A backpack with his employer’s yellow sun logo hangs over Frank Singer’s right shoulder and a small rolling suitcase with his Corteo road jacket draped over the handle bounces behind him. His hair is wild with gel and dried sweat and his eyes are black with the mascara he missed as he raced to leave after the matinee.
Jackie had called late last night to say that Willa is back in the hospital. After peppering her with questions, Frank realized that Willa had been in the hospital for over a week.
“Why the hell didn’t you call me earlier?”
“Please don’t yell at me. I’m too tired. OK?”
“OK. Sorry. What’s going on, Jackie?”
“Dr. Sands says she can’t start another round of chemo until Willa is stabilized and the hospital says they can’t get her stabilized. The other night, Willa was talking crazy, maybe hallucinating from the meds. I think you should come home, Frank.”
There was a long pause.
“Jackie, as bad as that sounds, I’m sure you and Zip can handle it. I can’t…”
“Zip is the power of attorney for healthcare, I know, but she’s spending all her time with Haviva. Ellie’s baby.”
“Ellie had her baby? Wow. Did she come out juggling knives? Seriously, Ellie used to scare the
shit out of me with that trick. I’ll bet Zip’s one proud grandma and…”
“She is. Frank, please come home.”
“‘Haviva’ – that’s quite a name. Hebrew but not biblical, I don’t think. Maybe. Anyway, you have to send me pictures.”
“I will. Haviva’s really cute and she’s Zip’s first grandkid and all that but I need help here. Zip is supposed to be making the big decisions. She’s not.”
“I gave her the health care directive and the DNR and…”
“I know, Frank. She’s got all the paperwork but she doesn’t seem to understand the situation and she keeps forgetting what the nurses and the docs tell her. I really need you to come home. Now.”
It’s crowded at Schiphol Airport and Frank is still a few hundred meters away from the gate where an agent is right now making a final boarding announcement for the flight to SFO. It seems like everyone in Holland is flying out of Amsterdam this Sunday evening; Frank is running and weaving and saying, “excuse me” and “alsjeblieft” every time he bumps a fellow traveler.
“Mister Frank Singer, passenger Frank Singer, please proceed immediately to Security Zone E9. Your flight is departing.”
When Frank hung up with Jackie, he called the road manager to get permission for a 54 hour, 11,000 mile round-trip home. Luckily, the cast of Corteo was heading into a “double dark” – a rare week with two days off – so, with a little whining and a lot of pleading, Frank got permission to put $2,110 on his Visa card for non-stop middle seats home and back. If all goes well, he’ll return just in time for the Wednesday night show.
Finally, Zone E9. The Dutch style of gate-side security looks benign – a young woman in a bright blue pantsuit with a neck scarf and a warm smile rolls a sleek metal podium over to Frank. “Good evening. Are you on KLM flight 605?”
Frank nods and hands her his passport and ticket. “Ah, Mister Singer. They have been calling you.”
“Yes, I know. I’m late. Sorry. Getting out of costume.”
The security screener inputs Frank’s information as she makes small talk, “Costume? Are you an actor, Mr. Singer?”
Frank shows her the logo on his backpack, “Cirque du Soleil.”
“Oh, I saw that show! Yes, I recognize you, the one flying on the bed, ja?” The young woman puts down Frank’s passport, grabs a pen and a blank customs form, “May I have your autograph, alsjeblieft?”
“Final call for KLM flight 605 to San Francisco. All passengers should now be on board. The doors will close in three minutes.”
Frank scribbles his signature, trades the autograph for his passport and runs to put his carry-on and backpack on the belt. Behind him, the security guard holds up his signature and yells something in Dutch to the flight attendants, who are standing impatiently at the gate. Frank hopes she’s told them to wait. He puts his wallet and phone in a small plastic tray and steps into the full body scanner where he raises his hands over his head and watches the machine arm slowly orbit in front of him. He can almost feel the electromagnetic waves bouncing off his skin.
No beep. Exhale.
Frank grabs his bags, wallet and phone as they come through the x-ray machine, gives his ticket to the flight attendant to scan, jogs down the jet-bridge and onto the plane.
“We would like to welcome on board our final passenger to San Francisco – the star of Cirque du Soleil, Mr. Frank Singer!”
Applause. Smiles all around, followed by free drinks and an extra helping of appelflappen beignets after dinner.
Flying west in the dark, 500 miles per hour, back towards the evening sun but never catching it; 30,000 feet over Edinburgh then miles and miles of the North Atlantic, passing south of Iceland before the white of Greenland finally ends at the coastal town of Maniitsoq, too far north to get any sun this time of year; a short hop over the Labrador Sea, past Pangnirtung on Baffin Island and then diagonally across the Canadian mainland – Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta – to finally slide down the Pacific Northwest and land in San Francisco where the estimated time of arrival is only 126 minutes after take off in Amsterdam, eleven hours and 17 minutes ago.
©2020 Jeff Raz | ISBN 978-0-9979048-3-3