• Broadkill Review

"Now Boarding"

By Darren Morris


INT. AIRPORT TERMINAL, CHICAGO

IN LINE AT GATE

A woman, MOLLY, dressed in a straw hat, sweater vest, frizzy, messy hair, large-framed glasses, wearing a fanny pack is standing near the end of the line at the third and final set of tired passengers. She holds an elaborate key ring around which a bulk of plastic cards or badges from loyalty program memberships are strung and fan out.


MOLLY

(sorting through badges) Where are you, darlin’?

(turning toward the man behind, proudly but apologetically)

So many, I get lost in them. Look here, I made bronze at a car rental program - and I don’t even drive.


The fellow passenger behind her in line, CHARLES, humors her and nods.


CHARLES

I thought all that stuff was electronic these days.


MOLLY

(Surprised)

Firstly, what do you mean stuff? It’s a bit more important than that, don’t you think?


CHARLES

(Humored)

I suppose it is...

(and then as an aside to MOLLY, with some emphasis, indicating with a nod the higher classes of passengers boarding before them)

...to some.


MOLLY

(Covering her mouth)

O, them. Don’t you feel sorry for them? They make them get on first and wait the longest.


CHARLES

Seems like we wait for them.


MOLLY

Don’t be silly. We are the guests of honor. When we come strutting in, we have an audience. Pretty soon, wheels up and you’re flying.


CHARLES

And what are the other benefits?


MOLLY

Seat choice. I always ask for the middle, and I always get it.


CHARLES

But what about first class?


MOLLY

They board first because they are the worst cases. Lost. Lonely.

Isolated. Have you ever tried striking up conversation with someone in...

(holding up finger quotes)...first class?


CHARLES

I suppose it is frowned upon.


MOLLY

Only by them, friend. And look at us.

(holding out her hand) Molly.


CHARLES

(Accepting her hand) Charles. Pleasure.


MOLLY

Your last name is Pleasure? I want to know you, I think.


CHARLES

O, no, I mean it is a pleasure meeting you.

(Still unsure it is)


MOLLY

I made silver this year.


CHARLES

(No reaction)


MOLLY

That’s silver, bub. On my very first year in the program.


CHARLES

(Finally catching on, sympathetically in mock surprise)

Ahhh.


MOLLY

Silver is preferred.


CHARLES

(Faux formally) Yes, well, certainly.


MOLLY

No other metal on the earth is as reflective as silver. You want to see yourself? Behold, silver. Not to mention silver’s practical value to conductivity. Nothing is faster. Form balanced with function. Can’t be beat.


CHARLES

(Surprised) Is that so?


Molly, sifts through her ring of badges.


MOLLY

Here it is!


Holding up the badge, showing it to Charles.


MOLLY

M-o-l-l-y in raised letters. Hand make every one of them at our level.


CHARLES

All those are different loyalty programs?


MOLLY

My pride and joy.


CHARLES

I didn’t know there were so many. And all in your possession.


MOLLY

Never leave home without them. Just kidding. That used to be American Express.


CHARLES

Which is the most valuable to you?


Molly seems genuinely pained at the question. Slowly sifts through the badges and gains speed, locating one. Holds it like a dove.


MOLLY

(Smiling) Probably this one.


She shows him as if holding up a wedding ring or a small flame to light a cigarette. The worn-out badge is to a loyalty program at her local big-chain grocery store.


CHARLES

And what are the benefits?


MOLLY

It might get you a penny off peas, but I think of it as a comfort.


CHARLES

And why is that?


MOLLY

It gives me comfort. I am accepted. Wanted. On my own terms, without pretension. I am welcome. How many places in this world can you go and feel welcome? I have made six close friends at this store. The butcher, Mr. Lumen, who I almost set up on a date with my mother. The florist, Rosa, just a coincidence her name, but such a beautiful person. The pharmacists, my god, I think they know me better than anyone I met in high school, for example. It may have started with simple consumer transactions, a faceless business who is required to provide discounted products in exchange for my continued business. But what I get in return is so much more. I get welcomed. I have friends there.

I go there at least once a week, whether I need to or not.


CHARLES

I see. I should look into joining.


MOLLY

Yeah. But you know what? I’ve heard there’s a loyalty card out there that is even better. The universal.


CHARLES

The universal?


MOLLY

One card instantly enrolls you into every program. You are welcomed everywhere.


CHARLES

Improbable.


This deflates Molly a bit.


MOLLY

Can I ask you something?


CHARLES

Please do.


MOLLY

Where are you headed?


CHARLES

This flight? LA. Same as you I hope.


MOLLY

Home for you?


CHARLES

Yes.


MOLLY

Anyone there for you? A wife? Kids? Friends? A pet?


CHARLES

I know I’m a lucky man.


MOLLY

And yet you said LA rather than home.You stand here talking with me, and you think of it as waiting in line. The crew on board is waiting to take you home. You are silver. They value you. Yet you forget, don’t you?


CHARLES

Occasionally, yes. But you have reminded me.


MOLLY

Not me, Charlie.

Holding up the silver membership badge.

It’s this!


INTERCOM VOICE

Now boarding, silver. Thank you for your loyalty silver members. Now boarding, silver. Also boarding gold, platinum, comfort plus, platinum plus, diamond medallion, those traveling with children or pets, those who need no assistance, those who are lonely, selfish, narcissistic, and now silver.

Silver medallion members, welcome aboard.


MOLLY

(Excitedly) That’s us!


CHARLES

I’ve enjoyed talking with you.


MOLLY

The pleasure was all mine, Charlie Pleasure.


CHARLES

And good luck finding the universal. But I suspect you have already found it.


MOLLY

Thank you so much for saying that.


They pass through the gate and walk down the jetway. She looks back over her shoulder before stepping into the mouth of the plane.


This is the fun part. We get to pass by all these lonely souls up front.


CHARLES

Lord it over them.


INT. PLANE

Molly goes first, happily, proudly, turning over her shoulder once more to Charles to indicate one of the first class passengers, impeccably dressed, holding a wine stem, looking out the window.


MOLLY

See what I mean?


Another passenger is barking torrid insults into his cell phone as Charles passes. Molly finds her seat.


(To the woman seated in the aisle seat) We’re row mates, darlin. O my lord, I love your hair.


The woman seated in the aisle smiles and stands to allow Molly to get to her seat.

The two immediately begin to talk and Molly is already shaking hands with the window seat passenger as Charles passes deeper into the plane.


INT. PLANE AT CHARLES’ SEAT ROW

Charles opens the overhead compartment which is packed. He must have his stewardess take and stow the bag elsewhere. He taps the meaty aisle passenger on the shoulder.


CHARLES

I am the middle seat.


The aisle passenger is unhappy and bothered by the request, but stands in a huff and Charles makes his way and the two are seated again, snapping their belts. The window passenger is a heavily tattooed kid in a sleeveless shirt listening to audible thrash music by headphones while he plays a video game on his phone and eats chips, licking his fingers as he does.


CHARLES

(To the aisle seat passenger who pretends to be miraculously asleep)

Sorry about the bother.


Charles takes out his phone. He has a new text waiting from his wife Maria that simply says “Love.” He opens up a picture of her, then the two of them together. Then a picture of his two daughters.


CHARLES

(Texting)

Be home before you know it.


The engines kick in. He turns out his overhead light. Fade to black.


EXT. PLANE TOUCHES DOWN AT LAX


INT. GATE MOUTH AT LAX

Arriving passengers come out of the gate mouth in clumps or one at a time. Charles appears. He walks to a clearing and looks at the passengers exiting. He is looking for Molly but gives up.


Shot: FROM BEHIND CHARLES, ALONE IN SILHOUETTE, PULLING HIS BAG TOWARD EXIT.


EXT. AIRPORT TERMINAL ARRIVING PASSENGER PICK-UP

Molly exits the airport. There is a long white car waiting for her with a uniformed driver standing by the rear door. The driver takes her suitcase, and opens her door.


INT. CAR

Molly takes off her fanny pack, her vest, and finally her glasses and wig while her driver packs the trunk and climbs in his seat. She has been in disguise. She shakes out her hair as they pull out into traffic.


DRIVER

Straight to the house, Ms. V?


MOLLY

(Her accent changed back to her native British)

I suppose.


She looks at all the travelers greeting on the sidewalk. Perhaps she sees Charles greet his wife with a romantic kiss. They travel for a little in silence.


CLOSE UP ON MOLLY


MOLLY

Johnny, I’ve changed my mind.


DRIVER

Ma’am?


MOLLY

Can you take me to the Baskin- Robbins on Piedmont? It’s nearby.


DRIVER

I’d take you anywhere, but that’s a tough neighborhood. You sure?


MOLLY

Just feel like an ice cream. She fishes out her key ring of badges.


MOLLY

You think they have an ice cream loyalty program.


DRIVER

I feel certain they do.


MOLLY

Sweet.


DRIVER

Exactly.


EXT. LIMOUSINE IN A POOR SECTION OF TOWN


Shot: PAN FROM MOLLY THROUGH A WINDOW TO REAR OF THE CAR AND UP TO BIRD’S EYE.


END



Darren Morris lives in Richmond, Virginia, holds an MFA from Virginia Commonwealth University, and manages the poetry editor's desk at Parhelion Literary Magazine. His recent poems appear in Burnside Review, Blackbird, Juked, National Poetry Review, and RATTLE. Other poems have appeared in The American Poetry Review, The Missouri Review, The Southern Review, New England Review, Poetry Ireland Review, Best New Poets and other journals.

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