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The Man with the Dog

Act VII: Ciao Kansas City


The gate area of my flight was nearly full of itchy passengers ready to embark, including the vacationing couple from Hawaii in search of their lost bag. I could see the redhead at the check-in desk getting ready to begin announcing the boarding by rows routine. I could envision the plane taking off with Beau in the cargo hold while Larry and I were left behind in Kansas City.

The balding airline supervisor had returned with his boss—a portly type in a regulation airline issue sports jacket. He had an official-looking manual under his arm.

“Excuse me, Sir,” the man in the sports jacket began, introducing himself as the senior manager on duty. “Are you the man with the dog?”

I pointed to the tote. Larry had fallen asleep. The manager peered inside, then opened the manual. He shook his head in a mildly annoyed manner. He had a fresh mustard stain on his tie and my dog related matter must have yanked him away from his dinner of wieners.

“You understand that we have to follow the rules. Regulation carriers are required for the animal’s safety.”

“I understand. I’ve traveled with him like this before with no problem,” I said, lying again for expediency.

“Could you please wait here, Sir. I’ll be right back,” said the manager, who used a special key to open the gate to the Jetway that led to the waiting plane, its engines whining for lift off.

Now what? I chastised myself for having looked out that window. My stomach ached as did my head. Larry woke up and stuck his head out from the tote for a look around. I was feeling anxiety. Was that a lack of faith?

The redhead at the check-in desk made the announcement: the usual boarding procedure, people with infants, or those with special needs may board first.

A line formed quickly. The gate door swung open and the portly manager appeared; the official manual was closed and tucked under his arm. He had the captain of the plane with him. The captain was a dead ringer for the actor Peter Graves who looked as if he had stepped out of the movie, Airplane. I couldn’t believe it. I was having a strange dream. Friend or foe, I thought. It was hard to read the captain’s face. Was this mission impossible?

The manager said: “It’s a toss up. In cases like this, we defer to the captain of the craft. I looked at the captain. The captain looked at me, then at Larry in the nylon tote. The moment of truth had arrived. The gray-haired pilot winked and gave me a friendly military salute.

Hallelujah. Houston, we have no problem, I cheered to myself.

The overfed manager stepped back as he offered the following advice: “Sir, to avoid future problems, you should get a regulation kennel carrier next time.”

I was weak and dizzy, reeling inside, as this was a close call for the man with the dog. I decided to get on board early, now that the captain had cleared the way. The female attendant at the gate said, “Excuse me, sir, but early boarding is for special situations only.”

“Yes, I have a very special headache.”

She laughed. “Well, you know, soon everyone will say they have a headache to board early.

“You have a point,” I said, “but the captain said that I can board with my dog and . . .”

She cut me short. “Oh, are you the man with the dog?”

I nodded.

She gave me a knowing smile, waved me on through the door, and said, “Have a good flight.”

I walked into the Jetway with Larry in his tote, stepped into the plane, walked down the aisle, and fell into my seat.

A few minutes later, Matt Cutter, my beer-drinking seatmate came in, refreshed from his smoke. He scrunched past me to get “that” window seat and plunked himself down.

“It’s hell out there,” he said. “Finding a place to smoke is impossible. I had to leave the terminal. You’re lucky you’re not hooked. Looks like you had a good rest.”

I rolled my eyes, petted Larry in my lap and waited, trusting the cargo foreman was right about my luggage and Beau being on board.

The plane took off for Newark.

A new life and my mother’s delicious blintzes beckoned. There was an exciting future waiting that I would have to create.

A true artist wouldn’t have it any other way.»

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