Short Story: En Route

Michele is so excited that you might be there, Sharon had said. Don't let her down. Kelly took a deep breath. He was already running late. First the damn executive chose this afternoon to take an informal tour, and then a last-minute phone call from a distributor with a serious problem. Don't let her down. He'd better hurry. Kelly was driving a pickup. He unbuckled his seatbelt. It looked like I-90, somewhere out in Idaho. Maybe Wyoming. Somewhere too damn flat and empty for his comfort, anyway. No way he should catch a break, not today. It took at least 15 minutes before he found oncoming traffic big enough to crumple his truck like cellophane.

Kelly played Sharon's greeting through his head. Couldn't you even get to her first recital on time? Didn't I tell you she was playing first? Not even angry, that was the worst part. She'd never be angry, not anymore, just disappointed, and sorry for the damage it would do to the father-daughter relationship. Just aware, almost as aware as Kelly was, that he should have tried harder.

He opened his eyes. An elevator. Going up. Good, up is good. He peered at himself in the dull reflection of the elevator doors. Older, at least 50, weather-beaten, cap and jacket with insignia and the name-- He looked away from the name. Knowing was pointless. And he was standing behind a loaded dolly. Ah, a delivery man. Good. He felt around and found the box cutter. Perfect. Flick, place it behind the carotid, and a firm drag across. It only stung for a second. Then everything was warm and cold and dark. The doors dinged open, and he heard a scream as though from across a windy street.

Don't let her down. Michele was going to learn sooner or later that he wasn't reliable. Hell, she probably knew it already. It would probably be a favor not to let her get into the habit of expecting much from him, the better to avoid disappointing her in the future. Better to sting once than to drag it out.

Before he opened his eyes he heard the tinny speakers of the airport. Shit, no blades. Then he opened his eyes to find the TSA agent looming over him. "If he has anything metal in his pockets, you have to get it out." The agent was at someone above and behind him. Fuck, he was a child. He looked back, but the security line was a mass of people. He could get lost, but was there was no guarantee he's find anything back there. He could run forward, but security would grab him in a second. Shitfuck.

Kelly played along, emptying his pockets and staying near the parents but always looking for a way out. As they approached the gate they were wondering what had gotten little Jay so antsy, that he was constantly moving away from them, looking back and forth, and peering into shops they passed. That was when Kelly spotted an escalator to an upper level of restaurants. He chose his moment: the parents were looking the other way when Kelly hopped on the escalator just in front of a group of chattering tourists. By the time the mother was chasing after him, Kelly was atop a chair next to the protective barrier.

Don't let her down. Falling in such a way to break your neck, especially from only one floor up, is a skill. You have to fall straight, or you're going to rotate in mid-air and dislocate a shoulder, break an arm or a leg, or something else that leaves you with a lot of debilitating pain and a long wait before you get a chance to move on. Especially since if people see you, they try making it impossible for you to hurt yourself again. Kelly had the skill. He climbed over the barrier, aimed, and dropped. As he fell, he inclined his head to snap the neck rather than bash his brains in; he wanted death, not brain-death. Several people screamed.

How long had that taken? A kid in a fucking airport, really? Today, when he's in a rush? God, he could just see Michele's eyes as she realized he hadn't gotten there in time to hear her play. It almost made him consider telling her he'd been there; she couldn't tell in the dark, right? But Sharon would be standing there with disappointment in her eyes, as if it ever wasn't, and Kelly drew the line at lying to his daughter. He would let her down, sure, but he wouldn't be dishonest with her. It was a clear line he could draw. She'd never remember him as a good father, but she wouldn't remember him as a liar.

He was moving and could hear an engine. He opened his eyes. He was on a bus, sitting; a dozen people stood over him, swaying as the hung on to the steady bars. Outside, the urban valley of the deep city. New York City. He signaled for the next stop. Kelly's fingers were already tapping on the seat before he realized he wasn't moving. Rush hour traffic. Naturally, and in New York no less. Great.

There was a watch in the person's bag. Kelly was officially late. And with Michele going first, there's nothing Kelly could accomplish by showing up except seeing Michele's disappointment up close and feeling Sharon's disdain at his expected failure. And that was if he could get there in the next fifteen minutes, which at this rate seemed impossible. God, he was such a useless father. He could just hear the phone call he'd get from Sharon after the recital. No use in getting it up close. At least over the phone he wouldn't have to control anything except his voice. Dammit.

"Fuck," said an 80-year-old woman, loud and sharp enough to make everyone nearby jump. Kelly started planning his return trip.