This week’s prompts, from my favorite idea generator, diymfa.com/writer-igniter , were A Kindergarten Teacher, goes on her honeymoon alone. The prop is a filthy shirt.
This is my weekly bad short story, based on Ray Bradbury’s challenge that you can’t write 52 bad short stories.
As she settled into the window seat of the airplane, Katie decided that having the middle seat open was not a bad thing. As a kindergarten teacher, she spent most of her days looking for the good, so why not on her honeymoon. An empty seat next to her on an eight hour flight would be cause for celebration, actually, except that it was the seat Justin was supposed to be sitting in. She sighed and turned to the window, watching the ground crew scurry around the bottom of the plane at the next gate. She wondered where that one was going? It was a game she played as a child living near the airport in Denver, creating a story for each plane that flew overhead.
“It’s a long flight, but at least it will be warm when we get there.” Katie turned toward the aisle as a man was packing a black wool overcoat into the overhead bin. “Now I am questioning why I even brought this monster.” He laughed as he sat in the aisle seat.
“Probably because it was 20 degrees on your walk from the parking garage to the terminal?” Katie said. She was used to convincing five year olds that coats were really important on cold days, even if they got in the way on the swings. Then she felt a sudden dread. Was she going to have to talk to this man the whole eight hours now?
“So what brings you to Hawaii?” The man asked. “Business or pleasure?”
Damn, she thought. What to say? A vacation? She decided to go with the truth. “It’s my honeymoon.”
“Well, congratulations.” He patted the empty middle seat. “I guess the groom is on his way?”
“He’s going to meet me there. He had some business come up that he had to take care of.”
The man nodded. The flight attendants were beginning their safety instructions and Katie pulled the emergency sheet out of the front pocket and followed along. She made eye contact with the flight attendant standing at their row, holding a seat belt buckle high in the air. Katie knew as a teacher that it felt good to know that people were paying attention as you spoke and that eye contact was the best way to convey that. The man pulled out his phone and scrolled, probably taking advantage of the last few minutes of connectivity. Katie smiled at the flight attendant, thankful her students were too young for smart phones.
The plane took off and Katie watched out the window. She had a book to read, but she didn’t feel like thinking. She was still put out by Justin suddenly telling her last night that he would not be able to fly with her. On their honeymoon, of all times. She tried to convince him that surely someone else could cover this emergency. She was having a substitute for two weeks, which would be incredible hard on her young students. If she could make that sacrifice, surely he could. She suggested she wait and they fly together when he was done, but he didn’t want to spend the money on two more tickets, as their were non-refundable.
“Something to drink?” The flight attendant held a cocktail napkin toward Katie. Katie pulled down her tray table and before she could ask for a ginger ale, the man in the aisle seat piped up, “How about a Prosecco? On me, to celebrate your wedding.”
As much as she didn’t want to spend the flight talking to a strange man, she did like Prosecco. “Thank you, that would be nice.”
“I’m Aaron, by the way.”
The flight attendant put the little squat plastic cup of sparkling wine in front of each of them. Aaron held his up, “To new beginnings, a happy honeymoon, and safe travels for the groom.”
Katie touched her cup to his and said thank you. She did want Justin to arrive safely. Maybe this would be a one time thing. He had never missed a date or other event before. He would get to Hawaii, soon, and they would have two weeks to enjoy a well deserved vacation.
“What do you do when you’re not waiting for the groom to show up on your honeymoon?”
“I’m a teacher, kindergarten.”
“Wow, that’s the most important grade. Those kids have to learn how to go to school after being home all that time.”
Katie smiled. “Thank you. Most of my students did go to some kind of daycare or pre-school, os by the time I get them, they are ready to learn a bit of reading and math. Still, they are still young enough for nap time, one of the best times of the day.” Katie hoped that Aaron would get the hint and stop asking questions. But no such luck.
“So, the groom, is he a doctor or something?”
Katie shook her head. A doctor, that would be understandable. “He does have a Ph.D, but he’s not a medical doctor, he’s a horologist.”
Aaron raised his eyebrows. “Oh?” He took a sip of his wine, “So, he, uh, studies, horror movies?”
Katie laughed. “I wish, that would be interesting. We don’t talk much about what he does. He works at the atomic time lab in Boulder.”
“Atomic Time? What, how long until we get bombed?” His laugh seemed a bit nervous.
“He runs this fancy fountain clock, it sets the standard time for the entire world.” When she said it that way, it sounded important, but still rather boring.
“What kind of emergency does a clock have?”
“I’m not really sure, but it’s a fountain clock, and Boulder has been in drought conditions lately. I guess he had to set up hoses or something.”
Katie took another sip of Prosecco. She needed to not talk about Justin, or she would just get angry all over again. “So what brings you to the islands?”
Aaron paused a moment. “I am delivering a product to a client.”
“What do you make?”
“It’s a, um, technical device, used in agriculture. I don’t want to bore you with the details. See, you’re yawning already. Maybe it should be nap time.”
Aaron watched as the young woman pulled out a travel pillow and leaned against the window, shutting her eyes. Shit, he thought, they were on to him. He thought about opening up the overhead bin and checking on them, the agrochrons, as his partner dubbed him. But that would call attention to them and attention was the last thing he needed. Thankfully, this was a plane with wifi, so he pulled out his cellphone and connected. He opened WhatsApp and messaged his partner.
“Hey, the girl sitting next to me on the plane, her husband is a horologist and he got called away for an emergency. Think they are on to us?”
There was no immediate response. The flight attendant came by and he got another Prosecco. Katie was snoring lightly, so he relaxed a bit as well. He was lucky, he supposed, that he got the seat with her and not with her new husband.
His phone buzzed. “Can you change seats?”
“She’s asleep. She hasn’t messaged anyone, if that’s what you mean. And she said her husband was in charge of the fountain clock. Something about adding water, since there is a drought.”
“Is she an idiot? It’s a Cesium fountain clock, not the one the Friends dance around.”
“She’s a kindergarten teacher.”
“She says, she could be trying to get you to talk things up. Is she wearing a wire?”
“Christ, Carlos, she is a sweet little kindergarten teacher. She hasn’t a clue.”
He drank some more Prosecco. Maybe a nap wouldn’t be a bad idea. He looked at the time. Five hours until they landed. The buyer would meet him at the airport, take him out to the fields. They already had half the payment, and once Aaron set up the devices, the buyer would wire the rest. He just needed to get there, set things up and he was set for life.
“Buyer just messaged,” Carlos’ new message buzzed. “He’s antsy.”
“I can’t make the plane fly faster.”
Or could he? He thought about the devices. He would show the buyer how to plant them in the ground, and they would affect the crops, significantly speeding up the growth cycle. As if the plants were time traveling on their own. If if was something like Pineapples, a sped up growth cycle would help profits a bit, but since the buyer grew weed, there were millions of dollars at stake. Marijuana was basically three months, seed to smoke. The agrochrons would shorten that to a week and a half. Aaron could practically smell the money. Maybe he should find a nice place in Mexico, he thought, away from the prying eyes and IRS.
But could the device help speed up the plane? What could it hurt to try? He tried to thing about where to place it. He looked toward the cockpit, there was a lavatory there. Maybe there was a cabinet where it could go. He stood up and looked around. Almost everyone around him was fast asleep, a perk of an eight hour flight. He opened the bin and reached into his duffle bag. He felt around until he found the lead-lined box. He unlatched it, still in the duffle and still in the bin, and pulled out the small box of gears. He had told TSA agents they were puzzles he was selling and they believed him, not understanding the point of the lead lined box, until he said that he was afraid the x-rays would damage them. They shrugged and sent him on his way. Now he held the small device, took one more glance around, and slipped it in his pocket. Then he made his way to the lavatory.
He went into the lavatory and locked the door. He took off his wrist watch and put it on the sink, and then pulled out the device. For the crops, he was told to turn the dial two complete turns, then put in in the ground. He guessed that would be too much for this trip, but maybe a quarter of a turn? His watch displayed 4:26. He touched the dial of the device and move the dial around just a bit. He glanced down at his watch. 9:02. He started to shake, and it wasn’t turbulence. Shit, he thought, this thing really worked. He patted himself, everything seemed to be here. He looked at his reflection in the small mirror. He didn’t seem any older, although what difference would five hours make?
He came out of the lavatory and was scolded by the flight attendant, “Sir, you really must take your seat, we are in our final descent.”
Aaron went back to his seat and buckled his seat belt. He was delivering 12 of these devices, but maybe he should hold one back for himself. They could come in handy. Would the buyer notice if he was one short? Maybe he could accidentally “break” one while installing, and promise to return with another. Shoot, next trip, he could eliminate the whole eight hours of air time. This could be even more ludicrous than Carlos even dreamed.
The landing was blissfully uneventful and he watched as Katie gathered her things together. Had she any idea what just happened, what he did? She was kind of cute, he thought, maybe she would rather be with a real manipulator of time, rather than someone who just made sure the clocks were running. What would a Ph.D have in common with a kindergarten teacher anyway? He didn’t even tell her what a horologist really was. Carlos said they were like game wardens, only they protected time travel devices. Heaven help those with out the proper paperwork. Aaron had done his share of elk hunting without permits and the Colorado game wardens hadn’t caught him yet. What could a nerdy horologist do to him?
Katie fluffed her hair and put on some bright pink lipstick. He thought about buying her a drink after they landed, but remembered that his buyer would meet them there.
He had gotten off the plane and was walking through the gate tunnel the the airport.
“It was nice talking to you,” Katie said. She was behind him.
He paused a moment, to let her catch up. He pulled out a business card. “You too. Hey, if your husband doesn’t get her in time…”
She took the card and tucked it in the pocket of her overnight bag. “He said he would be here in a few days, so I may just take you up on that, since I don’t have any other friends here.” She stopped short and Aaron crashed into her.
“It can’t be,” Katie said. “He’s here.” She pointed to a man in filthy clothes and desperately in need of a shave. “Justin, what happened to you? How did you get here?”
He didn’t answer and Aaron felt panic swell. Justin was flanked by four men in matching polos. Justin elbowed the man to his right pointed at Aaron. “Arrest that man.”