GM - Story #3

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Chapter 11

Greyson exited the sleek black Town Car that his uncle had willed to him two years earlier. It was his only connection to the side of the family that inhabited the ritzy hills along Lake Minnetonka, north of Minneapolis. His uncle had used the car for business, transporting executives from the twin cities out to the airport. The car was about seven years old but had been kept in prime condition. His uncle had logged more than 150,000 miles in the first five years. Greyson had added less than 3,000 in the past two.

Greyson drove the car sparingly, about once a month for trips to studios or performances outside the city. He stored it in a long-term parking garage about a block from his apartment, paying a couple hundred dollars a month for the storage.

He used it to visit LaGuardia High a couple times a year to meet with prospective clients from the prestigious performing arts school. And any time he had to see Mr. King at his office in Queens, he always drove to avoid the numerous trains it took to get there.

Greyson stepped out of the parking garage onto the curb by the NetJets terminal at the Westchester Airport like the celebrity he never quite became.

The brisk winter winds rustled the leafless branches of a short round tree by the entrance. Icicles dripped all around him from the slanted metal roof and tagged him on the back of his hand as he reached for the door to enter the lounge. He felt naked strolling into the warm, plush lobby in his ripped jeans and long sleeve black cotton shirt with a picture of Bob Marley plastered across his chest.

He gazed across the dark wood paneled room of the NetJets lounge. It looked just like the web site portrayed it. Attractive business professionals impeccably dressed in blue shirts and red ties occupied the rich living room like models in a showroom.

Only the little girl in the pink dress - with her ratty doll and her squeeze box of grape juice, sitting with her feet straight out from a highball chair next to the big plate glass window - stood out against the crowd.

He read the day’s New York Post with a pair of shades hiding his red and watery eyes. The cover featured a blood-soaked protester from a rally in Libya where the government had ordered the military to open fire on a crowd in Tripoli. He skipped past the story, which displayed other images of protests across several different Middle Eastern cities. The exercise of reading the paper did not last long as spells of dizziness assaulted him, and he called the waitress to refill his water glass every time she came within eyesight.

Greyson rolled his eyes to learn that his seat angled just across from the little girl who could not seem to stop her trap. He cast a glance to the father who stared down at his phone, thumbing through an endless list of text messages. He thought about getting up to move to a different chair but didn’t immediately see an opening and had little excess energy to rise from his comfortable position.

Greyson softened and smiled at Olivia. He cast a glance to Henry to show that he did not mind her conversing with him.

Hic …” Olivia spilled a few drips of her juice out the side of her mouth as an ill-timed hiccup disrupted her sip on the little bended straw that protruded from her drink box. A distinct purple dot blemished the neat pink top of her dress.

“Gotta watch what’s in that grape juice,” Greyson quipped to Olivia, but with a sideways glance at her father. “That’s some case of the hiccups.”

Henry cast a vacant smile and tried again to entice his daughter to watch her movie, but she turned back to Greyson and showed how she had lost a tooth recently and earned $10 under her pillow as a reward.

“Oh, you have the hiccups, little darling,” another NetJets employee hunched down in the aisle between Greyson and Olivia. “Let me get you a paper bag and you can breathe into it.”

“That won’t be necessary,” Henry interjected, half addressing anyone in the vicinity who might have ideas about how to cure his daughter. “She has a condition called Intractable Singultus, or Chronic Hiccup Syndrome. She can’t stop.”

“The acti-puncture doctor tried to stop the nervies that were making me hiccup.” She whispered to Greyson. “Hic … He had long needles. I was scared at first, but guess what?”

Henry had told her repeatedly not to discuss her condition. But so many people asked about it and offered their advice, that he understood how difficult it would be for Olivia to always deflect the topic. He felt uncomfortable listening to her tell strangers about her treatments, especially the more extreme ones he had tried. But at the same time, he understood her need to express thoughts from her mind as a defense mechanism for dealing with the trauma. He had decided to let her discuss it, reframe any descriptions that mischaracterized her experiences and cut her off if she goes too far.

“Well,” Greyson smiled at Olivia, “I had a condition called Epilepsy when I was a kid. It made me kind of shake. I had it for a long time, like from when I was a little older than you are.”

“He sure did.” Greyson thought about how pathetic it might sound to work in that he had briefly appeared in a television show, but Olivia’s wide-eyed interest drew it out of him. “I was an actor on a television show and before each show, the acupuncture doctor would take me into my dressing room and poke me with the needles to help make sure it didn’t happen in the middle of the production.”

Olivia’s face lit up and she leaned in closer to him.

“Were you on the Disney Channel?”

In an 8-foot square office with drab, greenish-grey walls in a remote corner of the Westchester County Airport, Logistics Manager Ruben Herrera leaned back in his cracked leather office chair, gazing at two computer monitors on his desk. Images of little airplane icons floated above a green and blue map on one monitor. The other monitor displayed a soccer game in a video window on the ESPN Desportes web site.

Ruben rocked back in his seat, occasionally looking out a small window into a garage where several baggage handling trucks skirted in and out of a large sunny opening across a 100-foot bay. Ahead of the massive garage door sat a 1,000-yard runway where 737s and prop planes ambled in from the much longer landing area of the airport.

Ruben watched an American Airlines DC10 pass the opening. In the background, a small man-made berm separated the million-dollar homes of Greenwich, Connecticut from the ugly operations of his little regional airport.

Ruben’s spine tingled at the reference and he sat up immediately. He paused before collecting himself, relaxing his shoulders and mulling his response. Seconds seemed like minutes as his mind raced through a myriad of harsh memories and painful emotions. He moved his fingers to the keyboard tentatively. The words formulated in his mind as he hit each letter, producing what seemed like a routine answer, pronounced in deep airline jargon.

Affirmative. Class three peripheral. Non-Operational malfunction.”

What does it mean?” the text from his highly efficient Ops Manager replied quickly.

Emergency change of plans,” he told himself in silence.

hmmmm …” the IM screen replied.

He glared at the little blue and white chat window as if watching ice melt. A bead of sweat formed above his hairline and threatened to roll down his forehead.

Ruben peered out over the monitor, straining to see into the sky beyond the bay doors. He paused again for a long time. Suppressed memories of his service in Iraq swirled into his mind.

I will handle that one myself,” typed Ruben.

He quickly got up from his seat to meet the plane at arrival. He grabbed his key ring and threw a set of badges around his neck. He started toward the door and then stopped to post one last reply.

Greyson watched Olivia bound through the lounge like an animated version of the little stuffed rabbit in her hand. She chatted with it. She hugged it. She hid it and then searched for it in a little game of Hide and Seek. Her hiccups reverberated throughout the room. Greyson had grown acutely aware of the little noise and found a kind of cuteness in the tiny hic sound. But the business crowd around them never looked up, never acknowledged her and probably didn’t even hear the repetitive sound.

“Excuse me sir,” the twangy server who had found Olivia so adorable moved into Greyson’s vision. “Did y’all say you were an Actor?”

“Hot Dang,” she managed to gasp in the quietest, most professional manner he had ever seen. “You were Shiloh St. Croix. Y’all were really good. I remember it from back from when I was in High School.”

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