onto a wheelchair, picked up my suitcase, and hailed a cab. Once we had gotten to Arizona Mat’s home, I tucked the poor sot into bed and decided to head for a hotel and then I made my third mistake. I got cheap.
I realized that I could stay here for free and save myself on a hotel bill. So I sent the cab away and made myself at home in the guest room. I was hungry so I walked down the street to the Flaming Kabob when I enjoyed some delicious hummus, chicken lemon rice soup, and chicken gallaya. Bringing the leftovers with me for lunch the next day, I proceeded to jump into Arizona Mat’s pool which was much more enjoyable now as opposed to the icy plunge he forced me to take six months earlier.
As I swam, I realized I was probably in for another series of hijinks and misadventures, but I heaved a mighty sigh and decided I would try to make the best of things.
To be continued. . .