A Plane Crash -- a short story

Nothing unusual happened that evening. Mom and Dad had been packing things since morning, with not infrequent and not-so-brief exchanges between them. Everything was as usual--expected. It’s amazing the way they get along. From time to time Mom spoke over her shoulder to me. “Steffi, have you taken your hairbrush? Don’t forget your school bag. Tell your dad he must take along his tool box. We might need it there.” Mom would have loved to carry the whole house with her.

 

“Honey, we are going only for a week!” Dad replied without expecting he’d have any effect on Mom. We left the house in our customary hurry, Granny’s last minute instructions ringing in my ears.

 

We reached the airport well in time. Mom considered it her personal achievement—reaching in time despite having a person like Dad for a husband.

 

This was my seventh trip from Los Angeles to London. My aunt—my Mom’s sister in London—is very fond of me. “Steffi, my li’l dear, you are like me—so very intelligent and beautiful.” I always wondered whether she was praising herself or me.

 

After a delay of two hours—nothing unusual about that—our flight was announced. We stood up and entered through the gate. I didn’t like the stewardess standing at the turn of the airbridge. She wasn’t smiling. I ignored her.

 

After a couple of Excuse me’s I occupied a seat by the window. I wasn’t particularly thrilled about that. I had sat by the window on four out of six flights earlier. Nothing unusual is expected on such flights—inside or outside the plane. The same stars, the same lights below, the familiar worn out smiles of the crew and the familiar doziness. Every time I travelled by air, I was only able to see a part of the wing. This time wasn’t an exception.

 

The plane was in the air. Mom and Dad fell into a deep sleep, with Mom’s head resting on Dad’s shoulder. I had tried all the entertainment channels available on the entertainment console, but I couldn’t find anything of interest. Finally, after an hour of experimenting, I settled on a channel that played soft instrumental music and I must have drifted off into a fitful sleep. Only some occasional coughs and a couple of sneezes disturbed the quiet.

 

It must have been about an hour and a half later when I heard a grating sound. I thought it was coming from the wing, a part of which I was able to see. After a minute, perhaps, another strange sound came from underneath my seat. I struggled to stand up without realising for a minute that I had a seat belt on. The grating sound was getting louder. Just as I managed to stand up, the plane tilted towards the left with a jerk, emptying the overhead luggage rack on the right on to the floor. I was hit on the head. I couldn’t decide what to do. I could neither scream nor shout. The plane was clearly in trouble. It was flying like a bus jolting along a bumpy trail through a forest.

 

Amidst the noise and jerks and jolts and chaos that convinced me I was going to die, I suddenly heard my Dad calling, ‘Steffi, come on, darling. Get ready, we are about to land. You have had a nice long sleep, haven’t you?’

 

 ‘Well, no…yes…I had a sound sleep.’ I said. ‘I heard a lot of sounds in my sleep’, I mumbled to myself, looking out of the window at the perfectly normal landing strip and airport buildings at Gatwick Airport.

 

THE END

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