AIRPORTOPIA - CAMERON ASHLEY
“Airports have become a new kind of discontinuous city, whose vast populations...are entirely transient, purposeful and, for the most part, happy.”--JG Ballard
Dean’s had a big head ever since they showed him on Border Protection detaining some Asian chick after a scan of her luggage showed traces of coke. He’s broad shouldered and old-timey dashing and his smile lights up the front of Customs’ Client Service Charter and Standards brochure, which is totally ironic because he’s a complete cunt to tourists.
Dean not only shits where he eats, he sleeps and shops here, too. He stays at the Airport Quality Hotel and only ever wears his uniform or clothes bought from duty-free shops. His self-help books on Verbal Judo and general big-noting techniques all bear airport bookshop price stickers. He lives here, protecting the country's borders from those too poor, too visa-deficient, too stupid to not use their drug-trafficking luggage when packing for an international holiday. He must be destroyed.
He sits next to me at the bar and says:
“I cavity searched some bloke today...well, I went to, but he shat his stash into my hand just as I was going in for a rummage.”
“The Yanks call that ‘Keistering.’”
“Yeah? I call that ‘disgusting.’ These guys should swallow their shit like normal drug smugglers. It's the 21st century, for fuck’s sake.”
A Tiger Airways plane takes off outside, Delhi-bound, I bet. An announcement about fluids and how they must be specifically bagged echoes out in English, then Mandarin. A line of Japanese students marches past the pub like goslings trailing Mother Goose. They all wear face masks. Huh. I thought we beat swine flu.
Kim pours me another Guinness while her manager is distracted. Free beers and a peek down her top as she reaches into the fridge for a Boag’s: this is my consolation prize for working in an airport McDonald’s. Yes, I spend my days flipping what is essentially the same burger over and over for transients who don’t yet realise that their Big Mac will taste the same here as it will wherever they’re headed. I am the downtrodden of Airportopia. The depressed. The fry-oil burnt and the perpetually smelling of pattie.
I want to raze this post-modern municipality to the fucking earth. To wipe the smiles off the faces of the paradise-bound.
The four guys all have shaved legs. They look like dancers but talk like wharfies. They’ve come back from Bali with a suntan and a bad touch of the ‘belly.’ A cubicle apiece, they void their bowels in intermittent spurts and curse the customs guy who both deliberately delayed their dunny run and insinuated that cyclists were fags.
I listen to their vitriol from the piss trough. With the closed cubicle doors between us, I tell them what time Dean finishes each night and from where he can be followed.
Kim’s got a broken arm this year. Me, I’ve got a concussion. I rest my head in her lap as airport staff fuss about. We do our best to look pained. It’s crash simulation day. Kim knows someone in airport management. Each year we help out and fake a different injury. We’ve been out on the tarmac so long I think I’ve got sunstroke.
Kim plays with my hair.
“Dean’s seeing a therapist. He’s got some kinda post-traumatic syndrome.”
“Fuck. Any news on the guys who jumped him?”
“No. Cameras got nothing. All he remembers is that their legs were silky smooth.”
Above me is the rising underbelly of a Quantas jet. It’s swaddled in cloud. For once, I am content to stay where I am.
“Did you know they test jet engine impact strength by shooting roasting chickens into them with a thing called a Chicken Gun?”
“You say the randomest things.”
“I think I’d like to do that. For a job, I mean. Fucking annihilate some chickens. Get rid of some stress, you know?”
Kim looks down at me and smiles.
Way off on another runway, a Virgin plane comes in to land. It looks like a toy. A guy near us feigning shattered ribs complains of dehydration.
“Kim, do you wanna...when we’re done here...would you like to get a drink or something?”
“At the bar?”
“Well, I was kinda thinking, maybe outside of the airport.”
“Oh. Well, Dean’s coming by the pub later. We’re having dinner at the Hightide Lounge. He...needs some company. He has to come back to work tomorrow.”
Dean. Even in bloody humbling defeat, he wins. This cannot stand.
Tomorrow I start calling in bomb threats.
Cam Sez: This one’s for Sarah and Jeff Storr. Usual thanks to C&C Quality Control. You can catch the rest of the stories in this competition here: The Steve Weddle Memorial Airport Flash Fiction Challenge