To Serve and Protect

6 Aug

Beepbeepbeepbeepbeep!

The sound of the metal detector never made me jump, though I can’t the same for the civilians who set the damned things off. It’s seven in the morning and my “Grande” house blend has already worn off. Crap.

I’ve always preferred the major airports: nothing but businessmen travelling for the fiftieth time this month, or carbon-copy families making connecting flights to Disney. Low-maintenance. I can just stand there and watch, stupidly daydreaming that these people just see me and ignore the “LT SWALLOW” embroidered onto the chest of my uniform. Camouflage doesn’t make you invisible in a sterile airport security line, and the rifle in my hands definitely doesn’t help.

Of course, today I’m unfortunately at the shitty airport: a small regional one across the river with those once-in-a-blue-moon travelers. They’re the ones who pack Costco-sized bottles of shampoos and gift-wrapped knife sets; next thing I know, I get to be the one on guard, waiting for the thirty-year-old mother of three to stop juggling her kids and blow this place up with her huge aerosol bug spray, because obviously the trip to Hershey, Pennsylvania was just a ploy.

Here I am, back against the wall, after the non-crisis ended. I smell coffee. I look over to the right, eyeing everyone in line as they tap their feet impatiently. I finally see him: the grey-haired man wearing a three-piece suit, holding the gorgeous cup o’ joe, and I feel sad knowing that not only was I caffeine-deprived, but he would be, too. Textbook blue-moon flyer. You can’t bring liquids through security, old man, I want to tell him. He’s next in line, so there’s no point. I’ll just enjoy the aroma and pray that some caffeine gets into my veins.

As expected, he has to toss his coffee. Beepbeepbeepbeepbeep! I should have known he would set off the machine. Thank God he doesn’t have any luggage. Time to get to work: watching the TSA agent’s back as he pats down this old guy. This is not my idea of a good time. The agent’s stopping and asking the man, “Mister Caldwell, what do you have in your right pant pocket?” Great, now the agent is looking at me because Caldwell is stammering. He’s even sweating. What the hell? “Malcom Caldwell, what is in your pocket?” The agent is looking at me harder than before. That’s my cue.

As I’m patting the guy’s pocket, I’m feeling eyes all over me. This is probably the most excitement these small-town folks have gotten in ages. It’s a box. Fuck. If I got pulled over here because of a pill box, I’m going to retire right now. I’m pulling out the small, black, velvet box and look at Mister Caldwell, his eyes filling with tears and his mouth trying to smile.

“I’m… I’m going to Buffalo. I’m getting married.”

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One Response to “To Serve and Protect”

  1. ingridf August 6, 2012 at 11:20 pm #

    I love how this developed. Fantastic. I really like how the main character is watching and observing … and then the role of the pat down.

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