Holding Pattern

Comedy / Airplane / Podium / 627w

“My fellow Americans,” she begins.

It is a cramped room, airborne, richly scented with recirculated coffee breath. The population: twelve alarmed staff, a cook and his sous chef, a pair of harassed-looking interns, the backup flight engineer, a camera operator, and the President of the United States. All but the last are exquisitely uncomfortable.

“It is with grave sobriety that I share the following news.”

She inhales deeply behind her makeshift podium. It has been assembled out of staff notebooks and binders.

“We are in a holding pattern.”

A pause for dramatic effect. Zoe, one of the interns, glances nervously at the camera operator, who has schooled his face into practiced emptiness.

“I do not mean that as a metaphor. I mean it quite literally.” Her nostrils flare in what has become her signature way. “I am obligated to tell you, the citizens of this great nation, that the President of the United States, one hundred of her staff, and her five-hundred-ton aircraft are currently in a holding pattern somewhere above the state of Minnesota.”

The unlucky staff collectively think about how the backs of their heads are being broadcasted on all signals, all channels, to all the eyes and ears of every person in the country. Then they collectively try not to think about it.

“As a result of this holding pattern,” the President continues, sweat under the arms of her cherry-red suit, “I will be unable to arrive in a timely manner for my engagement this evening in Seoul. Perhaps owing to my own lack of foresight, I did not expect that the engagements of the President of the United States would be delayed by a holding pattern.

“But perhaps, in this case, I should defer,” she says.

Intern number two, Svetlana, begins to rethink her excitement about this trip.

“Perhaps I should defer to the no doubt considerable expertise of the air traffic controllers of Soowhit, Minnesota, who have told us, in language quite clear, to remain in this holding pattern for an indefinite amount of time.

“And I know what you must be thinking. I want to assure you that we took all the proper steps to inform the great metropolis of Soowhit of our intention to refuel in their airport. An airport that is, I am sure we all agree, the undisputed hub of the northern Midwest. These steps were taken in order to minimize the likelihood that we, Air Force One, passengers, and crew, would be asked to remain in a holding pattern.”

The President holds up a hand, shutting down an advisor’s anxious gesture. Her podium slumps to the left.

“I thought it necessary, given this turn of events, to tell the people of this great nation ­– whom I represent, and to whom I am ultimately responsible –that I would be unable to fully carry out my duties due to the fact that I have been asked to maintain a holding pattern before descending for more fuel,” she says. “In the future, I will make every effort avoid this kind of failure. We will refuel in other airports. We will refuel in the sky. Whatever it takes so as not to be a burden upon the township of Soowhit.” She pounds her fist into the stack of binders, causing them to finally tumble with a plasticky slither to the floor. Madame President does not break eye contact with the camera across the room.

“But for the time being,” she concludes, with a drawing of breath and a sigh, “I regret inform you that it is incumbent upon us to remain, indefinitely, in a holding pattern. I humbly ask your patience, and I thank you for your attention to this urgent matter.”

The cameraman recognizes his cue, cuts the live feed.

Writer’s Note

Nobody is safe from holding patterns. Nobody. Why are you in a holding pattern? Fuck you, that’s why. Always.

I feel like this is more of a scene than a story. Had some writer’s block lately, which I hope I can get over before the flash fiction challenge for this year starts.



One Comment Add yours

  1. Ken says:

    I’ve always been captivated by the D.B. Cooper story. The guy was so clever, I hope he got away with it. Anyway, I liked your story. There were too many coincidences in it but you’re right, it could be expanded, and the coincidences could then be less abrupt. The ending reminds me of the ending of Tom Sawyer, when Tom and Becky find the treasure in the cave, along with the dead bad guy. There were a lot of coincidences there too but they run smoother in the long story.
    Didn’t much like Holding Pattern. Didn’t think the premise was funny. Did like A LOT, however, your description of the make-shift podium and its eventual collapse. You made it vivid in my mind. It was the star of the story.
    Recovery is a great story! Definitely one of your best. The characters came alive. You commented about not sacrificing imagery and detail to give characters voices, and I think you really succeeded with that here. The coincidence of the graveyard re-meeting works very well. It was nicely set up. You drew the reader in and gave him/her a satisfying reward. The story comes full circle with a happy but poignant ending. Nice job!

    (PS: I think some of your “fucks” are gratuitous and a little jarring in some places.)


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