*This story was written for the Ruckus flash fiction contest on the net (9/2012). The prompt was to pen a story of an unusual or unlikely hero.
A wave of nausea hit and Annie buckled. She coughed, wretched, felt a singe of gastric napalm. Suddenly light headed, she fought back panic. Did she eat something bad? Confused, she swallowed, tasted metal. Oh no, she then thought, is that blood?
Glenda grabbed Lester with a chubby hand. “I’m telling you Lester, this’s not a good idea,” she whispered urgently, yanking her TSA coworker behind the body scanner for privacy. Given Glenda’s Oprah-esque girth, relocating a scrawny puck like Lester was less of problem of physics than creating a scene.
“But look at this guy,” Lester implored. “If you were to Google the word terrorist this guy’s face would pop up.”
Glenda was already shaking her head. “The guy’s clean, I-D checks out, no watch list hits. He’s not only an American citizen, but he’s also a lawyer for the ACLU. You pull this guy out of line, the shit’s gonna hit the fan…again.”
Lester shook his head, eyes wide with petition. “But the greasy beard, the fucking turban—and look at the way the guy’s sweating. I tell ya, this Akbeard is trouble.”
Glenda rolled her eyes. “His name is Akbaard.” She waved a cautioning finger, pinned Lester with a rigid glare. “Don’t move,” she warned, then leaned out from behind the body scanner. “Sorry for the delay, folks,” she announced to the burgeoning crowd. “We’re having a minor technical issue. We’ll have the line moving again in a minute.” She flashed a saccharine grin, ducked back behind the scanner.
“Damn TSA Nazis,” came an agitated voice from the crowd.
Worming uncontrollably, Annie knew something was seriously wrong. At first she thought it was just something she ate, but this was far worse. A clammy shiver sped through her body along with a disturbing thought. Could she have been poisoned?
Right away her mind went to Sal. Could he have done it? He didn’t seem capable, but she only really knew him for a few weeks. And they did just have lunch together. Maybe he put something in her food. No, no, no, she shook her head, couldn’t be. He was warm and sincere. They had lunch together every day since they’d met, and he’d been nothing but a gracious host. Sure, he made “a move” on her almost every day, but that was to be expected, and in truth, she craved the attention.
Annie suddenly began to tremble, her thoughts subsumed by a noxious rush of vertigo. She started to hyperventilate, was having trouble breathing. She needed help, needed air. She screamed.
“What about last week?” Glenda charged, glaring at Lester. “You’re lucky you didn’t get fired for that little stunt.”
“But you agreed that it looked suspicious.” Lester shrugged, the expression suggesting the blame was not all his.
“Yeah, well. Who knew a white boy could have such a big johnson,” she conceded. “You still coulda handled it more discreetly. There was no need to call in the bomb squad.” She shook her head, sighed. “And what about over the summer when you insisted on patting down those two passengers heading to London…the ones that turned out to be Olympic athletes?”
“Ah, but you forget, one had undeclared items.”
“Toothpaste Lester, toothpaste! Not quite worth the negative press.” Glenda shook her head sarcastically. “You gotta learn to use better judgment. You got more complaints of profiling than any other agent. I’m tellin’ you, you do this and you’re gonna get canned, which, frankly I could give a crap about. But the way this place rolls, they’ll probably fire me too. And that’s where I got a problem, Lester. I need this Job. I got two kids and a dead beat baby daddy to support.”
Lester sighed, an acquiescent nod. “Okay…”
More than astonished by Lester’s concession, Glenda turned, not waiting for explanation, and stepped from behind the scanner. “Alright folks, we’re back online.” she announced sunnily, and immediately began waving people through the check point.
The crowd was duly forgiving. “Thanks a lot, bout fuckin’ time,” wafted from the bowels of the restless queue.
Desperate and afraid, Annie took off running. She needed air, had to get outside. She ran down the long corridor, disoriented and frantic. Something blocked her passage and she had to squeeze around it. Finally passed the blockade, she took off again and, without slowing down, slammed through the exit. Outside, she stumbled, felt an odd sensation of free fall. She took a deep breath—no help. She felt even worse. She writhed and thrashed. This was a mistake. She began to go into violent convulsions.
A scream echoed through the terminal. Heads rubbernecked within a fifty yard radius.
“Look!” Now it was Lester’s turn to grab Glenda by the arm. “I told ya!” He pointed excitedly.
Glenda gasped, eyes ballooning in freak show fascination.
Lester seized the radio, thumbed the mic. “All units converge, gate 17. Suspect’s five-ten, dark skin, turban, he’s freaking out on the concourse. His name is Saleem Akbaard.” he said with correct enunciation, frowning at Glenda. He then returned to the radio. “Take him down!”
Later that night
“Shhh, this is it,” Glenda said, raising the TV remote. A volume bar appeared and began to grow.
Following a wide shot of the airport terminal the camera zoomed in on the perfectly coiffed and appropriately strained visage of Wink Larson, renowned field correspondent for WWTF news.
“There you are in the background, mom!” Latrisha shouted, sitting on the couch beside her.
“Shhh,” Glenda scolded, squeezing her daughter’s thigh for emphasis. She gave her son Tray a preemptive glare, the warning implicit—you keep quiet too. There was no need to warn her boyfriend, Morris. Ever since he’d learned of Glenda’s promotion to supervisor he’d been on his best behavior. Rule number one in the lowlife handbook – don’t mess with the gravy train.
The volume bar grew a little longer just as Wink began his report. “By all indications, it appears that a major terrorist attack has been averted today. Thanks to the quick response of TSA agents and one very brave little worm. That’s right folks, a worm.” Wink flashed a smile, glanced at an index card. “Taenia saginata, or tape worm to be exact.
“Based on the evidence and eyewitness accounts, the worm, compelled by a heavy dose of laxative, made a dramatic exit just as the alleged terrorist, one Saleem Akbaard, was making his way onto flight 2500 to New York. The sight of the worm wiggling beneath his pants, as well as the suspect’s erratic behavior provided TSA with reasonable suspicion to investigate further. A full body search revealed the ingredients of a dangerous chemical explosive in a rubber vessel stored in Mr. Akbaard’s rectum, enough to have blown up the 747 and all its 250 passengers.” Wink paused, shook his head, offered a suitably solemn frown. “Stay tuned for full team coverage as well as details on the proposed exhibit in the Smithsonian for this heroic worm…”
“So hun,” Morris started sweetly as the station broke for commercial, “What’s the first thing you’re gonna do now that you’re supervisor?”
Glenda answered without hesitation. “Fire Lester.”