The Wombat Returns – Holiday Excerpt

By Mark Cunningham

The airline people were building barricades to keep us back, though we were one lit torch away from storming the counter anyway.  I decided that as long as they stayed, I would wait.  Others had left, making their way in the snow, but I was not alone in the gate area.  We were the ones with no place else to go.  We would spend Christmas Eve in an airport where the good chairs had already been staked out.  I decided that it probably beat a manger. 

“If you ask me it’s not worth it.”  I hadn’t asked, but he wasn’t talking to me anyway.  He was wearing a faded black leather jacket and a ridiculously large moustache.   It was obvious that he didn’t have any friends; even a casual one would have said:

“That moustache looks fucking ridiculous.”

It had to have been his mother he was talking to, but I don’t think she had asked him if it was worth it either.  That didn’t stop him. 

“By the time we get there, it will be time to come home anyway.  I gotta be at work the day after tomorrow.”  He had an earring that was almost as ridiculous as his moustache.  I bet he had a terrific job to get back to the day after tomorrow.  His mother didn’t say anything.  She was old and could have been asleep except that she was nodding.

He got up and walked away. 

He was gone for a while before the old lady spoke.  “He is a my son you know?”

I knew.  It was all that expensive CIA, black ops training. 

“When I go?  They’s each all what they have; he and his sister.  What else is there?”

What else is there?  Damned if I know.  More things than you could ever imagine, but probably less than you think.  Everyone has their own vision of what they are looking for.  I was ready to leave it at that, but I looked over and saw the son talking to a TSA guy at security.  He was probably calculating how much time a smoke would take.  I thought that he might need extra time for them to pat down that moustache.  She followed my eyes.

“I know you want the seats.  Don’t think I don’t know you.  I know you.  You cannot have a the seats because I will not go.  He is a my son you know?”

An agent came out from behind the barricade and called my name over the intercom.

I looked at the old lady.  “You cannot have my seats.”  I made sure she knew I was serious.  “I will not go either.”  With that out of the way, I walked to the counter.

The ticket agent got immediately to the point.  “We have a flight for you.”   

Sometimes it seems as if the things that you look forward to most at Christmas are those things that you forget about first, but occasionally you look forward to the unforgettable.

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