My flight was delayed by an hour, so I was sitting at one of the airport restaurants having a cup of steeped tea when I spotted the young man.He was absent-mindedly sipping his coffee, his eye-brows scrunched together as if in deep thought. Every now and then, he would look out of the glass window at the runway as planes landed and took off, and the look of concentrated thought on his face would intensify. My phone rang. It was my wife and it was a video call. "Just found out online that your flight is delayed. Thought you may need some help in passing the time." I heard her lively voice and saw her lovely smile and I smiled back. "Or you just wanted to make sure that I was not passing the time with a cute air-hostess." "An air-hostess would give you time at your age? Why, is there a lack of young men on your flight?" "Age is not everything. Experience counts." "Speaking of age, don't you think it is time for you to retire?" "I will, as soon as my airline finds a replacement for me." "As if you are indispensable!" My professional ethics didn't permit me to tell even my wife why it was so hard to find good pilots. Not having anything better to say, I said, "Love you, toots." "Don't call me toots," she said with feigned anger. Just then her phone gave a pinging sound. She looked down, then looked up at me. "It's our son calling. Got to go. Love you," and she was gone. I put my phone away and thought about my only son. Since his birth, twenty four years ago, it had been my hope that he would be pilot potential and would take my place so that I could retire and spend the rest of my life relaxing at home with my wife and indulging in my other fancy - to write stories. But that was not to be, so my son is articling at a law firm on his way to become a full-fledged lawyer. My gaze once again strayed to the young man. There was something familiar about him and I kept trying to remember if I had met him before. Still thinking, I plucked my valet out of my trouser pocket to pay my bill. As I flicked my valet open, my gaze fell on the photograph that I always keep with me. It was a photo of my wife and me on our wedding day, twenty six years ago. And suddenly I knew why the young man looked familiar. There was a faint resemblance between the young man and my younger self. Now my interest was piqued. Was this resemblance only superficial or did he resemble me in other ways as well? I decided to find out, so I left my table and walked up to the young man. "May I sit here with you?" I asked. He looked up, startled, took in my looks, my pilot's uniform, and nodded. We sat there silently, I drinking my tea and he his coffee. Then he broke the silence. "I would have loved to be a pilot." Hot. Hot. May be he was what I was looking for. "What do you do now?" I asked. "I am on my way to join a software company as an analyst. My first job." "So what is stopping you from changing your career and training for pilot? You are still young and you have your whole life before you." A shadow passed over his open countenance. "That is one thing I can't do at this moment." He remained silent for some time, staring into his coffee cup. Then he raised his head and looked at me. "My parents are old and retired and have no wealth of their own. I am their only means of support and I cannot jeopardize my job in pursuit of a dream." He took a deep breath. "This is something I would have never shared with a stranger," he said, "but somehow, you don't seem to be a stranger. It is as if I have known you for some time." I felt the time had come for me to broach the subject that I wanted to broach. "I have been observing you and you seem to be confused by something," I said. "The way you have been looking at the planes landing and taking off, I assume your thoughts are related to the airplanes." He suddenly smiled. "Your observation is pretty acute. Yes, I was thinking about the planes," he said. "You may laugh at me but I was wondering how an airplanes flies." I felt an exhilaration build up within me. "Well, you know, it is the speed of the planes and shape of the wings which gives the planes their lift. You can look it up on google." "I am a science graduate and believe me, I know the so-called basics. But still I feel there is more to it than that. How does a plane maintain its lift thousands of feet up in the air where the air pressure is minimal?" Bingo. I now had confirmation that this young man resembled me in more than one way. At that point, I changed the topic. "Looking at the cabin baggage tag on your briefcase, I see that you will be on the same flight that I am piloting. May be we will see each other again. Boarding will start soon." And I left him and made my way to the gate. On the way, I stopped at the office of the manager of my airline. I gave him the name of the young man. I had gotten the name off his cabin baggage tag. "He is traveling on my flight," I said. "Keep him under observation. He has potential to become a pilot." It was time for the flight staff to board the flight. We boarded the flight. I went into my cabin, intoned the incantation that I had been taught, without which the plane could not fly, and waited for the take-off signal.
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Thanks again to Ahmed Kahn for leading off 2019 as he has other anotherealm lineups. Fledgling writers take note of the mastery, here. Notice the subtle hint of fantasy/sci-fi; the light brush of characterization; the simplicity of form and structure. Lessons in writing from a master, here, folks. Ahmed, old buddy: You keep writin' 'em; I'll keep postin' 'em. Comments to our BBS, please. -GM