Thursday 7 September 2006

Night Flight Mike, Part Thirteen

Night Flight Mike is a novella of twenty short chapters, posted over twenty business days -- by me, your naturally selected host, Cheeseburger Brown. Readers who may be subject to access surveillance or content filtering please be advised that this work of fiction contains profanity and describes adult situations, but is relatively free of political subversion.

Professional driver. Closed course.

And now, today's chapter:


For the fourth time Mother and Father met by the bank of pay telephones on the landing just below the second floor, acknowledging without words that their separate forays had returned no intelligence on the whereabouts of Mike. They hugged. "Oh my God, oh my God..." mumbled Mother into Father's shoulder. "I've been everywhere, Jules. He's not here. What are we going to do?"

"Relax, Kate," said Father. "Let's call the room. Maybe he's gone back by now. It's almost ten o'clock."

The two of them spent a few moments frisking down the pay telephones. "There's no slot!" cried Mother. "What kind of payphones are these? Where do we put the money?"

"Card," croaked a fallen-cheeked youth in black leather with a head of lank, oily hair striped with green. He was leaning against the wall with his eyes closed, tapping his foot, piercings jiggling in time.


"You need a phone-card," croaked the youth again, eyes still closed.

Father swore. "What the hell is a phone-card?"

The youth opened his eyes -- glassy, dilated, alien. "A phone-card is the phone-company's way of delivering you to Big Brother, man. It's a device to separate your money from your transactions, man. To track you. To trap you. To fuck with you. A phone-card is just another brick in the wall, man."

Father frowned. "Where do I get one?"

"Take mine."

When Father reached for the proffered card the youth hesitated. "Local call?" he asked.

"Er, yes."


After a seemingly interminable series of rings the room phone was answered like an obscene call -- heavy breathing, smacking lips. Bianca blinked at the handset in the feeble light of a clock-radio's LEDs and tried to remember where she was and why she smelled like puke. An insistent voice was shouting out of the receiver atop a background of overlapping murmurs and pounding music. "What?" coughed Bianca.

"Bianca!" yelled Father.

"Oh, Dad, hi," she mumbled. "How's the banquet?"

"Is Mike there?"

Bianca pinched the bridge of her nose. Her head felt like it was in a vicegrip. "What?"

"Bianca, this is very important. Is Mike there, in the room with you?"

Bianca looked around, taking in India snoring in the next bed and the trophy on the floor. Her eyes threatened to close and bile rose in her throat. She knew there was something she was supposed to remember...

"Bianca!" shouted Father. "Is Mike there or isn't he?"

Bianca blinked and it all came back to her. "Mike's here," she said. "Mike's right here now. He's here." Then, discharged of her mission, she passed out with her face smooshed against the clock-radio and dropped the telephone.

Father passed this on to Mother and they hugged again. "Let's get out of here," she said breathlessly.

"I need a drink," said Father, wiping his hand down his face. "Let's have just one."

Mother smiled. "We haven't been out for a drink in ages."

"Exactly," said Father.

"I look awful."

"No you don't."

Mother shot her cuff and checked her watch. "Okay, okay. We'll have just one drink. I'm going to nip off to ladies' room to clean myself up a bit and I'll meet you at the bar in five."

"It's a date," said Father with a grin.

They kissed, first quickly and then longer, then Mother waded into the second floor in search of a washroom and Father skipped down the stairs to the first floor. The young man in black leather leaned back against the wall in the landing and was about to take up bobbing his head in time to the music again when he spotted a figure flattened against the wall in the shadows. The figure tentatively stuck a head out to watch Father disappear.

"You must be Mike," guessed the young man.

"What?" said Mike, startled.

"They're looking for you, man. The net is tightening, man. They used my phone-card, so now even the government knows you're AWOL."

"They think I'm back at the hotel," said Mike.

"But you're not, are you?"


"Better run like Bueller, man. Better get back before they do. The clock is ticking."

Mike looked around desperately. "But how can I get out without going past them?"

The young man inclined his head at the darkness beyond the pay-phones. "When you can't get any lower, man, the only direction to go is up."

Sending out fingers out into the inky blackness as probes, Mike encountered a door. Beyond it was a narrow flight of steps rising to a third storey. He looked back at the black and green haired youth for reassurance, but he had returned to the world of music behind his eyelids, piercings tinkling like tiny tambourines as he nodded and swayed.

A split second before Mother crossed the landing on her way out of the washroom Mike pushed through the door and proceeded up the steep risers to the next level.


Moksha Gren said...

I like the "piercings tinkling like tiny tambourines." It's accurate, amusing, and alliterative...a good combo.

I'm slightly curious why Mike's folks would decide to stick around and have a drink when I'd think they'd want to a)rush home and hug/scold Mike and b)get out of the crowded club playing "youth" music. But, I'm willing to overlook this for the sake of keeping the folks on stage for the upcoming action.

Cheeseburger Brown said...

Dear Moksha,

I would defend the actions of Mike's parents like so:

Like many parents of misbehaving children, they are reluctant to accept Bianca's inherent dishonesty. She is, in their minds, a "good kid, basically" who just acts out sometimes. They want to believe her, especially about important things that would not appear to threaten her, and so when Bianca tells them that Mike is in the hotel room with her they are relieved and grateful far before they are suspicious.

Thus reassured, they find themselves in a situation they have not been in for years: untethered to their children, out on the town.

As Mike's mother intimated earlier, the parents are under a fair weight of stress on several fronts (not the least of which being the noted difficulties with Bianca and bureaucratic hassles thwarting their latest adoption attempt). In short, they need a break. They deserve a break. But they have been too dedicated in their roles as parents to give themselves a break until they find themselves on break by accident.

They cannot resist just one drink, after all they've plowed through. It is a rare treat.

Cheeseburger Brown

Anonymous said...

"Better run like Bueller." That's classic!! Youe never cease to amaze me CBB!!!

Mark said...

Here's another vote for "run like Bueller." Pop culture references can be annoying, but this one was right on -- it gave the reader the perfect visual image of Mike's next steps. Or, it did me, anyway.