He climbed the steps slowly, lugging his small bag behind him.
Thud. Thud. Thud.
He stopped to catch his breath and looked up. There were still many steps to go.
Sigh. He took a deep breath and started climbing again.
Dr. Eighty was very old. He had a small patch of white hair left on the back of his head, which left a half-moon-shaped bald patch on the top. He had a heavy white moustache, under which one word was often heard, “Hmph.”
Dr. Eighty’s wife had passed on several years ago. He had no children and had
spent his life being cranky and arrogant, gradually losing all his patients. Mind you, he was a smart doctor who gave a near-perfect diagnosis. But his ill-nature made people distance themselves from him. Eventually, he was left alone in his small apartment, and his life went by with whatever little money he had left.
Dr. Eighty reached the top of the staircase and put his bag down, panting heavily.
Flight Attendant 1: Welcome to Flight Aria, sir. May I help you with your bag?
Dr. Eighty: Hmph! You should have asked when I was at the bottom of this hell. I can help myself to the seat. Now get out of my way. Hmph.
The girl, taken aback, took a step aside.
Dr. Eighty walked to his seat, stowed away his bag and sat down heavily with a loud sigh. He struggled to keep his eyes open as the flight attendant gave safety instructions. Within seconds, he was fast asleep, his head falling to one side.
“Sir? SIR,” said a loud voice in his ear. A soft tap on his shoulder. He wearily opened his eyes.
Flight Attendant 1: Sir, would you like to use a neck pillow?
Dr. Eighty (angry): Hmph… Did you wake me up to sell your products?
Flight Attendant 1: Sir, we are not selling you anything. This is for you to sleep
Dr. E: Hmph. What is this?
FA1: A neck pillow, sir. It will help you sleep better.
Dr. E: Give it to me then, and let me sleep. Disturbing an old man like that…Hmph.
Dr. Eighty opened the wrapper and put the pillow around his neck.
“Aah…,” he let out a relieved sigh.
He felt the smooth, silken cloth brush against his skin. He felt the soft cotton
cushioning his head. He leaned backward and on both sides to feel the cushion
around his head. He had not experienced such comfort before.
He leaned back once again on the pillow and fell into one of the deepest, most
pleasant sleep he had had in a long time.
He woke up with a strong urge to pee, his bladder ready to burst. He jerked himself out of the seat and made his way toward the washroom. He locked the door and relieved himself. As he was zipping up, he looked at his reflection in the mirror.
“Aah, the pillow,” he smiled.
“Sir, we are not selling anything,” a voice rang in his head.
“It means they will take my neck pillow away when we land,” he thought to himself.
Panic started seeping in. He started breathing heavily, sweat forming on his
forehead. Anxiety set in, and Dr. Eighty started breathing heavily.
“What do I do? What do I do! I cannot let them take my pillow away from me!”
He put both his hands on the wash basin, dreading what would happen. He looked up again, and an idea struck him. He smiled.
He removed the pillow from around his neck and lifted his shirt. He stuffed the pillow around his tummy and rolled down the shirt. He wiped the sweat from his forehead and admired his new big belly in the mirror that shamelessly flaunted a bit of his underbelly to the public eye.
Satisfied, he went back and sat down on his seat with a big smile, holding his belly as if suffering from an upset stomach.
The flight landed. Dr. E rubbed his big belly and got up to make his way out, when someone tapped his shoulder.
Flight Attendant 2: Sir, do you mind waiting here till the other passengers have deboarded?
Dr. Eighty: Hmph. Of course, I mind. I have to go home.
FA2: Sir, please step aside and wait.
Dr. E: And why should I do that, hmph?
FA2: It’s a small checking formality, sir. It won’t take too long.
Dr. Eighty frowned. He felt anxious again. His palms were sweaty. He saw two
security guards enter the flight.
Dr. E: What do you need to check? I want to go home, and home I shall go.
FA2 (blocking his way): Sir, please wait here.
Dr. E (to himself): Oh, God.
Security Guard 1: Sir, we need to check you before you leave this flight. Please raise your arms to the side.
Dr. E: What is all this?
Security Guard 2: Sir, it is a criminal offense to carry any flight property outside. Now raise your arms.
Dr. Eighty, now sweating profusely, raised his arms slightly, and plop! Out fell the
SG 1: Sir, do you know that you can be arrested for stealing this pillow?
SG 2: Sir? SIR? Can you hear us? Sir?
Dr. E was standing wide-eyed in front of them, numb with shock. He wasn’t listening.
SG 1: Sir, are you…?
Dr. E pushed the guard and ran. He ran as fast as he could to the door. He ran down the steps as quickly as he could, without turning back. He lost his balance on the last few steps and fell on the ground with a thud, hurting his head.
Dr. E opened his eyes. The flight had landed with a loud thud. He had fallen forward and hurt his head on the seat in front of him. He unbuckled his belt, removed the pillow from around his neck, and waved to the flight attendant.
FA1: Yes, sir?
Dr. E: Here, take your pillow. Hmph…
FA1: No, sir. Please consider it as a gift. Compliments of Flight Aria!