24 November 2004

Short Story v.1

Incident on Flight 7225

Tomorrow, I'll fly to Oakland.

Incident on Flight 7225 . by Scott B
... As I was stowing a carry-on above my assigned seat on a flight to San Francisco last Thanksgiving, I discovered I was sitting next to this short, disheveled and disconnected fellow who was already completely engrossed in long and involved mathematic equations on his yellow legal pad.
... I had a good book with me that I’d been intent on reading for some time, but I soon had hints my neighbor would make this all but impossible. As the flight took off, my mind and eye were constantly shifting from book-page to peripheral vision, distracted by this man’s nervous demeanor. He was incessantly scribbling on his pad, usually followed by bouts of furious erasing while he simultaneously muttered numbers, letters and other symbolic phrases which I didn’t quite understand. He was also prone to lapse into long periods of silence while staring out the plane window in a trance, only to then suddenly snap back into his routine. After one of his longer staring moments in which I actually managed to read a few pages, he interrupted me rather abruptly.
"Hey, do you want to play a game?"
... “Nah, I…uhm, I’m okay. I don’t think so,” was my slightly non-verbal but polite response. This only seemed to agitate him even more.
... "No really! I’m serious: I'll ask you a question, and if you get it wrong, you give me $5. Then, you can ask me a question, and if I can't answer it, I'll give you $5."
... I thought about this for a moment, but decided against it, especially seeing he was obviously a very bright man. I politely turned him down again.
... He wouldn’t take no for an answer: "Okay then, I'll ask you a question, and if you can't answer it, you give me $5. Then you ask me a question, and if I can't answer it, I'll give you $50!"
... Now, I may not know String Theory and Quantum Physics, but I’m not stupid. “All right then,” I said as I closed my book. “You’ve got a game for a couple of questions.”
... "Excellent," he replied, rubbing his palms together as if to get warm. "Let’s begin then: What is the exact distance between the Earth and the Moon?"
... I instantly knew that I didn’t know this answer and without spending another second to think about his question, I reached for my wallet and took a $5 bill out to hand to him. He chuckled like a satisfied child as he accepted the bill and promptly said, "Okay, now it's your turn."
... I thought about my question for a few minutes, and then asked, "Alright, what living 'thing' goes up a mountain on three legs, but comes down on four?"
... The bright glow quickly vanished from my neighbor face. He thought about it for a few minutes and instantly launched back into his previous routine, taking out his notepad and scribbling numerous calculations. He finally gave up on his notepad and took out his laptop from under his seat, accessing his Multimedia Encyclopedia.
... I grabbed my book and settled into an hour of uninterrupted reading.
... As we were about to land, he finally gave up and reluctantly handed me a $50 bill. I accepted it graciously, turning back to my book silently.
... "Wait!" my neighbor pleaded. "You can't do this to me! What's the answer??"
... I looked at him, reached for my wallet again and handed him another $5 bill.



Anonymous said...

clever boy

Anonymous said...

This is a nice short-story Scott, yours? Did this really happen? P.P.

ScottB said...

Yes, mine. No, didn't really happen.