Total Eclipse, Starring Hurley Moon

Captain Pimlet looked over at his copilot, who was passed out with his head thrown back over his swivel chair like a sock strung over a dresser mirror.

“Dang it,” said Captain Pimlet. “Dang you, Copilot Tim.”

They were flying as high as they could go over the Pacific, carrying three hundred coach class travelers, fifty business class go-getters, and a child actor named Hurley Moon, who was traveling back from an award ceremony in Japan with his weepy, jittery mom and her lover – a giant blonde hulk named Rider who carried around a stack of signed Hurley Moon glossies and handed one out to anyone who even grazed the cynical, elfin child’s orbit, or who presented a bill for anything over ten dollars. The little Moon family had the five first class seats to themselves, which meant that they had Flight Attendant Nan (out of Savannah) all to themselves. The rest of the passengers had to deal with Flight Attendant Gus (out of Baton Rouge) and Flight Attendant Patrice (out of New Haven), both of whom hated all human beings, whether they took the peanuts or not.

Captain Pimlet swept his loafer along the ground between the swivel chairs and kicked out at Copilot Tim’s feet. He knocked Copilot Tim’s boots together and Copilot Tim lost his balance and pitched forward onto the thick, grey shag carpet of the cabin. Copilot Tim kept sleeping, and now he blew vodka scented bubbles of saliva out of his nose as he curled up around his pasty, floppy belly.

“You fumping welcher,” said Captain Pimlet. “You danged deal-breaker.”

Captain Pimlet and Copilot Tim had made an arrangement before they had taken off from Tokyo. At midnight, Copilot Tim would fly the plane and Captain Pimlet would have the day off – his first free day in nearly a month and a half. Captain Pimlet had marked the day in red on the calendar, and he had called the scheduling office three times, and they had still made him fly that day, saying he had no choice, saying there was no one else, saying they had too few pilots and too many flights, and he needed to keep his job, and that his job was what was at stake.

Luckily, Copilot Tim had agreed to take over and do the flying as soon as it hit midnight; as soon as the day rolled over and Captain Pimlet’s holiday began. But here was Tim, passed out in his own swill, honking up jewels of phlegm, trying to snuggle his fat hands into his pants for warmth.

Captain Pimlet leaned over the intercom and licked his lips. It was 12:02 AM. He couldn't bring himself to touch the controls.

“Ladies and gentlemen, we’ve got a real big problem up here. Does anybody know how to fly a dang plane?”

Within thirty seconds, all three flight attendants burst into the cabin. As the cabin door blew open on the strength of their panic, Captain Pimlet looked back into the aisles and saw people screaming and hugging each other and wildly dialing numbers on their cell phones. Pimlet pressed a purple button on his console which scrambled all cell phone transmissions on the plane – cutting people’s screams off in mid-wail and replacing them first with light jazz, and then static.

“It’s my holiday,” said Captain Pimlet into the faces of the three shocked flight attendants. “None of you can fly planes, can you?”

They couldn’t respond. Their jaws worked. Their eyes goggled.

“Of course not,” said Captain Pimlet. “Otherwise you wouldn’t be hustling snacks and wearing skirts -- or tight shorts, Gus -- and bending way over to let cash-flushed Ohio tool and dye reps see your cold cuts.”

“You are a bad man, Captain Pimlet,” said Flight Attendant Patrice (out of New Haven).

There was a knock on the cabin door behind them and a tall man in his seventies with bright white hair, a twitch in his eye, and rosy cheek bones like hard, cold knuckles slouched in and bowed. His eyes moved back and forth across his face, scanning all the corners of the room: a serious man with serious feelings. He reached over and put his hand against the first aid kit to steady himself against the weight of what he was about to say.

“If there has been an emergency and you need somebody to fly this plane, I can do the trick,” said the man. “My name is Hunt. I used to run choppers in and out of the Sudan. I can’t tell you why, but people were screaming then, too.”

“Dang,” said Captain Pimlet. “That’s white hot. You got the job. I can’t fly; it’s my holiday. And Copilot Tim drank himself into a blue stupor, even though we had a deal. Take the controls. I’ll gas the yahoos.”

Captain Pimlet punched a ten-digit code into his armrest and then pulled a ripcord that spurted from the ceiling. Back in the aisles, plastic yellow bags fell out of their compartments with a small C02 puff, and spewed chilly clouds of pure oxygen, putting the passengers (even those who refused to wear the masks) into a deep, chemical sleep.

By this time, Flight Attendant Gus (out of Baton Rouge) had sealed and locked the cabin door again. But now somebody was beating on it with both hands and then both shoulders. Everyone watched as the cabin door buckled and then snapped at the hinges, a thing that was not supposed to happen.

There stood Rider, breathing heavy, his small face smooshed against his pulsing neck veins. He held unconscious, tousled Hurley Moon in his massive arms like a guitar case.

“Please return to your seats and I’ll be with you in a moment,” said Flight Attendant Nan (out of Savannah).

“We need those parachutes,” said Rider. “We know you got parachutes in here.”

“You are letting the oxygen in!” said Flight Attendant Patrice (out of New Haven). “Oh hell.”

Suddenly, Hurley Moon woke up and pointed out the cockpit window.

“Look!” shouted Hurley Moon. “A unicorn! She’ll save us!”

Everyone turned to look, but there was nothing there. Hurley Moon fell back asleep, collapsing once more against Rider’s blue jeans.

“Only the eyes of a child,” said Captain Pimlet.

“He’s not a child,” said Rider. “He’s a child ACTOR.”

As Rider handed Captain Pimlet a signed Hurley Moon glossy, he buckled and fell headlong onto the carpet alongside Copilot Tim. One by one they all collapsed, even the man called Hunt, who leaned up against the controls and muttered profanity in French as his eyes grew too heavy to keep open. It became a holiday after all.

Sleepily, dreamily, everyone on the plane slept through the "evacuate" alarms, the shrill yelps from air traffic control on the intercom, and the scrambled F16 that pulled up alongside and peeked into the windows. It was a beautiful morning. Clouds everywhere. There were supposed to be huge plastic plates of toast, coffee, eggs, and yogurt for breakfast, but breakfast had to be served, and today no one was in any condition to serve anything, or anyone.



Steven Spielberg said...

I think this is a very good story, Miracle Jones. I will pay you 1 TRILLION dollars if I can make this awesome short story into a BLOCKBUSTER movie.


The Devil

Kevin Carter said...

Seriously, in fucking earnestness, this story is awesome.