Saturday, May 27, 2006

Flight 827 - Part 3

Here's the final part of the story - enjoy.

By Matt

Now silver wings carried the glimmer of hope. He was back, if only for a while. He’d vowed to return when the Mariners opened their new stadium. Following that magical year had been one of his greatest joys. The miracle comeback, Randy reaching for the heavens, Dave Niehaus’s “grand salami” call on an Edgar Martinez home run and Junior’s exuberant dive across home to beat the Yankees.

The houses grew more numerous, the green landscape giving way to yet more shades of grey as concrete replaced evergreens. The plane whirred and thunked as flaps hung out and landing gear came down. The pressure grew on sensitive ears as the plane drew nearer to sea level.

Suddenly a thump and a screech as rubber met runway, the noise increasing as powerful engines reversed their thrust.

12B waited patiently as the other 86 people around him gathered their belongings and exited. He came to his feet and pulled his carryon from the bin. Shuffling along the aisle, he bade the flight crew a friendly farewell and thanked them for the flight. Excitement growing, he picked up the pace down the Jetway and burst into the busy, familiar terminal. It was exactly as he’d remembered, not particularly beautiful, and under a seemingly perpetual state of construction.

A short wait at the baggage claim later, and he had a heavy bag slung over his shoulder and was on his way to the ground transportation area. An airport shuttle bus would be along soon to take him to the hotel downtown, a real deal at $39 a night.

Stepping outside, he took in the sights and sounds of the airport. The air was cool and heavy. It smelled of rain, pine and jet fuel. He found it rather pleasant. The frequent sounds of jets taking off drowned out the cacophony of cars, taxis, and buses swirling around the terminal. Across International Boulevard he could see the twin towers of the Airport Plaza with the familiar 13 Coins restaurant sign. He’d never eaten there. Too expensive on $7.00 an hour, but it was one of the best restaurants in the area.

Around him people headed in all sorts of directions. He wondered where they were going. Did they have families here? Business? Pleasure?

The blue and yellow Dodge van approached. The usual mix of tourists piled in with him. Typically they were the only ones who used the Airporter.

Passengers around him called out their destinations. Soon he was alone with the driver. He gave the name of a hotel on Sixth Avenue, not far from the TV station whose offer he turned down two years earlier. “King’s Inn”, he said. He made no small talk with the driver, not wanting to miss the sights of the familiar city.

The van pulled into the lot of the hotel and the man’s heart sank. There was a reason the place was so cheap. It was a place more for the furtive, furious rendezvous of strangers than tourists.

He went to the grimy desk, to a disinterested clerk and gave his reservation. The clerk seemed surprised anyone wanted to actually stay the entire night, but dutifully gave him a key to a first-floor room.

As rooms went, he had seen better garbage dumps. A tiny lamp with a 45-watt bulb provided the only light. The ancient TV had cable in name only. A twin bed had more lumps than bad gravy. As if to punctuate his miserable situation, the rain outside picked up. Fatigue beginning to set in, he set down his suitcase. The room had an unmistakable chill. A worn-out heater provided no relief, blowing only cold air, and even then with a protest of noise louder than the plane he’d left shortly before.

At least the room had a working phone and phone book. He didn’t have much money, but that didn’t mean he had to stay in this dive any longer than necessary. A scan through the book located a Motel 6 back down by the airport. He made a reservation for the next day. Another call arranged for a van to pick him up and take him to his new hotel. He hadn’t rented a car for this trip, not really believing he’d need one. He’d fix that tomorrow.

Satisfied his living arrangements would only be temporary, the man settled into the bed. A new feeling settled over him, one he hadn’t felt in years. The miserable room did nothing to contain it. He was happy.

The dim surroundings, the lumpy bed, the lack of heat couldn’t diminish the feeling. Here, amongst the trees and mountains, water, concrete and rain was something more. Here was home.

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