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October 6, 2016 / hbrowne4

Pictures In the Air by Stephen Brady

Dominique knew something was wrong before the Captain made the announcement.
At first the two hundred and forty passengers were simply told to “stand by.” Rumours rippled from First down to Economy about what was going on. Dominique asked a harried hostess and was instructed to “kindly remain in your seat.”
“I don’t think they even know what the bloody hell’s happening,” the sunburned Englishman beside her grunted.
Dominque sat back, and summoned her training. Fold inward, and breathe.
Time was passing. Sun beat hard through the portholes. Minutes stretched and melted to an hour, like the baking tarmac outside.
Finally, the Captain delivered the news: a volcanic eruption on some obscure Atlantic isle had spewed ash into the stratosphere, and grounded flights throughout the hemisphere.
“Volcanoes!” the Englishman snapped. “Couldn’t make it up. Just my luck, eh?”
Dominique tried to remain calm, and centered. But the air in the cabin was pressing in upon her eyelids, and she could see cacophony ahead.
They could not take off, and with the queue of craft behind them, they could not return to the terminal. Flight 224 was in limbo.
Worst of all, the chaos in the sky had even stilled the ether. Phones and tablets, all stripes of sweet distraction, silenced. Stewards conferred, and glanced anxiously at the crowd. They were only so many miniature bottles away from anarchy.
By the third hour, things were turning ugly. Children squirmed and hollered. An old man had passed out. Peanuts were thrown, and in First Class, someone had to be restrained.
Dominique had grown impatient. She was due in Paris. Her company had never missed a performance.
“We must do something,” she muttered. “We cannot sit here.”
“What can we do?” her seatmate demanded. “You a vigilante, or something?”
He was studying her now. Taking in her petite frame in the sheer bodystocking, the child-like bob and pale, unpainted face. “What do you do, Fifi?”
“My name is Dominique.”
“Excuse me, I’m sure. So what is your racket?”
“I mime.”
A moment of silence ensued. Then the Englishman laughed. “That is a turn-up. Hoy!” He waved at a steward. “Got something here might help you, chum.”
Dominique was ushered to the top of the cabin, and conferred with the staff. Then she stretched, limbered up, and began.
Initial reaction was mixed.
“Get ’em off!”
“Sit down, you daft cow.”
Someone threw a cup.
But after a minute or two, people quieted. Calls began to ring out:
“A ladder.”
“Climbing! Climbing a mountain!”
The first depiction was guessed, and there was a ripple of applause. The Englishman shouted, “Right, left side versus right. We’ll take you to school!”
“Bring it on!” someone called back.
The Head Steward took Dominique’s elbow, and whispered:
“Bridge on the River Kwai. That’ll take a while.”
Dominique prepared. Took a breath. And made her pictures in the air.
“Debbie Does Dallas!”
The shouting grew strident. Flight 224 stirred back to life. Dominique was become a star, and the sweltering plane her greatest auditorium.

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