Laurel and Hardy 30,000 feet.
| It’s a curious thing to find myself on this airplane —a red-eye flight back to New York, miles above the prairies of Middle America, hardly noticing the dimly lit cities scrolling beneath me.
Outside it is chaos, but I sit comfortable in the darkness, a little screen on the annoyingly close seatback in front of me but I don’t mind. The screen pacifies my tired eyeballs with images of Laurel and Hardy, long dead, but still within the best-used-by date stamped at the store. I cannot remove myself —I must know if they will make it and be reconciled of the mutual harm and shame caused by their antics.
The pilot warns of turbulence ahead. I absently buckle my seatbelt, not shifting my gaze for even a second as Hardy drops a stack of dishes to the floor and they shatter into a thousand pieces. He dances about in spasms of simultaneous rage and self-loathing. Poor man. Laurel seems hardly aware that his friend is dangerously close to causing him irreversible harm. I think it is his ignorance that saves him.
The plane begins to jostle and for just a moment I look away to observe the waves of motion that progress up and down the cabin. But Hardy gesticulates, seemingly aware of my digression, my indiscretion, and I am commanded back to the scene to watch this angry little man explain and explain to others who are mad or oblivious.
And this is the manner of things that wrestle for supremacy in my own mind. Little cockroaches of mustered anxious thought waiting for the light to go so that they may scurry out to feed. To taste the remains of every day with its losses, setbacks and promises of grim humiliation… interspersed, however with delicious cherries and even whole apples of hope. These will rot in time, but never mind that now. I will smell, taste and enjoy the fruit of the day with my little roach friends. We all stand transfixed, though we be enemies, by continual promise of sweet fruit.
On the seatback, the scene has changed and my boys have waddled out onto a sidewalk—cash in hand, counting and anticipating what they may buy that will bring them the momentary happiness they crave more than fistfuls of cheap lasagna.
The pilot has said something important. I can feel it, but I can’t comprehend what it was. The shaking resumes and intensifies. Meanwhile, the straight man and the obese actor who strangely resembles Hitler are now wrapped up in an auction. They have been drawn by a woman to lay their wealth aside like the proverbial cloak in the mud. They bid 230, 240, 255, 260, 265, … not realizing they have begun to bid against each other.
A lurch. A communal yelp.
I am laughing. The buffoons! How could you be so short sighted? How much more intelligent I feel to be watching them from my knowing perch. Yet the heights of my intellectualism make my mind dizzy as the butterflies form in my stomach. A blur of yellow plastic falls down and interrupts my view. I sweep it aside to find my boys have won a cuckoo clock which mocks them at their very moment of victory. Alas, the lady is gone and they are stuck with the bill!
A loud crack pierces the air followed by a tremendous rush of wind and debris. My head is jerked backward by hurricane-like wind, ripping my lips and tearing into my eyes. My awareness has been drowned in a maelstrom of noise and violence. I can hardly think about where I am or what is happening. Then suddenly I am free—floating into the darkness, weightless and aware of a steady wind at my back. Secured in my seat, I look for Laurel, I look for Hardy, but now I can only see stars and stars and stars. They have never looked so bright and clear. Maybe they are calling me. Are they calling me? I reach out to touch them. They are too far away. Maybe if I reach further. I stretch, one hand pushing against my seat and the other pulled by a string to the twinkling dome above me. I unbuckle myself and float upwards, away. I notice a blinding flash, then nothing.