Escape – a story by Ruth Deming
By Ruth Z. Deming
They were a family on Facebook. His wife, Charlene, shared all the details of their lives, including what the children were doing, the two dogs with their pink tongues panting, and if he had stopped snoring so he could return to her bed.
He minded none of this, as she was his beloved. They were high school sweethearts who seemed to swim into each other’s arms soon after they met.
Arguments? Rarely. He worshipped the woman as if she were some sort of goddess. In the beginning he resisted her Facebook posts, but then he kind of enjoyed them and contributed his own photos of Hailee and Randee climbing the backyard play set or sledding down their backyard hill.
His best friend from NYU was launching his first book in London, England, where he lived. “The wife,” as he referred to her behind her back, “refused to let me go.”
He bought airline tickets online and attempted to sneak out the front door of their brick house on Arundel Avenue in Bensalem, Pennsylvania.
“Daddy!” cried Hailee. “I’m scared. I think someone is breaking into our house.”
“Just me, Sweetie,” he called upstairs. “Go back to sleep. Cover yourself with your pink blankie.”
It was still dark. A moon hung low in the sky. How lovely, he thought, as he got into his blue Toyota. No way to muffle the sound of the motor.
Charlene drove very fast. He was terrified to drive with her. He drove leisurely listening to the classical music station. Something by Papa Hayden, as he was called. As a boy, his mother, the feisty Jessica, had given him piano lessons. Mrs. Kultti had come out to the house, where Mom still lived, and pronounced him, “promising.”
When he reached the airport, he parked in the long-term parking lot, then took the white shuttle bus to British Airways.
As a kid, Tony had been “a plane spotter.” He and a couple of dates he had – Ariel, Suzanne – had lain in the bulrushes, like Moses, and watched the planes take off and land. Such beauty, like a soaring Canada goose, black legs tucked underneath.
When he lined up at Gate number 12 to board the plane, it happened. His iPhone rang. He silenced it and boarded the plane. He was sweating, as the red uniformed flight attendant greeted him.
Her name, he noticed, was Adele. He loved sitting next to the window. To him, flight was a miracle. They taxied up the runway, where he watched the blue sky and a few lumbering clouds.
Soon he was asleep. Never did he worry about crashing. He knew that small planes had a better chance, like the residential neighborhood in Yorba Linda, California. Flames ravaged the neighborhood, killing at least five people and injuring two others. He had watched on the living room television set after everyone had gone to bed.
One thing that bothered him about his wife was she didn’t want the children to learn about all the tragedies in the world.
When he awoke, Adele hovered over him.
“Sir, what would you like to eat or drink?”
Her tray was blocking the aisle.
“Hmm,” he said. “Hot coffee would be nice, plus that breakfast sandwich.”
In a jiffy it was on his tray. The sandwich was a croissant with eggs, bacon, and cheese.
He chewed with his mouth open, something his wife told him was impolite. God, it was good to get away from her.
From his backpack under the seat, he pulled out his reading material. That was the one thing he had a hard time deciding on.
His mom, Jessica, was a huge fan of John Sandford, so he pulled out his latest book, “Golden Prey” and checked to see what Sandford looked like. Was he trying to look like a tough guy, Tony wondered.
For the first time he turned to the woman next to him.
“My name’s Tony,” he said. “Enjoying the flight?”
“I’m Marsha and you know what?” she paused.
“I’m scared to death.”
He laughed. “Well, you can always get drunk or take a Xanax.”
“Thing is,” said Marsha, “I don’t like to lose control of myself.”
“Oh,” he said, “the Me-Too Movement?”
She nodded her head.
He turned back to his book. “In 2005, Hurricane Katrina went through Biloxi like an H-Bomb, a 30-foot storm surge…”
Damn good, he thought to himself.
They were high above the clouds, which looked like a brilliant white wedding cake. He and Char had kept their cake in the freezer, made by the famous Stock Cake Company.
The pilot’s voice would come on occasionally.
“We’re flying over London Bridge now,” the man said in a deep voice. “About an hour until we’re at Heathrow.”
Tony closed his book and returned it to his backpack. He wanted to cherish every single moment on the flight.
At thirty-four, he felt his whole life was ahead of him. Maybe he would write a novel like his friend, Jim Kemper. So many possibilities!
Sure enough, when they landed, there was his buddy, Jimmy.
They hugged one another and soon they were in Jim’s copper-colored mini-van heading for the party.
Tony wondered if he’d feel lonely at the party, but the book publicist made sure he was introduced to everyone. He helped himself to the hummus dip – his family hated hummus – and some crunchy British butter biscuits, unknown back home.
He laughed to himself. What if I never come home?
It was a ridiculous thought, of course.
After the party, he crashed at Jimmy’s pad.
Trying to sleep on the leather living room couch, he confessed to his friend, “If I moved to London, what kind of work could I get?”
“You’re a computer programmer, no?”
“You could get a job easy. I have lots of connections.”
In the morning, Tony woke up, and found the coffee machine and made a cup of black coffee, no cream.
After downing it, he decided to explore the neighborhood. He’d always read about the green meadows of England.
Taking a cab, and wearing his all-purpose cap over his black curls, he wandered around the meadow.
A dog ran up to him.
“Whoa,” said the owner. “Don’t bother the feller.”
“Oh, I love dogs,” he said.
“Ah, you’re from the States,” said the owner.
“How can you tell?” Tony laughed.
The grass was several inches deep and seemed to continue for miles on end.
He ran his hands across the grass and felt a shiver of glee. It was as smooth as his wife’s bottom.
His wife. What was he supposed to do with her? Leave her or go back home?
He reached into his backpack and pulled out his iPhone.
In no time his voice reached across the Atlantic to their home in Bensalem, Pennsylvania.
“Where the hell are you, babe?”
He laughed. “I’m here in merry ole England, the home of Willie Shakespeare, Laurence Olivier, the British Museum, and my friend Jimmy Kemper.”
“I miss you,” she said with a sob.
“I miss you, too,” he said.
“I’m gonna stay here for a while. I don’t know how long, but for sure I’ll be back.”