The Newest Member
Mike felt uncomfortable as soon as he sank into the leatherette of the Alaska Airlines seat. Not because of any omission or imperfection in the airline’s arrangements for his comfort or convenience; Alaska Airlines tend to look after passengers well, especially in Business Class. Quite acceptable food, even though you had to pay for it. Efficient, smiling stewards and stewardesses, none under forty, each with that cynical well-worn detachment which comes with years of doing the job – with the polite efficiency of a nurse in an old folks’ home, quite used to getting the most confused person into bed or cleaning up their shit.
Mike’s discomfort came from the certainty that his neighbour, the man occupying the seat next to him, was undoubtedly the travelling companion from hell. A definite clue was the fact that the man, a somewhat florid, overweight gentleman in his late thirties, was in the early stages of a drunkenness which Mike knew could progress rapidly from the mildly amusing to the scurrilous to the utterly disgusting quite easily in the four hour flight.
And to his even greater unease the man seemed determined not just to have a conversation, but to make him a best buddy in the shortest possible time. For reasons Mike had no intention of finding out.
“So you see that?” The opener was sufficiently intriguing to hook Mike in. A question. A question required a response. Only one word would do.
“What?” Mike asked.
“She. That waitress woman. Our server. Hot!”
Mike groaned. “Yes”, he said thinking, she certainly isn’t. Fifty if she’s a day. At least three teenage children. Probably divorced.
The plane’s engines began their deep thrum, their buildup to his favourite few moments of any flight when the pure power of tons of thrust would propel this cigar-shaped load of people into the skies. He savoured every single one of the takeoffs he had experienced. It was a deeply personal experience, like orgasm, only more so.
And this idiot was going to try to talk to him.
“What do you think?” He asked. “I got a chance? Sorry!” He extended a sweaty hand “I’m Brendon. That’s o.n. Not a.n. Because I am”
“You am what?
“Always on! That’s what all my friends say! Brendon always on!” He was delighted with this obviously well-worn joke, and convinced that every time he used it on somebody they would love him for it
“Mike.” Mike said, with no reaction.
The plane began to taxi faster and faster, the runway living up to its name. The engines built up their roar, ready to leap like a predator into the dark sky.
“That’s great! Do you get it! Mike on! Like a radio studio! Brend on! Mike on! That’s my job!”
The plane leapt into sky…rose, fell back a little, rose again, powered toward Alaska.
It was no good, the thrill had simply passed Mike by. Even the g-force holding him to the seat had come and gone so fast, there had been nothing to it. Spoiled.
But a small tickle of curiosity bothered him. “What are you, an announcer? Deejay?”
“Got it in one boychick! Brendon Past Midnight on RBCK Radio. You know it! Tell me you know it! ‘Bo bo bo Brrrrendon, your Hot Host for the Ghosting hour, with music to make your mother sick!” From midnight to the break of Dawn and boy, did I break her!”
Mike groaned but for some reason felt the need to wear a painted grin. As a small business owner he knew the value of good relations with the media. No point in annoying the man. “Oh.” He said. “I don’t listen to local stations.” His stomach was churning. Not unusual on a flight, although it usually kicked in at least an hour after takeoff. He blamed Brendon. He reached into a pocket and withdrew a Windex, which he chewed resentfully.
“Hey miss!” Brendon was calling the hostess, waving at her imperiously. He was only just not clicking his fingers at the woman who flinched visibly, hesitated deliberately and then came over. “Bloody Mary. Ice. And your phone number!” He turned to Mike, winking “What you having buddy? On me!”
“I – ”
“And make that two, babes! Two Bloody Mary! And what’s your name blue eyes? Don’t say it’s Mary!”
The hostess switched into Autopilot Asshole Customer mode. “My name, sir, is on the name badge. And let me just whisper something in your ear,” she leaned forward to do just that. Her whisper was quite loud enough for Mike to hear “and you’d better treat me with a lot more respect little man, or I will have a lovely pair of chrome-plated handcuffs waiting for you when you step off the plane in Anchorage. Capisc?”
“Oh BAYbee!” Brendon said, pretending to be delighted, “You’re a BEAST!”
She disappeared up the aisle while Brendon, entirely unaffected by the warning, chatted relentlessly. “So tell you what, uh, whatsname -”
“So tell you what, Mike. Can you keep a secret?”
“No, really. This is like, serious stuff. Like, you tell people and my reputation would be ruined. Now I think you’re a good guy – ”
“Thanks. I can keep a secret.” Mike said.
“Hey man!” Brendon playfully and painfully punched his arm, “only joking! Haha! Well if this did get out man, my rep can take a flying fuck, I mean flying up the atmosphere man! Tell me something: did you ever hear of the Mile High Club?”
” – uh – ”
“Ok so you gotta pay attention now because this is serious.” He looked around for the hostess who was busily serving drinks at the far end of the aisle. “Bitch! She’s doing it deliberate!”
“You were saying.”
“Hey man, everybody’s heard of the Mile High Club! Like a kind of joke. Like anyone who’s fucked on an airplane. Yeh?”
Mike nodded. His friends at college had often made jokes about this. But as far as he knew not one of them had ever fucked on an airplane, although Marty Greenfeld swore his girlfriend once gave him a blowjob at 40,000 feet. Under a blanket.
“But what most people don’t know, and this is the secret part, is the Club is for real. Really! With a Constitution, with offices, and a set of rules you wouldn’t believe!”
Mike was genuinely surprised And even a little interested. “Really?”
“Sure! And here’s the thing. If you get to be a member of the club, trust me, it’s more influential than the Masons buddy. More connected than the Rotarians. More important than – shit – the daughters of the Revolution! The KKK! The Mormons! – hell, people would kill to get the connections they got!”
The drinks tray was getting nearer, and the Hostess, whose actual name was Cherie, accompanied by Stefan, was merrily dispensing drinks.
“Hey!” Brendon called out to her, hope you got it babe!” Then turned to Mike and chortled. “She sure as hell got it! She loves me…”
“So go on about this club.”
“Yeh man, so stressful! So this flight see, it’s real special. What we got, we got six candidates, and I’m one of them.”
“I don’t get it! You mean six people hoping to get a screw on this plane? I would guess there’s a lot more than that, for a start!”
“Not people, guys. Girls got their own club. This is guys’ night!”
“Ok, so surely the women who get to screw with the guys get to be members too?”
“That’s not how it works! Now listen carefully and I’ll explain. Hello gorgeous!” At this point Hostess and Steward had finally arrived at their row.
“Two bloody Marys!” She said, “Comin’ right up!” At which point two cups full of deep red stuff upended themselves onto Brendon’s lap. “Oh my God!” She shrieked calmly. “I am SO sorry! Oh my, oh my, let me help you!” She whipped several napkins out of her tray and dropped them elegantly onto the spread of red. “I am SO embarrassed!” She said, tutting and clucking.
Brendon didn’t take long to recover composure. “Baby waby!”he said, “don’t worry! Just help me give it a bit of a wipe…come on baby, you know you want to…” but when he looked up, both Hostess and Steward had moved on, their shoulders heaving with unbearable repressed mirth.
“Shit! Did you see the bitch? Did that on purpose! Now I know she loves me…” he stood, made his way to the toilets. He was gone long enough for Mike to almost recover his normal air of dignified detachment. For just a moment or two, Mike managed to get the face of his twelve-year old beautiful daughter into his mind, and how charmingly she had wished him Bon Voyage. Then Bien Viaggio. Then gute Reise. And made him feel so proud.
As he was ruminating on a good present he could get her in Alaska, his unwelcome new best friend returned, a dark stain on his lap but perfectly cheerful and hardly fazed.
“So, ” he said, sliding back onto his seat and continuing the conversation as if there had been no interruption. “Each of those six has paid two grand to be on this plane. And part of that goes to six young – uh – ladies, see? Ladies who are, like, willing?”
“Ah. But isn’t that, like, cheating?”
” No! See, to make it fair, the guys don’t know which the girls are. So that means – well, just have a look! See that fat feller over there? Trying to chat up that cutie? He’s one! They are gonna have to find every girl travelling alone, and try her on. And if he strikes gold, hell, off they go to the restroom see? And they fuck!”
“But then, how do they know – ”
“Who? The Club? Well, see on this plane they got six or eight Proctors they call them. Club officials they got to observe the guys and check the condoms after. And the girls will tell them anyway. Man! A messy job! But someone gotta do it!” He gave a loud heehaw, which may have been a laugh.
“So why – ”
“Why I’m wasting my time talking to you? Gee man, I got my eye on the Big Prize. Lissen! The guy who, on this plane, snags a woman who is NOT one of the six hired for the job gets the title Magister Ludi! No club dues for a year! A gold cup and believe me, you get to write your own ticket. So that’s why. Do you think I got a chance?”
“Wait a minute. You don’t mean with that hostess do you? You’re joking!”
“Hey…never underestimate the Brand, baby! I got signals! I got the Charm right here buddy. I know what those chicks want. Get me. There she is, just a little old, a little like she lost the best part of her looks, see? Maybe she got a kid, or a cat, something like that. But at the back of her mind she’s thinking, hey, why shouldn’t I have fun too? What if a guy could still fancy me!”
“No way. You know what she’s thinking right now? She’s thinking what if that guy really meant it when he tried to come on to me. What if that guy could give me the bang of my life like I used to get when I was twenty.”
Mike stared at his companion with a tiny hint of respect tinged with contempt. “Really? You think so?”
“I’m gonna take you on a bet boychick. What do you say. A thousand dollars I get to fuck that chick. Tonight! Right here!”
Mike almost sneered. This grubby little man with his grubby desperation was never going to get sex unless he paid for it. “Hm! So if you get your wicked way you get a thousand dollars from me, membership of your darned club, a gold trophy – and what else….”
“Give me a break!” He said. “I just spent two grand for this trip!”
“You know what?” Mike said, stomach rumbling discourteously , “You’re not going to screw that chick in a million years. I’ll tell you what. I’ll take the bet. But I’ll want proof.”
“I’ll bring you the condom!”
“O.k. I’ll bring you a selfie of the two of us right there in that washroom. will that do?”
“Ok buddy,” he said, standing, “morituri te salutamus. We who are about to die salute you!” He gave an absurd comic salute and turned on his heels. And vanished into the dark belly of the beast.
What a relief. Mike pulled his book from his backpack, put the seat back and began to read…
Two hours passed quite pleasantly. Most of his fellow passengers were dozing, or asleep or watching their tiny screens as if they cared about the tiny actions of tiny groups of swirling pixels. Another hour and they would arrive in Anchorage where Mike would check into his hotel, travel to the oil field, do his measurements, give a quote, spend another night in the hotel, then travel back to Marnie and Cassie. Would he tell them the story? Well, probably not. Especially the part about taking a silly bet which he was certain he would win – and equally certain, would never be paid. He could never take the fellow’s money. It would be cruel.
He must have dropped into a doze because suddenly he felt his arm being tugged, urgently. Assuming a plane crash to be imminent, he started awake to see the pink, berry face of the deejay inches from his own.
And the man was grinning broadly. “Done it!” He announced.
“What? What have you done? Let my arm go! ”
“Sorry. Done it boychick! I done it done it done it so goooood! Man! She goes like a train! Like a choo choo! Through the tunnel! Out the other side! Man!!! What a fucking woman! What a FUCK! I’m a member! With a member!”
Several people in surrounding seats stirred, woke, listened.
“I don’t believe you.”
“Hey, you gotta believe me! I never lie! The Brendon is on on on! The Brendon is the MAN. Check this!” He held up his iPhone to show a picture of a couple in semi-undress, obviously in the middle of ecstatic copulation. It was quite easy to identify him as the man, and the uptight hostess as his partner. “It’s all win win win!” He said a little more quietly. “And I win. Big time. And as for you, I’ll take a check, thanks!”
*. *. *
Mike watched them leave the airport arm-in arm, with every appearance of being a couple in love.
He didn’t hear the words they exchanged, however, before they separated for the night. “Same again on the way back?”.
“Sure. Why not?”