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soul of fine art

The Man with the Dog

Act V: Larry & Beau

 

“Sir, Sir, are you all right?” said the Sally Field look-a-like. “My supervisor is here.”

The events leading up to my “Are you the man with the dog?” scenario snapped me back to the present.

Why couldn’t I have remained on the plane as I had planned? I’d had a pleasant flight into Kansas City. My neighbor at the window seat, I’ll call him Matt Cutter, was a beer-drinking cellular phone expert. Matt was a jovial sort in his late thirties. When he saw me drawing on a pad on the fold up tray, he asked me if I was an artist. I nodded.

“Don’t know much about the art business,” he said.

I picked up the convenient in-flight magazine, placed my hand on a page featuring a watercolor painting, and said: “Would you give me fifty bucks for this art?”

“Hell, no. I surely wouldn’t,” said Matt.

I moved my hand off the page, revealing the name of the artist: Georgia O’keeffe. “It’s worth tens of thousands,” I told him. “And that’s the art business.”

He shrugged, downing the rest of his beer. “I can’t wait till we land.” The nicotine jitters were getting to him.

I sat back, thinking of my mother, knowing she had lovingly prepared her special blintzes, fine featherweight crepes with a light cheese filling. I could taste them.

There’s more. Larry’s partner, Beau, a blondish and rakish Yorkshire was in his regulation carrier in the cargo hold of the plane. I hoped the tranquilizer had finally taken effect, and that he was peacefully oblivious to his FAA approved accommodations.

Why hadn’t I stayed put on the plane while the crew cleaned up? When Matt had rushed off the craft to suck nicotine, I shifted over to relax and look out the window. The ground crew was busy unloading luggage and boxes from the cargo hold onto those little trucks. Suddenly, the routine scene took on a disturbing edge. Why were they unloading one of my bags? I had tied a distinct ribbon on the luggage handle.

I was flying on to New Jersey. I thought: there goes my stuff, off to God knows where. I had to make sure my luggage stayed with me. If they were off-loading my bags, they could have removed Beau in his carrier kennel as well. I thought: it could be worse. I recalled an old Twilight Zone episode where a young William Shatner played a passenger, who on a routine flight, decided to look out the window—with shocking results. He kept seeing a horrible gremlin on the plane’s wing. The dramatic twist was that only Shatner could see the gruesome gremlin that was tampering with the engines. The flight attendants, called stewardesses then, thought Shatner was hallucinating, and he was feeling nuts himself. He tries shooting the thing off the wing with a gun, which is not a good idea in an air-pressurized cabin at 30,000 feet. In the end, as Shatner is carted off by medics, presumably for some mental facility, we see the body of the dead gremlin on the wing. Shatner had hit the thing. He gets vindicated in the end, but only after living through a nightmare—a recurring theme in Rod Serling’s work.

At least I was on the ground and my gremlins were Larry and Beau.

There went the relaxing 45-minute layover. I grabbed Larry and moved up the aisle toward the exit to find out about my luggage and Beau. As I passed the pilot’s cabin near the exit, a prissy male flight attendant caught a glimpse of Larry, his curious head had popped up from the tote bag.

“Excuse me, but isn’t that a dog in a non-regulation pet carrier,” said the attendant with a nasty glee. He didn’t bother with “Sir.” His performance as a courteous member of the in-flight crew had sucked and now he was giving me grief. I was focused on making sure my luggage and now most likely Beau as well, didn’t end up in Tibet. I rushed off the plane to resolve my baggage issue.

At the check-in desk, the airline attendant, a redhead, was dealing with an older couple returning from Hawaii. The man insisted on boarding the plane I had just left. He was certain he’d forgotten a small bag under the passenger seat.

“I’m sorry,” said the redhead, “but our crew couldn’t find anything. No one is permitted on the craft until we announce that boarding will begin, which will begin in about a half hour.”

The couple persisted in wanting to search for their missing bag. The redhead sighed and pointed the couple to take a seat. The phone rang. The redhead picked up the receiver. She nodded, looked in my direction, and then peered at my nylon tote. She quickly got back to the phone. I couldn’t get her attention. I looked around and found a crew foreman who was taking a coffee break—a Starbucks cup to boot. He told me not to worry. I took a deep breath. He explained the procedure of removing all the baggage was routine. He assured me that my luggage and Beau would be on the flight to Newark when the plane took off.

Now I was stuck outside in the gate area until the boarding call. I sat down with Larry and was glad the whole affair concerning Beau had been resolved.

As I began to relax into the lounge seat, I noticed the formerly overwhelmed redhead point another female airline employee in my direction. I knew she was coming for me. As she approached, I was sure the Flying Nun had been reincarnated.»

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