‘Would you stop that infernal crunching?’ Laura looked up from her phone and scowled until Terrence froze in place, then her thumbs resumed their rapid tapping.
The crunching was a tootsie pop he’d bought from a vending machine with his last quarter. He knew it was annoying. He stood, mumbled something about the washroom, and wandered off, hands wedged down into his jeans pockets, the stick jutting out of his mouth. Terrence had never been one to just suck a lollipop. No sooner had he popped it in his mouth than his teeth were clamping down, chipping shards as sharp as glass. With the candy pulverized and gone, he’d hold the paper stick between his teeth, worrying the end until it was long past limp and sodden. Whatever. It was just another on an endless list of irritating things about him.
Laura probably thought he was childish to buy a lollipop from a vending machine, but who would want to pay $18 for a sandwich that managed to be stale and soggy at the same time? Airport prices—highway robbery, more like. Corral a bunch of people with vacation on the brain, waiting hours for their flight, then charge an arm and a leg for food that’s shocking in its mediocrity.
‘Passengers of flight C340 bound for Panama with stops in New York and Miami, the departure gate has been changed to 24B. There will be a slight delay due to inclement weather, but thank you for your patience and we hope to begin boarding as soon as the ground crew is able to de-ice the wings. It also looks like the flight is slightly overbooked, so we are offering a one-time payment of $350 to any passengers willing to take a later flight.’
What a joke. Who would want to wait for another flight? Terrence circled back to where he’d left Laura and their luggage, but the row of chairs was filled with the turmoil and detritus of a family of five. The baby waved his chubby fists, complete with strings of drool, in Terrence’s direction, while an older sibling crossed her eyes and stuck out her tongue. Who would want that headache?
Terrence’s shoulders hunched a little higher, his fists wedged a little deeper, and he squinted to see which way to gate 24B. Laura better not have volunteered to be bumped from their flight, $350 or not. She’d complained when he booked a cheaper flight with two stopovers, said he was a tightwad. Up ahead he spotted her, struggling to drag both suitcases through the crowd. Oh he’d hear about this for sure.
A few long strides caught him up, and Terrence took over hauling the bags without a word. Laura looked up with half a smile and pulled something from her jacket pocket. She twisted off the wrapper and held out another tootsie pop.
‘Thought you might want another, since the flight’s going to be delayed.’
Who would want to go to Panama with anyone else?