Mad Crab Mojave: Chapter 18

In which Jones remembers why he hates air travel

Jones woke from a fitful doze. His neck was sore. He tried to turn his head, but the only muscle that moved was in his cheek. Jones kept his eyes squeezed shut, willing himself back to sleep. He tossed and turned in an attempt to get away from the distant, crackling voice repeating his name. Finally, Jones gave in and opened his eyes. He was on the floor. The early afternoon beam of light spread in front of him broke apart on a pair of cracked tennis shoes.

Jones wiped at his face. A long line of drool flowed from his mouth to the carpet. His hand grazed a suitcase nearby. A woman with a pillow in the shape of a spotted cow glared at him. Jones didn't care. After three days in the McCarran International airport, his patience for the grievances of other travelers had worn thin. Someone was still calling Jones’ name. It was a flight attendant. Jones stumbled to the counter. He dodged strollers, wheelchairs, and bodies hunched over their phones. Around him, overhead screens announced one word: delayed. He reached the counter and propped himself against it.

“I’m Information Jones,” he said. “I thought I heard my name on the PA. I’m on flight AW-293.”

The flight attendant glanced up at him. “I’m sorry, sir, but you've been bumped.”

“This is the ninth time,” protested Jones. The flight attendant frowned.

“That shouldn't happen,” he said. “Let me see what I can do.” He tapped on the screen in front of him. As he reviewed Jones’ record his brow furrowed deeper and deeper. The attendant paused, holding his breath for a moment, then his eyes grew wide. “You've been, wait, you got bumped again since you've been standing here.”

“When is my flight?” asked Jones.

“You leave at two next morning,” said the attendant.

Jones did some quick math. “Ten hours?” he said, incredulous.

“No,” said the attendant. “Next morning.”

“Is there nothing you can do?” Jones pleased, and saw the attendant's face harden. Another ally had turned against him. No one wanted to be on the side of a man cursed by the database gods.

“I'm sorry sir,” the attendant said. “Please clear out of the gate, so passengers leaving today or tomorrow have somewhere to sit.”

Afraid to protest, Jones collected his satchel and headed back across the terminal. Behind him, the flight attendant picked up the intercom. “Melinda Jones,” he called. “You’ve been promoted from the wait list for flight AW-293. Please report to a gate agent.” Jones spun around at the mention of his ex-wife’s name. With a rush of dread, he realized that she wasn’t in the airport. It was a message from Mad Crab. There was no mistake. His ex-wife had stranded him on the tarmac.