The Short Stories of Edward R. Doughty

The Terrorist

As instructed, we had arrived at the Philadelphia International Airport three hours early. Luckily there was curbside check-in. We showed our photo I.D.'s and assured the check-in man that no one had helped us pack our bags and that they had stayed in our sight since we left home. ("Yes, Sir, we got two strange looking Arab guys to help us pack our bags!") We then had to wait in line for twenty minutes to pass through the metal detector. As usual, my metal belt buckle and the metal in my sneakers set off the alarm and I had to undergo the "magic wand" routine. Now we were sitting at a table in one of the bar/restaurants sipping on cokes while I had one of my last cigarettes. Jane and I were on our way to Charlotte to visit the kids. This plane would then fly on to Los Angeles. "Yeah, this plane will be carrying a full-load of fuel", I said. "Stop even talking about that kind of stuff", Jane replied. I didn't like flying to begin with --- but now there was just one more thing to worry about.

The flight would take about one and a half hours in the air --- if it weren't hi-jacked, that is. "I gotta stop thinkin' about that kinda shit!" I thought. So Jane and I talked about other things, including the restaurants we would visit during this trip.

Finally, it was time to board our plane and so we did. Our seats were in the tenth row --- about one-third of the way back. There were two seats on one side and three seats on the other side. We were on the side that had two seats. Jane took the window seat and I took the aisle seat. Passengers continued to fill the plane until it was full. That took about twenty minutes. After we settled in and fastened our seat belts I began to look around at our fellow passengers. Across from us were two Arabic-looking men in their early twenties. They definitely fit the Hi-jacker profile. "But hell", I thought, they're probably software engineers that work for Microsoft!" Next to them in the window seat was a nun. In front of us was an elderly couple. Across the aisle from them was a big guy in his twenties, an oriental woman and a black guy in his thirties. I read recently that one-third of the Muslims in this country are black --- so even that guy could be a terrorist. In front of that group were a gray-haired woman and two little girls who appeared to be her granddaughters. In back of us were a cute looking girl who appeared to be of college age and a black woman who looked very distinguished.

I propped up my new Tom Clancy book and tried to get my mind off this entire terrorist shit. The plane started to move and the little TV sets started to run the film about what to do in various emergencies --- none of which emergencies had anything to do with four Arab guys taking over the plane and flying it into --- say the Sears Tower in Chicago. Ten minutes later we were in the air. I became fairly engrossed in the Clancy novel and pretty soon a stewardess was asking Jane and me if we cared for something to drink. We ordered diet Cokes and were also given tiny bags of pretzels. I used to like the dry-roasted peanuts --- but then they discovered that one out of a million people are allergic to peanuts so they switched to pretzels. I guess no one has ever been allergic to pretzels.

The gray-haired lady was now taking the two little girls back to the bathroom and I found myself wondering how the three of them were going to fit in one of those tiny bathrooms. The older couple in front of us was having an argument --- something about the need --- or lack thereof --- for a new car. The Arab-looking guy across from me was looking kind of nervous. He kept looking around the plane and looking at his watch. I tried to see if there was a fuse sticking out of his shoe. There didn't appear to be. Jane was looking through the USAir magazine that had been in the pouch in front of her. The college girl and the professional-looking black lady in back of us were having what sounded like a nice conversation about colleges. It seems the black lady was a college professor who taught history.

Clancy was describing the making of a nuclear weapon as I sipped my Coke and munched on a few pretzels. We had been in the air for about half an hour now. The old man in front of me was trying to convince his wife that they could indeed afford a new car. She appeared to be holding out for a new kitchen. Another ten minutes passed by and then the older lady with the two little girls returned from the bathroom and they sat back in their seats. The Arab guy next to the aisle was still looking around and checking his watch. All of a sudden he picked up the cell phone, which was in the back of the seat in front of him. After dialing a number, he talked for several minutes. Were there any more Arab-looking guys somewhere in back of us that I hadn't seen board the plane?

Jane asked if I was okay. I assured her I was. She went back to reading her magazine. I then saw the big guy who was sitting next to the Oriental woman get up from his aisle seat. The guy must've been six feet four. He headed back to the bathroom. I continued with Clancy. The terrorists were now headed to Baltimore on I-95 with the nuclear weapon in back of their truck.

A few minutes later the big guy passed my seat returning from his piss or whatever. But he didn't stop at his seat, which was next to the oriental lady. No, he kept going. I saw him approach a stewardess who was now collecting cups and empty soda cans. Then he brushed by her and headed towards the cockpit. "Sir, you can't go up there!" the stewardess hollered after him. "The hell I can't!" was the big guy's reply. Upon reaching the cockpit door the big guy started banging on the door. The stewardess tried to pull him away but he pushed her back and she almost fell. Suddenly, I noticed something to my left. The Arab-looking guy had risen from his seat, taken several steps forward and was now in a crouched position with a pistol pointed directly at the big guy. The Arab-looking guy shouted, "Drop to the floor --- Federal Sky Marshall!" The big guy stopped pounding on the door and dropped to his knees. "Hands behind your back!" shouted the Arab guy. The big guy did as he was told. In a few seconds the Arab guy had put handcuffs on the big guy and was now leading him to the rear of the plane. Everyone started clapping. All of this had happened in just twenty or thirty seconds!

The stewardess continued collecting paper cups and empty soda cans in a plastic bag and Jane and I contributed to the cause. The two little girls were laughing now because they evidently enjoyed the sound of a bunch of people clapping. No one noticed the oriental woman who had been sitting next to the big guy as she lit a Bic lighter and lit the two-inch fuse coming out of her shoe. I continued to read Clancy, but the flight was almost over ---.

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