“Welcome to Xetrov Airport” is heard over the intercom. The plain yellow walls blind the perpetual entrance to the country of Xetrov. A man saunters down the corridor to the customs line. He shudders.
“Passengers, if any unknown person have asks you to carry on items, please notify airport security-“ echoes over the intercom. The man strolls through the security gate with a small bag over his.
His worn face moves as he chews freely on a piece of gum. Upon approaching the gate he whips out his identification and boarding pass. Serried lines of stalwart passengers are in front of him starting with an old man struggling with his license. After a long aeon of searching the old man shows his two papers and proceeds. Without hesitation, security lets him advance on his way. They even offer assistance, but he refuses.
The third man in line sticks his identification at a female clerk who analyzes it. He shuns her. Only one gate to go and he can be on his merry way. Lastly, the dreaded metal detector, the most inconsistent invention inside of an airport. Ballyhoo begins; removing loose change he kicks off his shoes. Confidently swaggering forward he does not trigger any alarms.
“Sir you have been randomly selected for a search,” says the security guard with a heavy accent.
“Something wrong with the metal detector behind me?” Says the man with a touch of insolence scanning other passengers.
“We randomly select people for a full search,” says security.
Looking left he sees a tall Arabic man with a long beard and a headdress, a dangerously strong resemblance to wanted posters. “Why don’t you randomly select him?”
“It’s just random.”
“Oh that’s right,” his bright blue eyes squint with disgust, “That would be racial profiling.”
“Sir, arm’s out.”
“Here’s a profile, A Caucasian Xetrovian has never hijacked a plane, let alone crash it.” His belligerent comment falls on the deaf ears of security.
“Thank you sir,” Quietly rubbing the dollop of his peach fuzz moustache.
After snatching his bag and pushing his feet into his shoes, the man walks off.
Another officer grabs the man’s passport, “What is the purpose of your trip?”
“To see family.”
“Where are you traveling from?”
“Is that your country of origin?” The officer scans the passport over a machine and begins to read the information on the screen. His eyes narrow. “Sir! I need you to take this ticket over there.”
Guards throw a cordon around the man and escort him to a room around the corner. Despite their black militaristic weapons he stares forward with repose and proceeds to walk.
Across the airport, in one of the terminal’s baggage claim another man stands. As he raises his wrist, a shiny silver watch flashes the time. Unfolding the newspaper, his eyes glance at the front page. “Government To Regulate Cholesterol In Children” catches his eye and he proceeds to read the article.
“The FDA and Social Services have combined forces today to announce a new program to encourage healthy eating in children. With the children’s yearly physical, which is done through a social service provided doctor, the doctor will take cholesterol levels. Any child registering above the normal levels will be required to undergo further testing and dieting. During the first ninety days the parent is required to keep their child on a strict diet. If after ninety days the child shows no improvement, a court-ordered social service worker will remove the child from the home and enroll it in a weight loss clinic.”
His concentration is interrupted to observe other people greeting friends and family. He turns discontent to look behind before moving to the next agitprop in the paper.
“We can’t give you any more than sixty days, that is more than enough time,” says a uniformed customs officer. He slides back the man’s passport and waits for a reaction.
“Fine,” he says. Unfazed, he stares at both of the armed, homeland security officers.
“After your first thirty days you are to report back to the Department of Homeland Security to give a status of your current whereabouts and the health status update of your father.” The officer hands the man a pen and slides over a piece of paper. “Because of your past, you are not to have any contact with these people or visit these locations.”
Reluctantly the man spins the sheet around, “Are these in any particular order? Is one name more important than the other?”
The officer replies curtly to his contemptuous comment, “Just stay away from these people, especially this one.” His finger lands on the first name.
Smiling, the man says, “Where do I sign?”
At the baggage corral, the second man continues to read his newspaper while periodically checking his watch.
His eyes arrive at the next article “Cop suspended with pay for sleeping on the job.” He proceeds, ”A Xetrov City Police Officer is suspended with for sleeping on the job, in his patrol car. Someone snapped a picture of Officer Bobby Benny asleep behind the wheel at old Heart Road on February 2nd. That photograph was dropped off at the local newspaper, and Police Chief Blame suspended Sgt. Benny with pay, pending investigation.”
“Hello Rob, did you miss me?”
“Miss you? I thought you missed me. When did your plane arrive? Nice to see you William?” They exchange greetings.
“About an hour ago. I have been held up in customs and Homeland Security.”
Rob smirks dimpling his pale face, “Why am I not surprised?” His clear skin and light eyes match his brother’s. Folding the newspaper under his arm and absconding, “How many bags do you have?”
“This,” he says holding up only his carry-on bag.
“Four years you are gone, you only have one bag?” Says surprised Rob.
“What’s important to me is what’s on me. If I wanted to read something or watch TV I could go to the bookstore or hotel lobby.”
They head toward the exit. Before reaching the egress, Rob signals to the cameras mounted on the wall, “Be nice,” he says, “they are always watching you.”
“I promise to be on my best behavior.” Rob’s adage triggers his nostalgia of the staunch security officer thinking briefly back to the letter he signed disallowing him to see certain people.
As they begin to drive off, Rob grabs the parking garage ticket. “Do you want to swing by the hospital now or tomorrow?”
William stares out the window into the darkness. “Now. Get it over with.” Despite his experience in avionic traveling, prevailing trepidation pursues him. Always hungriness and a numbing noise in his ears. Maybe this ride is different; perhaps his condemnation of planes resulted from his dying father. His eyes scan the buttes sparsely interrupted by a light pole. Pupils dilating with each light, the ringing in his ears continues but his stomach is settling. Rob is watching and he smiles to reassuringly.
They arrive in the parking lot of the hospital after a brief ride where they must take another ticket to park. Directly after stepping out of the vehicle, an ambulance drives to the rear of the building.
“With the amount of health surveillance going on, they should take the doors off the hinges.”
Rob looks at William despairing.
“Does this country’s legal system still have enough loopholes that one can jump rope for twenty-miles?”
“This is coming from a guy,” begins Rob pompously, “who left a country with universal health care.”
“Fair?” Says Rob hastily, “Why should a homeless guy have the same medical opportunity as me?”
“That prevents corporate greed from controlling the market prices of medication.” William defends, “Besides it keeps a level playing field. Everybody gets screwed. Here you get screwed afterwards; it costs me a week’s pay for a sprained ankle. The doctor tells me ‘stay off your foot’. Thanks doc.”
The doors wobble open and Rob walks in to the receptionist counter. He grabs a clipboard, “Sign in.”
Over Rob’s shoulder he spots another closed circuit camera eyeing every movement. “Can I sign a fake name?” asks William.
“Just sign in,” insists Rob.