Derek Osedach

I can’t remember what the problem was.

A little kid hangs over the seat in front of me and he has a smart phone. He’s filming me. Doesn’t look too bright, the kid, but he knows enough to film the drunk businessman. He’s getting me in 1080p and I wave, I wag my middle finger like I’m a girl gone wild. Faces and haircuts around me seem heavy and sideways and want to move up up up with the windows and the seats. I realize I’m drooling only minutes after I’ve drooled. The stewardess comes and tells the boy he can’t have his electronics on. It can interfere with the plane’s communication and navigation systems, she says. The boy gives her a look like he knows better and says, “Aw c’mon.” But then finally he turns his phone off because she keeps staring at him like a mom.

We’re spinning. Least I am. I laugh and snatch for the hem of Texas-cheek’s pants as she tries to pass.

“I’ll have another screwdriver.” Then, I fingermix and drink the one I forgot I already had. With every ice-cubey slurp it’s more and more like the plane is spiraling towards the Earth. I wouldn’t mind. Things went bad. Fast. For instance: I should be in first class but the bastards already froze the account like I’m O.J. Simpson on the freeway. Turkeys. And turns out I don’t have much in the way of savings, all things considered. Somehow I don’t. God help me—I believed in myself!

The stewardess with the big Texas cheeks wants me to stop with the drinks, wants to cut me off, but she recognizes me from television interviews and she’s worried about making headlines. She smells like a spinster aunt at somebody’s high school graduation and I have a mind to tell her so, right to her big blonde face. She smells like the powdery cheeks of a great-grandma. She don’t realize I’m no longer CEO of 5iveBar Mobile, effective three hours ago. Hasn’t heard the news but she will soon enough.

Between my fingers I rub the “CleerII.” It’s squeaky and flat and chilly under my fingers, and high-resolutiony and mp3-playingy and even 3D-ish and altogether perfect except for the one thing: the thing that the screwdrivers—for the moment—have ushered like whacky cousins into the back room of my mind. Phone’s no good for the brain, something like that, something absurdly big. Seizures maybe. I’ll remember what it was but right now I’m spinning from the vodka. Spinning spinning. And worst part is I want to be spinning.

Another screwdriver.

CleerII’s a sexy little thing, supposed to bring us out of our hole, but the recall’s already been announced and there ain’t no coming out of this hole now. Now there’s little Chinese people waving up from the muddy bottom of it. The thing about recalls is not everybody listens, not everyone knows—I seem to recall this being at the root of whatever the real problem is. They made all the employees hand over their phones today before the day was done or else they couldn’t leave. I stormed out of there before they could get mine. Already fired me.

Another screwdriver. The plane is spinning.

I hear electric beeps. Some kid playing Angry Birds on his phone. I hear a girl somewhere a few rows down making hushed conversation and no one talks back—but still she keeps talking like there’s someone there answering questions. I know what’s going on. Nobody respects the rules. Texas-face won’t like any of this. Nobody listens.

The cabin spins, I’m sure I’m smiling and talking. I’m sure I’m saying “I blew it guys! When we land go ahead and buy an iPhone. Buy a Droid. Good phones. Better than mine. You heard it here first!” From the corner of my eye I see a young man videoing me with his Cleer1—a great phone in its day! Decent camera, decent screen. Our pride and joy for a stretch. A teenage girl is filming me with her iPhone. Also a helluva phone, why not say it like it is? All these cameras filming my drunkface. Maybe the kids think they can sell the footage to one of those entertainment shows. They’re right. They can. They’ll make more money tomorrow than the new me will. How much do they pay if you sell chargers and cases at the kiosk in the mall?

Texas-face comes by and tells the junior paparazzi to turn off their electronics. The boy challenges her: “Why?”

“It’s very dangerous, it can interfere with our systems!” and then I think I hear, under her breath, “You little snot!” He rolls his eyes and makes a jerk-off motion and finally turns it off. He mumbles about how he uses his phone all the time on planes and nothing happens and this is stupid. It’s all just to get you to pay extra for onboard Wi-Fi. Then he smiles because he already got the footage stored away on his memory card anyway. I hear more Angry Birds somewhere. Nobody cares.

Somehow another screwdriver, undrunk, sits in the graveyard of empty plastic things on my tray. I waste no time. I drink it down and suddenly I get the idea in my head to go ahead and tell that turkey Phil Tourney he’s a turkey. He was on board for the hardware transition. He was with me for the gamble. Looked the other way same as I did. Yes, so we dipped just a pube below safety standards in a few nondescript categories. Things were tough—the company in freefall! Cleer1 was a caveman! But today the bastard sold me out good. Real good. Still has a job somehow, that’s the best part. Turkey. I need to tell him he’s a turkey. I need to. The screwdrivers insist. How about I tell him with my handy dandy CleerII. That’d be a hoot! Dangerous though, using the phone. Poses some nasty risk, if only I can remember. I use it maybe it’ll give me an aneurism, my brainveins’ll throb and pop, my world will go black and I’ll slump down right here in my seat, shorted out, dark and dead. Hope so. But because the cutting edge antenna—the big experiment—there’s one thing I know for sure: I’ll get a good signal even up here in the clouds. “CleerII: The World’s Your Hotspot.”

Spinning. I forget what the big deal was, what’s the goof—this is a sexy little thing! My fingerprint even is sexy on the black. Moved half-a-million units the first week alone before the recall. It was going to save us. And me.

I turn on my phone and dial and when I put it to my ear it feels a little like when you put a gun to your temple. Deep in the barrel I hear the line ring. Once. Twice. Three times. And that’s when it happens. All around me the cabin lights flicker for a moment, then short out completely. Outside under the wings I hear the engines turn off and then, like that, my stomach is in my chest and then we’re spinning. We’re really spinning. I hear the whistling howl of gravity and metal wanting to bend. Screaming. Texas-face is on the ceiling. Smartphones rain sideways like a blizzard of bricks, patter madly against the window to my right.

Because we’re spinning clockwise, and the spin of screwdriver inebriation, categorically, runs counter-clockwise, I experience a weird moment of equilibrium. For a second my head clears.

The body of the plane starts to bend like cardboard. We’re spinning.

I think: Oh yes, now I remember.

 
 
 


Derek Osedach has been nominated for the James Kirkwood Prize in Creative Writing at UCLA Extension’s Writers’ Program. This is his first online publication. He currently lives in Los Angeles.