Catching His Flight
He jumped, frantic. Pushing and shoving, he made his way to the counter. It was almost time. Throwing down pre-approved his luggages, he turned toward the corridor.
He only had a few minutes left. Dashing with all the speed his legs would grant him, darting past the crowds, he searched for the letters on his ticket. 14B… 14B… 14B… Where was it? The numbers were decreasing. He turned toward the other direction.
A cafe. A restroom. B14… B14… B14… Where?
“Sir!” A woman shouted.
“Your luggages.” She said.
He didn’t have time for this. They were already pre-approved for god’s sake.
“You didn’t tag them.” She continued.
Of course. He’d left in such a hurry.
“Do you have a pen?” He asked urgently. A few minutes longer, and he was certain to miss his plane.
“Come with me to the desk.” She answered, waving him to follow.
He checked his watch. Just five minutes left.
“Give me the tags.” He demanded, as he took a pen from the nearest cup.
“Here you are.” The woman answered, handing him the blank paper labels.
Taking them, he immediately scribbled his name, address, and phone number.
“Attach them for me, will you?” He asked, keeping his irritation in check. Without waiting for an answer, he looked down at his watch. Three minutes left.
He burst into a sprint. Eyes repeatedly scanning left and right, he ran in the opposite direction. B14… B14… B14…
The end of the hall entered his range of sight. Still no B14. Circling back around, he searched for a sign. He ran up to it. Downstairs? Immediately turning away, he ran to the nearest stairwell, nearly stumbling down the steps in his haste.
He turned at the bottom of the stairwell, breathing a sigh of relief. There it was. Just then, he noticed that there was no line. Was he too late? He ran up to the gate, pulling out his ticket.
“Ticket please.” The security shouted at him. He paused, showing it to the man. Beep. The security waved him in. Praise the Lord for letting nothing else go wrong. He stepped in. Finally walking down the aisle, he took the seat assigned on his ticket and closed his eyes.
“Thank you for riding with us and hope everyone has a wonderful day.” The attendant said over the microphone, startling him awake.
He shook his head. Had he really slept that long? He straightened, noticing that everyone else in his aisle had gotten out already. Standing, he fit himself through the next available space in the wave of people and made his way toward the exit. He sighed in relief, thankful for having arrived without any further issue.
Following the signs toward the baggage area, and a series of seemingly endless hallways later, he found himself in front of a series of conveyor belts. Luggages circled around and around again, as he searched for his. No signs of his bags. Could it be that his luggage got left behind? He shook his head. Unlikely. They’d been pre-approved.
Expelling the thought from his mind, he continued his search. They all looked so similar. He reached for each black one, carefully inspecting the tag. None of them were his! Did it really get left behind? No. It couldn’t be.
One conveyor belt to another, he searched them one at a time. None. None. If only he’d gotten to the airstation sooner. Why didn’t they put tracking numbers on these things.
One more try. He passed through the conveyor belts again. Most people from the last flight have already left. With the few items left, surely he’d find his. Surely he’d find it, right? With more care than previously, he lifted each tag.
Finally, he found a set of luggages thrown together with a familiar handwriting on their tags. He breathed a sigh of relief. Thank goodness they made it through. He wasn’t sure what he’d do if he had lost all of that. Making a mental note to leave the house early next time, the towed his luggage to the exit gates.
From the distance, he noted the unique green color of his father’s vehicle. In his panick, he’d totally forgotten the time. He’d totally forgotten that they’d been waiting for him. He checked his watch. He was an hour late.
Oops. Hopefully they weren’t too mad. He walked toward the car, pulling out his phone. A brief glimpse told him why he hadn’t gone outside already. The phone was still on airplane mode. He’d set the status before heading out in the morning, and it hadn’t occurred to him to change it. Sucking in a breath, he looked up as he approached the door. Cautiously, he pulled it open, mentally preparing himself for the scolding that was sure to come his way.
“Where were you?” He heard his mother from the driver’s seat.
“I kind of ran into some problems with my luggage.” He answered sheepishly.
“Then why didn’t you give us a call? Or at least have your phone turned on?” She demanded.
“It was on. I forgot to turn off airplane mode.” He answered. Whoops. “My mind was preoccupied with finding them, so it didn’t occur to me to pull out my phone.”
“Next time, take the taxi.” She replied. “I’m not waiting again.”
“That’s fine.” He responded. “It was my fault. I lost track of time.”
“Now that we’ve got him. Let’s go to McDonald’s or something.” She cried. “I’m starving!”
“Ah, want some biscuits in the meantime?” He asked, unzipping his luggage. “I had some from the hotel staff at my stay.”
“Sure!” His sister shouted with an outstretched hand.
Feeling around blindly in the luggage, he couldn’t seem to pinpoint the bag. Hmm. Something’s off. Why is it so soft inside there. He looked down to peer into the bag. There shouldn’t be any clothes in it. He distinctly remembered only placing documents, electronics, and souvenirs into the bag. His clothes should’ve been in the other one. He pulled the zipper open.
Out fell what was unmistakably part of a woman’s a lingerie. Eh? He’d never seen that specific cloth before. And he was absolutely certain that he didn’t see any girls while he was on the trip, not to mention bring anyone back to his hotel room.
His sister caught sight of the fabric just as quickly as he did.
“Mom!” She shouted. “We should take brother to get tested for STDs!”
“Charlie!” He exclaimed under his breath. “It’s not what it looks like!”
He unzipped his bag further, opening the luggage in its entirety. His mouth fell agape. Nothing could’ve prepared him for what he saw. The entire bag was filled with women undergarments. What kind of sick joke was this?
“It’s really not what it looks like!” He exclaimed, urgently trying to explain himself as he looked back at his sister.
“He’s definitely a pervert!” She declared.
“Trust me!” He begged. “It’s really not what it looks like! I promise I’m just as surprised as you are!”
Then it occurred to him. The documents that grandma wanted him to bring back. The letters from his deceased grandfather. He dug into the bag, scattering its contents all over the backseat and floor. Where? He leaned back in despair, as he removed the last underwear from his bag. There was nothing else in there.
His souvenirs, his devices, the documents. They were all gone. Had he known earlier, he would’ve carried them onto the plane with him. If not for the problems that he had finding carry-on storage space on the inbound trip, he wouldn’t have checked them in for the returning trip. He had thought that checking in luggage would’ve made the process smoother.
He put a hand to his forehead. How was he going to face grandma now? She trusted him with the task of retrieving the letters. Now they were gone. Gone without a trace.
“No wonder you experienced problems with your luggage.” His sister said, smug.
He didn’t respond. What was he going to tell grandma? It was such a simple task. What was he going to tell her? He closed his eyes, tuning out everything else.
He opened his eyes as the car came to a stop. He must’ve fallen asleep again. He sat up, noticing the mess he’d created. Right. Talking to grandma.
“Mom!” His sister announced, as he straightened. “The pervert is awake!”
“You’d better clean up the backseat before going into the house!” His mother shouted, as she opened the door and stepped out of her seat.
He sighed. Whether he needed to clean up the mess or not, he didn’t want to go inside. Grandma had trusted him. She had depended on him. He sighed, unbuckling his seatbelt and bending to pick up the clothing pieces.
As he filled the luggage, a realization dawned upon him. Why should he neatly pack them away if he had no intention of keeping them? Throwing the door open, he launched the luggage onto the pavement, and one by one, he threw the undergarments in it. When the car was finally empty again, he jumped out of the car.
Suddenly angry, he picked up the luggage box and ran down the neighborhood. Panting, he stopped before the dump. Without hesitation, he threw it in, with all the force he had. Happy to part with it. There was nothing in it worth keeping anyways. He stood there, catching his breath, when it occurred to him that he still had one more bag that he hadn’t checked.
Maybe, though he knew it was unlikely, the documents were transferred to the other bag. Maybe he happened to move it. Maybe all was not lost. Determination refreshed, he ran back in the direction of the car. Perhaps there was still something that could be salvaged.
Back at the car, he immediately tore open the other luggage. But it was normal. Just his worn clothes. He closed his eyes, disappointed. Zipping it back up, and towing it out of the car, he locked the car doors. Setting the luggage beside him, he sat against the car. He didn’t want to see the disappointment in her eyes.
He sighed, hugging his knees and putting his face over them. At this point, it didn’t matter that everyone else misunderstood him. He didn’t have anything to prove what happened, nor did he particularly care. He clenched his fist. Grandma’s letters. He had one task to get right on vacation. And he failed. He failed miserably.
He felt a hand on his shoulder.
“I was wondering where you were.” He heard grandmother’s voice say above him. “Why don’t you come in?”
“I lost the letters.” He blurted. He was never good at keeping things to himself.
“That’s alright.” She answered. Her voice kind, and unhesitating.
“But they were from grandpa.” He said, looking up at her.
“I have many things from your grandpa.” She answered. “I only asked because your hotel was conveniently nearby.”
“But they’re irreplaceable.” He answered.
“As irreplaceable as they might be, they’re not as important as your safety.” She answered, putting down her cane and drawing him into a hug. “I was more concerned about whether you made it back safely than about the fate about the fate of those old papers. They’re nice to have, but a momento, a keepsake, a memory of the past, is never as important as what we currently have.”
“Grandma.” He started. This was coming from his grandma. A woman that had been devastated by his grandfather’s sudden death. The man had died in an accident. He still remembered how she scrolled through old images on her phone, days after the funeral. His eyes watered.
“It doesn’t help to dwell on the past. While it may be nice to relieve a memory every now and then, we also must be aware that the past is the past. There is no going back.” She said. “It doesn’t matter that they’re gone. What certainly does matter is that my precious grandson hasn’t had a nibble since returning! Come into the house, will you? I don’t think these old bones can stand anymore of this chill.”
He nodded as he helped her up. Towing his luggage in one hand and supporting his grandmother with the other, he turned toward the house. Arm in arm, they entered entered the home. An invisible weight lifted from his shoulders the moment he stepped through the doorway and caught his grandmother smiling.
The accidental loss of the letters really weren’t bothering her. He returned her smile. Grateful for her understanding. Grateful for her forgiveness. Grateful for her concern. Grateful for having her. And to her, he promised that he’d never procrastinate again.
This story was inspired by a writing prompt from the “Storyteller’s Vault” Publication.
Rushing to make a flight when someone accidentally swaps their luggage for yours.