CHEESEBURGER BROWN: Novelist & Story-wallah
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Night Flight Mike
A novelette from Cheeseburger Brown
CHAPTERS 1|2|3|4|5|6|7|8|9|10
Night Flight Mike, a novelette by Cheeseburger Brown, illustration by Matthew Hemming


Three incidents marred Mike's enjoyment of the first day of the Grand Bee. The first incident occurred when Mike was caught unconsciously mouthing the spelling of the words each contestant on stage was challenged with, leading to a harshly whispered reprimand from a fat judge with creased jowls who had shuffled over from the wings to accuse Mike of trying to help somebody cheat. "If you're such a whiz-bang speller you should be up there yourself," said the fat judge. His shirt bore a trail of white debris from the powdered doughnut he wagged at Mike in warning.

The second incident occurred when Mike went to the washroom and two obnoxious boys in private school suits accused him of being a "shy pisser" because he took too long standing in the stall. Mike immediately lost the ability to urinate and spent the remainder of the morning session with crossed legs.

The third incident took place during lunch when one of the other parents chatting up Father asked him to point out his children, which Father dutifully did. The blonde, pink-faced man furrowed his brow and then smiled. "Oh I see, they're not your real children," he said.

"I'm sorry?" asked Father, ceasing to chew his pasta.

"That explains the complexions," added the blonde man.

The man hadn't meant to offend Father but Father was offended. He had been offended in this way before. There was, in fact, an invisible valise of stored up offense sitting unseen on Father's shoulder. Mother touched his arm and said his name quietly, but he shook her off. "What, pray tell, do you mean by that exactly?" Father wanted to know, stepping closer to the blonde man.

Mike didn't hear what the man stammered in his defense, but Father put him in a headlock. Father had been a wrestler in college. The fat judge jogged up in a tizzy but, evidently lacking experience with wrestling, attempted to prise Father's arm loose in entirely the wrong way, succeeding only in knocking himself to the floor when Father turned around to see who was pulling on him.

Violence upset Mike, so he ran away.

When Mother found him in the lobby hiding behind a magazine about Filipino pirates she stroked his dark hair and gave him the speech about Father being under a lot of stress lately due to difficulties in the adoption process of Baby Ruby and the threat of downsizing at the office. "When it's all too much for him he falls back on wrestling," she concluded lamely.

"I know," said Mike.

"He wishes you would get into wrestling. He could be your coach."

"I don't like wrestling."

"I know."

They sat in silence a while, mother and son, watching people pass by on the sidewalk outside through the tinted glass of the hotel's face. They saw a bellhop badly mistake the balance of his cargo and go sprawling to the floor, suitcases skidding away in a hissing ring of ejecta. Mike and Mother cracked up, and laughed more than may have been appropriate.

"Sometimes it's hard..." Mother began wistfully.

Mike was patient and he waited, but the sentence remained dangling. "Sometimes what's hard?"

Mother blinked the faraway look out of her eyes. "Sometimes it's just hard, is all." She hugged him. "Try to remember the burden your father carries. It isn't always easy."

"Okay," agreed Mike.

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CHEESEBURGER BROWN: Novelist & Story-wallah
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