Halfway through a flight from Paris to Washington, D.C., Dushawn Ironguy began thinking naughty thoughts about a woman who wasn’t his wife. He knew he shouldn’t have such meandering, salacious, and utterly bankrupt thoughts about anyone but the missus, but he was a lonely guy flying a plane across the Atlantic Ocean for the third time this week. Rarely being at home took its toll on his relationship with his family, and he was going to miss his young son’s sixth birthday. Oh yeah, his daughter was going to be visiting from college, and he was going to miss that too. What a jerk.
Dushawn wanted to blame his wife for him having to go to work all the time and continuing to think naughty thoughts about women that he wasn’t contractually obligated to support and co-own property with. He was an unreasonable Atheist; a regular guy who didn’t give two shits about Christians and reminded them with scathing derision what he thought of their religious values. Every time a Jehovah’s Witness came to the door, he’d tell them he wasn’t interested in learning about God. When the Mormons came knocking, he offered them water and a chance to take a break from bicycling in the summer heat. Once some evangelicals came around and told him about the Bible, and he politely smiled while offering them some freshly brewed sweet tea. Such a dick move. Take that Christians.
But Dushawn’s thoughts digress. He was in the middle of unreasonably blaming his wife. She actually paid attention to those evangelicals and started going to church with them. He didn’t want to interfere with her personal beliefs, so he patiently waited for her to come home from church every Sunday morning. As always she’d come back late at night after the third Sunday service, sweating and giddy with spiritual fulfillment. Then she’d see Dushawn and say, “Dushe, you need to come to church or you’re going to be thrown into a lake of fire. A lake. Of fire. In Hell. The bad place.”
Dushawn would shake his head and reply, “No, honey, I don’t think God exists.” What a dick.
And his wife knew it, so for his soul’s sake she started taking their young son to church. He’d come back speaking in tongues with palm-shaped bruises on his forehead where he got spiritually healed. “Daddy’s going to burn in Hell,” his son would say, passive-aggressively trying to spur his daddy to church. It didn’t work, because Dushawn wanted evidence, not guilt trips. They should’ve known better; Atheists have no conscience, especially ones like Dushawn.
After that came the demands and gifts to the church. One morning after a non-stop he piloted from Shanghai to LAX, he called home to find out that she donated all their furniture to the church. Something about not being able to take it with you, even though they were in their 40’s. She then dropped the bomb on him: God didn’t like divorce, so she would just pretend they weren’t married until he came to his senses and got saved. Unreasonably Dushawn tried finding more work so he could buy new furniture.
Taking all these flights meant he got to spend a lot of time with his co-pilot and the flight attendants. On the Atlantic circuit, there was one regular named Floozy McHomewrecker. Dushawn thought McHomewrecker was an odd name, but she explained that it was Scottish or something, which kind of made sense if he didn’t think about it. They laughed and would share stories on the long flights back and forth across the pond, and pretty soon they were friends who didn’t talk about the Bible or God at all.
Such a friendship is a recipe for disaster. Flight attendants for the airline Dushawn worked for were required to wear coats and dresses and poofy scarves which covered their bodies so only their faces would show. One day, though, Floozy was bent over a serving tray trying to pick up a bottle of water for a passenger and Dushawn saw the one thing that changed his life forever: Floozy’s ankle. The dress was hiked up just enough to show a fair-skinned ankle masked by pantyhose, but Dushawn was a man of the world, and he could imagine what it looked like underneath. Such a display would soon lead to other impure thoughts, for sure.
He tried stopping himself, but back in the cockpit all he could see was Floozy’s exposed ankle. There was no stopping the cascade of naughty thoughts because he was an Atheist and had no moral convictions to stop him. Soon he saw himself laughing with her over dinner, enjoying a quiet evening of classical music at the opera, and even walking her home while holding her hand. Dushawn, a married man, wanted to treat some other woman like a lady.
Jack “H.C.” Smith was a reporter who didn’t take any prisoners. He was a skeptical guy who asked the hard questions, demanded the right answers, and presented his stories without bias or spin. In today’s tough news market, H.C. got the scoop on everyone, reporting things in a spectacularly interesting fashion that made others envious of his command of the English language.
One time, he did a report on paint drying and won the Pulitzer.
H.C. was on the flight from Paris to D.C. because he just got done interviewing a good friend in Israel named Ben Shmeel. Ben was a scientist, but nobody held that against him on account of the fact that he always thanked God for giving him the compassion and humility to use science to end world hunger and cancer. His latest experiment was called the Garden Project, and it was an effort to turn barren desert into lush farmland. It didn’t work like he’d hoped, but really Ben worked hard on it and tried his best.
Lack of funding was one of the problems. Mr. Shmeel had only a few donations to run his experiments, so all he was really able to do was to genetically modify some barley to make beer that tasted like raspberries. H.C. got to try a glass, and it was fairly delicious, with a crisp flavor that wasn’t too hoppy. While doing the interview, Ben kept going on about how he could totally get free beer to everyone that wanted it if he just got the support.
Then, in a fortuitous turn of events that was either part of a DIVINE PLAN or might have been coincidence, Ben got a call from the Ominous Projects Division of the United Nations. The good folks there wanted to fund the Garden Project and successfully ran a kickstarter to get it going. Free beer got the world’s attention, and inside of half an hour millions in funds had been donated to Ben’s pursuit of delicious alcoholic refreshment (please enjoy responsibly).
Truly God’s hand must have been involved, and not the millions of people who were thirsty.
H.C. put the finishing touches to his story on his laptop, immersed so completely in his work that he didn’t notice the flight attendant sit down next to him. “Hey there,” she said, “You’re always busy at something, aren’t you H.C.?”
Looking up in surprise, H.C. saw it was his favorite flight attendant. “Floozy!” he said amiably. “Just finishing up a pretty amazing article on this guy who’s trying to make the world a better place, alcoholism and drunk driving notwithstanding. I should congratulate you on your new job, shouldn’t I?”
“How’d you know?” she asked incredulously.
“I’m a reporter,” replied H.C. “It’s my job to know. That, and you used me as a reference, remember? Your new bosses at the U.N. Ominous Projects Division were impressed by all the good things I had to say about you.”
“Thanks, H.C.,” said Floozy. A bell chimed ahead, and she put on her best customer service smile. “Looks like my work isn’t done yet. I’ll check in on you later. Thanks again for helping me out!”
As it turned out, the passenger ahead just wanted a warm blanket and a scotch. This provided the perfect excuse for Floozy to go forward and visit her favorite pilot and co-pilot on this flight. Since they disregarded U.S. Federal law, Floozy marched up to the cockpit and opened the unlocked door. “Hey guys!” she said. “Is there anything I can get you?”
“We’re just a few hours out from Ronald Reagan International,” said Dushawn. He avoided eye contact; he couldn’t let her know his deep, dark fantasies of being a perfect gentleman to her. “I’m fine, thank you.”
“Congratulations on your new job,” said the co-pilot, some guy that Dushawn and Floozy never bothered to learn the name of. “The U.N.’s Ominous Projects Division will be lucky to have you randomly leave here and work for them.”
“Thanks, co-pilot!” Floozy said cheerfully. “I’m going to get you a vodka tonic!” She left the two people to watch the auto-pilot fly the plane, closing the door softly behind her.
“She’s leaving?” asked Dushawn. He wasn’t sure whether he was angry with her or himself. Having recently fallen in love with a woman he wasn’t married to is just desserts, all things considered. Dushawn didn’t see it that way. He had to tell her how he felt about her. Ignoring the reply of the co-pilot, he unbuckled his safety harness and went back for her. She was in the galley, pouring the rest of the vodka into a tall glass. Spinning her around, Dushawn looked deeply into her eyes and said, “Um, hello.”
“Hi there, captain!” she replied, cheerful as ever. “What’s the problem?”
“No problem,” said Dushawn. He let go of her. “I apologize for breaking protocol and potentially touching you offensively. It’s just that I was in a hurry to talk to you, and I felt it was more dramatic if I spun you around.”
Floozy nodded. “It sure was! Now that it’s over, what did you want to talk about?”
Dushawn’s mind reeled. What should he tell her? Everything? Nothing? He was being silly, having no moral compass or acknowledging his soul that yearned for God’s direction. In the end, he opted for honesty. “I didn’t congratulate you earlier.”
“That’s okay,” said Floozy, her voice sympathetic. “I’m going to finish mixing this drink for our co-pilot, and then you both can get back to watching a computer program fly the plane!”
“Thanks, Floozy, you’re the best,” said Dushawn, relieved he was able to get that off his chest. He went back to the cockpit and sat down, looking at the spinning dials and blinking lights tell him they weren’t hurling towards the ground in a fiery ball of doom. Ms. McHomewrecker came in with that vodka tonic, and they all waited in silence.
H.C. woke up to the worst smell ever. It reeked like a sewer at low tide, which must have been bad since it made him mix up his similes. Looking to his right, he saw a little old lady calling out for her missing husband. “Mortimer!” she cried out. “I hope you’re not running around in your birthday suit again!”
Unable to resist assisting an old lady in distress, H.C. unbuckled his safety belt and went over to her. “What’s wrong, ma’am?” he asked.
“My husband is missing!” she said. “Sometimes he wanders off without his clothes and tries to play a game he calls ‘Grand Theft Auto: The Live Edition.’ And, oh heavens, what’s that smell?”
H.C. sniffed the air, and boy something stank. It smelled like a dead skunk in a stink bomb factory. Since that must have been worse than his earlier simile, H.C. reasoned it must be coming from underneath the blanket in the seat next to the old woman. Lifting it up, he saw a big, steaming pile of feces in the chair with little bits of corn and the airplane peanuts they give you when you get on the plane. It was terrible.
Behind him, someone else said, “What’s that smell?” Another person got up and commented, “Where are my kids? Oh, and that smell is terrible! Someone open a window!” Pretty soon everyone on board was talking about missing people and all the feces left behind. It sounded to H.C. like it was going to be one hell of a story.
By now Captain Dushawn had heard the ruckus and came back to have a look. He held his hand to his nose and took short breaths. This was most unusual. In his twenty years of flying, he’d never lost a single passenger or had this much crap to deal with in first class. Two record bad things happening in one flight; checkmate Atheist.
Dushawn had to act quickly. His training didn’t include Bible verses, but it did include deploying oxygen masks. He ran to the forward area and had co-pilot deploy them. Pulling out the microphone for the intercom, Dushawn said, “This is your Atheist captain speaking. It appears that we have a problem with people pooping and leaving for others to clean up. Since this could be an end-of-the-world scenario, please refrain from using any flammable objects until we land. To help with the smell, please use the oxygen masks that should be dropping down in front of you. We’re a few minutes from landing, so I’ll try to make this unpleasant experience as short as possible.”
The captain had to act quickly. Around bad smells people could be expected to turn into animals or worse. Radioing to the tower, Dushawn found out that the emergency response system had kicked in. He was cleared to land, thanks to the foresight of Federal Aviation Administration authorities to have backups in case of people getting Raptured.
Landing his plane like a pro, Dushawn helped his passengers file out in an orderly fashion and refrain from looting and pillaging on the way out of the airport. Only one person was left on the plane: H.C.
“What do you think happened?” asked Dushawn, trying to use his small Atheist brain to understand God’s opening act in the end of the world.
“I don’t know,” said H.C. “But someone’s going to have to clean up that plane, and I don’t want it to be me. Say, I could use a pilot to cart me around the world while I try to figure out what sort of apocalypse scenario this is. What do you say?”
“Beats cleaning up all this crap,” replied Dushawn. He held out his hand, and H.C. shook it. “Name’s Dushawn. You can call me Dushe.” And with that, both of them left the airport together.