L.A. SHORT STORY - Part 1 of 7
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His body convulses lightly again, as if jerked by invisible marionette strings. It was the dry cough he had developed on the way to the airport.
"Well, this is frustrating," he casually thinks to himself. "Knowing my luck, this cough will last the entire week, as I interact with my clients, face to face."
In the waiting lounge , he settles into a seat, designed with perfunctorily spartan comfort in mind for the brief wait before unintelligible boarding announcements are barked muffledly over the PA system, the seat causes Alex to shift his position impatiently, in search of a soft spot. "None to be found," he mumbles to himself.
Sojourners nearby shift uneasily in their seats, or move further away, in an effort to escape the perceived onslaught of germs.
The laptop cast a dull glow on his face, portraying him as even more erudite and animally magnetic than already perceived by his doting suitors - his chiseled features further made apparent by the gloomy refulgence of the LCD. He often uses the laptop as a way to avoid eye contact and unsolicited conversations from admiring female onlookers.
He raises his head reflexively to ponder word choice, noting to his chagrin that a mewling admirer was attempting to make eye contact. He shifted his gaze back to the laptop. "Dream on, woman," he growled, inaudibly, with a contemptuous smirk.
The tappity-clutter of his keyboard, when accommodating his stream of consciousness at full bore, occasionally offers up a complimentary syncopation with the "nyick, nyick, nyick" of the sticky-wheeled trail-behind baggage that passes by. He is distracted in mild amusement, but only for an instant; he dives back into his thoughts. His fingers blur furiously over the fatigued notebook keys.
"I just... got this notebook,,, in October," cursing quietly to himself, as he double-tapped the "L" key, "and already, the 'L' key is intermittently responding. How the hell could I be using the 'L' key so disproportionately higher than, say, 'E' or even 'S'?" The tappity-clutter, occasionally punctuated by a percussive slappity-BAP of the 'L' key causes nearby travelers to glance up distractedly from their "Family Circle" magazines and more mechanically-sound notebooks.
"Sorry," he grunted under his breath.
Racked by another dry cough, he watches his fingers collide clumsily against the keyboard. "This cough," he groans tacitly, "wwwwwhat am I going to do now..."
Mippity mippity, his keyboard replies stonily, as he taps his backspace key to correct the mistakes, brought on by his cough.
His fingers slow imperceptibly, as he thinks back to just what may have caused the cough. "Perhaps due to the prospect of going to LA, a town with a markedly poor reputation for drive-by shootings, road rage, and a generally recalcitrant sub-populace - healthily interspersed throughout the town?"
Tappity-clutter, his keyboard dejectedly rebuffs.
"Perhaps due to the fact that my 450 square-foot apartment is impossible to heat?"
Tappity-clutter, his keyboard insolently posits.
"Perhaps because I unintentionally inhaled coffee into my larynx on the way to the airport, spraying my bronchii with caffeine, over-stimulating my diaphragm?" he thought, with a raised eyebrow.
Tappity-clutter, his keyboard desultorily assents.
His fingers begin to cramp in protest. He leans in and taps even more intently on the keyboard, in an effort to focus again on his task. His mind wanders to impertinent thoughts - images, really - of how he will find a way to interact with his insipid clients. "Now, how am I expected to concentrate?" he implores his laptop.. The LCD stares back at him, impassively.
His lungs feel tight, as if wrapped in elastic bands. He is forced to sit up straight to fill the reticently sluggish lungs.
The battery level sinks slowly, as he delves back in. He notes, mildly perturbed, that his AC adapter is cozily ensconced between two cushions of the sofa back at his apartment. The exhaust fans of his notebook whir to life, helping to drown out squalling children, ancillary boarding announcements down the terminal, and disabled travelers' shuttles, operated by drivers, festooned with large wooden beads in their hair. Beads, perhaps, purloined from a bead curtain, welcoming wayward travelers into a grotty brothel, he mused with a wan, dejected smile.
The hum of the fans provides only temporary solace from the surrounding din... as the cough returns.
"Please save your data. Your battery power is critically low," the laptop mocked him with mute truculence.
"Sonofabitch... sonofabitch...," he coughs, shaking his head ruefully. "I'll grab a bottle of water during the layover in Houston," knowing this to be a consummate impossibility, as he absentmindedly recalls that there is no time at all for a layover in Houston. He already pictures himself, scurrying breathlessly through Bush IAH from Terminal D to Terminal A... twelve minutes to go... laptop bag, slapping in somber, drunken, asynchronous cadence against his left thigh, causing him to list diagonally down the slowly-moving sidewalk. He ground the butt of his hand into his eye in frustration. "Sonofabitch...."
Stay tuned for Part 2 of 7 next week.
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'God has a special providence for fools, drunkards, and the United States of America.'
- Otto Von Bismarck