Monday 18 September 2006

Night Flight Mike, Part Twenty

Night Flight Mike is a novella of twenty short chapters, posted over twenty business days -- by me, your loquacious 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.

The story includes all you see here. Some assembly required.

And now, the conclusion of our tale:


Four firetrucks rumbled to a halt on Dundas Street, followed by two squad cars with flashing bubble lights. Lorenzo jogged over to bring them up to speed on the situation and to direct the police to the captive kidnappers. A majority of the crowd melted away instantly in defense of their various contraband, leaving only a few tired or injured members behind. Dazed and aching, Mike took in very little of it all until Danny and Wade re-appeared carrying two prone forms from inside Coriander's: they were Mike's parents.

Red turned up with a large luggage cart from the Fairbrook and Duff helped the musicians load the unconscious bodies on the carpeted platform. "Are they okay?" Mike asked anxiously.

"They seem to be okay," confirmed Duff. "I think they're just drunk."

"My parents? Drunk?" echoed Mike dumbly.

"Sometimes enough just isn't enough."

The Inuit roadies were untied and given free drinks, and Lorenzo gave Dalia a pass for lifetime free admittance to Coriander's. Danny got on his phone to change the flight reservation and Wade got on his phone to see about borrowing a friend's bass for the New York gig.

It was the police who found Ed, Cherry's bodyguard, still engaged in a protracted life or death hand to hand struggle with a fifth Filipino thug in the nightclub's walk-in refrigerator. Spilled condiments were everywhere -- the floor slick with relish, the walls garish with teriyaki. They had been going at it for more than twenty minutes by that point, and both men were secretly relieved to be spared the burden of seeing the duel through to the end. They had, in fact, developed a certain brand of camaraderie during their intimate tussling and they nodded to each other in breathless salute before consenting to be separated.

As the paramedics arrived in the rear parking lot to assess the situation there Lorenzo motioned urgently for Mike to move along, and so he and Red and Sapphire pushed the luggage cart into the shadowed alley running the length of the block to head back to the Fairbrook Hotel.

Duff, Courtney and Cherry ran up to say their goodbyes. They exchanged e-mail addresses and Cherry promised that her manager would arrange free tickets for any performance Mike could get himself to. "Thanks for saving me from being kidnapped by pirates," she said, and kissed Mike on each cheek.

"Anytime," mumbled Mike, blushing.

As they made their way down the dark alley Sapphire lit up a pair of Marlies for herself and Red to chase away the smell of refuse. Red tried to give her some money. Sapphire refused theatrically and then took the rumpled bills and tucked them into her top. "Thanks," she said, and a moment later the load became heavier: without further warning, Sapphire had slipped away into the night.

At Red's direction they trundled the baggage cart up the hotel's rear loading dock and then through a series of concrete service corridors. They rode up in an extra-wide elevator car that smelled like lemons. Mike yawned.

They found the keycard for the room in Mother's purse, and once they had managed to arrange their snoring cargo on the unoccupied bed Red and Mike sat outside in the corridor and ate cheeseburgers and chips from room service. "How shall I bill this?" asked the girl from the kitchen.

"My tab," grunted Red through a mouthful of chips.

Mike tried to give Red some money from Mother's purse but Red insisted that saving his life from the knives of mad Filipinos was payment enough for his trouble. "It was Dalia who pulled the alarm," argued Mike. "I didn't really do anything but get hit."

"Yeah, well, whatever," said Red. "You're good people, kid."

When the food was gone they shook hands and yawned at one another. They were too tired for further ritual. Nodding vaguely at Mike's thanks Red hauled himself to his feet and nearly tripped over the tray as he shuffled toward the elevator. With a chime and a rumble he was gone.

"Goodnight," said Mike to the empty corridor.

No one had bothered to draw the blinds so when morning came the room was suffused by an unforgiving pall of bright sunlight. At seven o'clock Mother's eyes snapped open in a dreamy panic, quelled instantly when her barely conscious brain was able to count one, two, three children in the room with her: Bianca a lump of tangled covers on the next bed; India placidly watching cartoons on TV; Mike sitting at the small desk poring over a textbook.

"Whatcha doing, Mike?" murmured Mother, her throat pasty and head heavy.

Mike shrugged. "Homework."

"Make sure your sisters don't fight," Mother told him. Mike nodded and she fell back to sleep. She dreamed of Somalia, where it was too hot to wear any clothes.

For his part, Father dreamed of wrestling, a line of fermented drool soaking into his pillow. He shifted on the bed and farted ponderously.

India and Mike looked at each other and then fought to stifle their giggles. Mike pushed aside his school binder and rocked back on the wooden chair carelessly. "What are you watching?" he asked.

"Spongebob Squarepants," said India.

"What's happening?"

"Just whatever," she reported, playing with her fingers. "Patrick and Spongebob stole Squidward's car, and now they're joyriding around the ocean."

Mike raised one brow. "They stole a car?" He rocked back in his chair again, watching the skyline of reaching grey skyscrapers outside the window veer as his perspective changed. "Interesting..." he said thoughtfully.


Moksha Gren said...

Excellent story, CBB. I really enjoyed the sheer number of characters who paraded across the page and the way they each had their own personality. It's not always easy to do. And it wasn't as bleak as Victor's Moms Car. While that doesn't make it a better story per se, it certainly makes it more enjoyable for me to read. I look forward to seeing Mike and his family again.

Thanks for sharing

Anonymous said...

Fantastic story telling, once again! Find an agent and get these in screenplays. I'd love to see these wonderful stories played out before my eyes. Give Astra and the ankle nibblers a big hug.

THE Danimal

Sash said...

I thoroughly enjoyed the story, CBB.

Anonymous said...

I enjoyed the story. Car stealing.... might make a good story line
I am looking foward to the next mini series.


Cheeseburger Brown said...

Dear all,

Thanks for reading. I'm hard at work knitting new stories for the coming weeks.

I'll be taking a day off tomorrow for a breather, and then beginning a five part short story called Bad Traffic.

Next will likely come another short (possibly just three installments) which deals briefly with Mike of Night Flight Mike as a young adult.

Hopefully that will buy me enough time to get the next novella into shape, which is a tale of revenge in paradise.

If you've enjoyed what you've read, pass it on -- you are the Web.

Cheeseburger Brown

Mark said...

This was an enjoyable read, and leaves it wide open for Mike's next (or previous) adventure. You've created some memorable characters here. Cherry could have her own spin-off, with her entourage and the Coriander's regulars.

Anonymous said...

Ah hey, that was a great month, thanks so much, CBB. I'm ecstatic that Mike will return - you're definitely onto something here. It's interesting to compare Mike's story and character with some of your own earlier Cheeseburger adventures (Brat Punk Discordia, or Rapscallion Relish, say - even my own favourite, a Cheeseburger in Paris). I think that with this new voice you may have found a way out of the almost-scraped-barrel of autobiography you mentioned before (your own metaphor - I've always found your past fascinating!), by exploring alternate Cheeseburgers in even more extreme situations interacting with even wackier characters. I suspect that's what all good fiction.

Anyway, I hung on every episode, and cursed the weekends, so thanks again.

Anonymous said...

I loved the story, man. Very engaging. Keep it up!

gl. said...

oh, thank goodness. there will be more. *sighs in relief* i love how this ended, with nobody the wiser, so mike's adventure is all his own. feels a little like ferris bueller's day off: innocent and insane all at once. :)

Anonymous said...

Bravo maestro!