A Turbulent Trip Down the Concourse
Concourse B is bustling while Wray Nerely limps along one side, struggling with the rolling suitcase behind him as he attempts to circumvent a trash bin. His phone rings, and the backpack slung over one shoulder threatens to fall when he wrestles the phone from his front pocket. Noticing it’s his agent returning his call, he answers, “Hi Bobby… Yes, I’m at the airport….Yes, I got the first class ticket… I know they’re expensive. I’m having enough trouble getting to the plane; I need to be able to stretch out my leg during the flight…. Well thanks for getting it, but that’s not why I called. We need to discuss scheduling. You have to stop booking these celebrity sporting events for me. How do you expect me to get to the next convention, let alone survive it, when I can barely walk?”
“My knee would disagree,” he says hotly after listening to Bobby’s reply about the dangerous sport of bowling. “When you’re already injured from a charity golf outing a couple weeks back, it tends to get progressively worse with each frame… I know that I told you I have bills to pay, but can’t you find something in a studio….a video game, commercial, anything?”
Wray moves a little closer to the wall when he hears a courtesy cart coming. After Bobby says something about cancelling a rock-a-thon, he replies, “I said no to sports, not to music… Rocking chairs not musicians, you’re a real comedian.” He shakes his head.
The electric cart slows next to Wray. He stops, and so does the cart. “I have to go Bobby. I’ll call you back.” He turns to the cart’s driver. “Can I help you?”
“I thought maybe I could help you. Nasty limp you got there. Which gate are you headed to?” The driver asks, looking over the head of a young boy, maybe 5 or 7, sitting beside him. Wray tells him it’s D39, while shoving his phone back in his pocket. “We’re going right past it if you want to hop on the back.” The driver gestures to an empty seat in the back, facing the opposite direction of the rest of the passengers.
Wray can’t believe his luck. “Sure; that would be great,” he replies and proceeds to load himself and his suitcase on the back of the cart, behind a rather frail looking, elderly lady. She’s sitting next to a young woman with crutches leaning against the seat between them. Once he’s in place, the driver takes off again.
Only 3 gates further down, the boys says, “Mom, I wanna go faster.” He’s looking at the young woman in the seat behind him, then turns to the driver. “Can’t this thing go annnny faster?” While the driver’s explaining how they need to go slowly so as not to run into anyone, the boy’s holding the hand rail and rocking back and forth in an attempt to increase the cart’s speed.
Before reaching the end of concourse B, the beep-beep of the courtesy cart becomes accompanied by the mother, who’s now turned around looking at Wray. “Excuse me,” she says, “but I couldn’t help notice, you’re Wray Nerely. I don’t want to bother you, just to tell you that Cash is my husband’s and my favorite character from Spectrum.” Her already quiet voice trails off and her cheeks redden at this. She starts to turn back around.
“Thank you. It’s always nice to meet a fan.”
The smile on Wray’s face seems to give her a little more courage. She speaks up, “My husband introduced me to Spectrum while we were dating. I’d never watched sci-fi before. Turns out, I really like it. It was one of the first things we bonded over, and we were married less than a year later. He wanted to come on this trip with Johnny and me but couldn’t get time off work. He’ll be so disappointed when he finds out I met you without him.”
He can’t believe she hasn’t asking for an autograph; he knows it’s coming. The silence, well as silent as it can be with the continuous beeping of the cart, grows between them. Wray decides to offer one. “Would an autographed headshot help?”
Her face lights up at the prospect. It’s like the expression you would expect to see on her son if the cart miraculously started racing down the concourse, people diving in all directions. “Really? I didn’t want to ask, wanted to respect your privacy, but that would be incredible.”
“It would be my pleasure,” he says while fishing one of the headshots that he always carries during these trips from his backpack, along with a blue Sharpie. “Who should I make it out to?”
Wray barely notices that while he and the mother were talking, the cart came to a stop, and the driver got out to help the old woman down. Without the beeping, he does hear the woman ask where her gate is as they stand near the rear of the cart, driver’s side, next to where Wray is sitting. The driver points at a gate slightly behind them and on that same side.
Suddenly, the cart lurches forward. Wray and the mother turn toward the driver’s seat where the boy stands, one foot on the gas pedal, clutching the steering wheel, and veering into the flow of pedestrians. The mother leans forward, trying to get ahold of her son, struggling past the falling crutches, and yelling at him to stop the cart. This plea is echoed by the driver, who’s now running toward the front of the cart, both arms outstretched.
Wray sees and hears none of this. He’s half kneeling on the seat, half standing in the back of the cart, waving his arms like a maniac, and yelling, “Get out of the way, OUT OF THE WAY!” People are diving away from the cart, for real this time. Wray’s eyes catch the massive bagel sign over the shop they’re bearing down on. He looks from the bagel to the clerk standing beneath it, frozen in place. He’s sure his eyes are mirroring the clerks, all four trying to pop out of their heads.
The cart stops, just as suddenly as it took off. Wray grabs the seatback in front of him to keep himself from tumbling into it. He looks toward the driver’s seat and sees the mother holding her son by the shirt collar; the crutches have scattered, partially on the cart floor, partially out the other side. The driver has one hand on the wheel and the other’s pulling the key from the ignition.
Wray’s heart feels like it might beat its way out of his chest, as he clumsily gets back on his feet, turns around, checks that his suitcase and backpack are still there, and plops down on the back seat. In the meantime, the mother’s dragging her son into the middle seat with her, berating him the entire way. The driver’s checking to make sure no one is hurt and trying to calm the crowd down.
After what seems like enough time for a long con weekend to pass, Wray’s heart slows down; the mother stops reprimanding her, none too cowed son; and the driver gets back in his seat and starts the cart again. The steady beeping resumes, and they’re headed toward their respective gates. Wray’s thinking of how his knee feels worse than it did while he was walking down the concourse, when he hears that familiar soft voice, “John.” He turns to see the mother looking at him.
“You asked who you should make it out to. My husband’s name is John.”
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