Wednesday, July 19, 2006


The intercontinental pain vessel

The ISB takes my ticket, looks at it, enquires:

"Is Birmingham in London, er, in British..?"

Swinging my carry-on rucksack in a blurred arc, I catch her cleanly across the temple; her head connects heavily with the desk, making a satisfying thunk sound, the chair spins and she is deposited on the floor where she lies motionless.

Without hurry, I drag her onto the conveyor belt, fill out a luggage tack and attach it to the lapel of her waistcoat. Then, seating myself at her desk, I randomly hit buttons until I find the one that operates the belt.

The staff and passengers at the adjacent desks are too preoccupied with their own matters to notice as the ISB is ferried onto the larger conveyor belt at the back and disappears from sight. Her face wears the slightly perplexed look of the sleeper whose dream has not yet determined itself to be good or bad; the luggage tag on her lapel reads "Birmingham, via Dubai."

I'll let her figure it out for herself.


I finish counting to ten and open my eyes. "The simple answer is yes," I say.


Seat 36B is an aisle seat. Seating myself, I murmur a brief prayer to the gods of international flight for a fit girl in adjoining window seat 36A.

As if summoned into existence specifically for the purpose of mocking my prayers, a bloke with an Irish accent materialises.

The gods of international flight get an ironic round of applause.

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