As it is common knowledge that airports are profoundly dull, boring, and soulless; for the sake of the reader, I shall not tell of our hour-and-a-half long wait in the check-in line, nor of our ensuing mad dash to the gate (only to find that our flight had been delayed an hour and a half. I shall, however tell the reader of the manner in which we decided our rotation involving telling our stories.
After we found that our flight had been pushed back for some time (the Traveler was the one who inquired of the nature of the delay, and was told that four seagulls had flown into one of the jet engines; we are not sure if the gate agent was serious), we sat in the incredibly uncomfortable blue plastic seats in the gate’s lounge and made small talk.
“About this contest of ours,” said the Student. “Who do we determine who goes first?”
“Shot contest,” said the Drunkard.
The Student shook his head. “I feel that if we did that, then we would be far too inebriated to continue past the point of introducing a story.”
The Drunkard grunted and returned to leering at a young woman, only breaking his chilling gaze to leer into the duty-free shop at the bottles of Jack Daniels. I feel that if one were to give some thought as to what he was thinking, it would be likely that the man was wondering about how much liquor he could bring out of the country.
“Well,” said the Traveler, “since I’m the one who came up with this idea, it seems to me that I should give it the first go. Set an example, you know?”
The Writer snorted in disdain. “You? Ha!”
“And why not me?” responded The Traveler.
“Oh, nothing personal. You seem like a nice guy and all, but, really, you can’t possibly expect discerning gentlemen like ourselves to be entertained by tales of meandering drunkenly through Paris or London. We need something more substantial.”
The Traveler arched an eyebrow. “If I didn’t know better, I’d say you were saying that I didn’t have anything of interest to say.”
The Writer laughed—it was a laugh we were to grow to despise, for it was a laugh made of nothing but condescension. “No, no, no. You misunderstand me.”
The Stalker, seated behind us with his laptop open and the screen dimmed almost to the point of being off, said, “Sounds like you’re a prick.”
“Now this hostility is unwarranted,” The Writer said, beads of sweat starting to form on his brow. “All I am trying to say is that we should start this Olympian contest off in a way that makes it into something worth doing.” He stood, walked to the row of seats opposite us, sat down, and took up the role of an orator. “This is to define our journey, as well as our relationship to one another. Tell me, if you are on the first date with a girl, do you try to leap straight to intercourse?”
“Hell yeah, what do you do?” asked The Drunkard. “Some sort of pussy shit?” He raised his voice to a high-pitched squeal. “Oh look at me, I’m a writer and I know how to be a gentleman, cause I read about those guys in my namby-pamby books. Blah, blah, blah. Floooooowers.”
It was at this time that I suspected that The Drunkard had discovered some sort of odorless alcohol, for such a hostile comment could only come from one in a drunken state. (Or, instead, a complete idiot; but despite his unwarranted hostile proclivities, as well as his aptitude for drinking, The Drunkard was far from a complete idiot.) However, it turned out that The Drunkard arrived at the conclusion that The Writer was so full of himself and on such a level of pretension that he was worthy of nothing but disdain—a conclusion that, I should add, the rest of us came to soon enough.
“If I were to answer that unreasonable and infantile claim,” responded The Writer, “I would fling us off into an entirely unrelated discussion—and we do not have the time for such things. Now, listen to my thinking: I am the only one here who is a published author and—”
“I’m a published author,” responded The Student.
The Writer stammered and blinked for a moment. “What? What sort of thing did you publish?”
“It was called ‘Patterns and Sequences in the Writing of Sir Thomas Mallory: Learning the Stories Without Actually Reading Them.’ It was published in The Journal of Quantitative Medieval Reading last July. Before that, I did some basic work in defining ethics in terms of the new media.”
The Drunkard snapped out of his stupor. “You wrote that article?”
“Yes, have you read it?”
“Dude, that was basic reading in my Mass Digital Media class. Brilliant stuff.”
The Student colored. “Why thanks. Wrote it on a whim, really. Ruminating on what Aristotle would have been like had he written in a blog and it sort of popped out.”
The Writer cleared his throat entirely too loudly and broke into a coughing fit. When he recovered, he said, “That’s not writing.”
“How can you say that?” asked the Traveler.
“Because it’s not real.”
The Drunkard snorted. “Go take a flying fuck at the moon, you putz.”
“Anyway,” said The Writer, “real writing exists in the realm of the imagination, and storytelling is but an offshoot of writing. Thus, as the only true published author here—”
“Shut up,” said The Drunkard. “Quiet kid,” he said, addressing The Stalker, “what do you think?”
The Stalker quickly shut his laptop, cleared his throat, and said, “I think The Writer’s a moron. The Traveler should begin.”
“All those in favor?” asked The Student.
We all, except for The Writer, said our ayes.
“You are all troglodytes,” said The Writer.
“You’ll get your turn. Then, I’m sure, you’ll blow us all away,” I said.
Over the intercom, the gate agent announced that the flight would begin boarding. We stood, gathered, our bags, and The Traveler introduced his tale. “Since we’re bidding a fond farewell to our beloved country—”
“Hear that, putz?” The Drunkard whispered to The Writer, “sounds like a good storyteller to me.”
The Writer grumbled.
“I’ll begin with an account of a certain occurrence that went down when I was spending some time in Houston, Texas. Full of intrigue and danger, I’m sure it will entertain.