Coach: Tales from the Miracle Season 1.2

          Stale air passed through the sphincters above Colin’s head as his fellow passengers slipped and slid their way past each other towards their seats, pressurizing the plane with their anxious irritation. The line had stalled, and the center aisle was still full of eager eyes scouting for an empty row or window seat that did not exist.

          Addy had warned him a week ago, her head in her hands when he’d told her he was finally headed back home.  “Coach,” she had mouthed with the same distaste as informing one of her clinic patients of a venereal disease. “There’s no way this isn’t going to end in a massacre, Colin.  You nearly tore the arm off that guy on the tube a month ago!”

          “That was NOT an accidental, casual hand on my backside,” Colin replied, as outraged now as then.

          “It was crowded, and besides–you do have a passable ass. Maybe he was just grabbing himself a piece,” Addy baited him.

          “You say that as if that somehow makes it better.”

          “Irrelevant. Colin, I’m serious,” and her face showed she was.  “You…don’t do well in confined spaces filled with people. And it’s an almost 8-hour flight back to the states.”

          “There isn’t much to say. One of my best chums from St. Calvert’s has his first art opening, and besides, I’ve gotten as much out of the archives as I realistically can, outside of living here.”

          “I like that idea,” Addy prompted ever so sweetly.

          “I’m sure you do, but I doubt Patrick would appreciate a permanent couch-surfing flatmate.”  He’d met Addy just a few days after arriving.  Her boyfriend, the always jovial Patrick, had ended up being his dorm mate for the three semesters he’d spent here at Trinity.  The inevitable awkward introductions had happened, at which point Addison had adopted Colin as her long lost brother.

          “You could teach!” Addy argued.

          “I did NOT just spend the last 4 years of my life to finish this program only to walk away ABD,” Colin resolved.  He’d always had a hard time putting his foot down with Addison.  Her ability to drag him along on her crazy hair-brained adventures is one of the things he was going to miss most about her.  “You’re just selfish, Addy. And lazy.”

          “Lazy?” Addy breathed in a rasp, taken aback.

          “Right-o,” Colin grinned, as he parroted back the speech she’d first used to get him out of the stacks of the archives and into the city.  “If I flee back across the pond, you won’t have my fabulous life to live vicariously through anymore. You might actually have to get one of your own. Do things. In the world. With people.”

          “Hell,” Colin snorted as he continued, “you might even make an honest man out of Patrick, if he’d be enough of an idiot to take you.”

          Addison James stood there speechless.  Thankfully, there were throw pillows nearby, and it took her less than a second to fill the air with them in answer.

          Colin’s perpetual grimace briefly turned into a smile at the memory. The overly friendly flight attendant ruined the brief moment of respite, however, by once again reminding everyone that the flight was completely full and all seats would be filled.   He saw an older, overweight woman approaching wearing a blue and purple paisley muumuu,  her multiple dangling silver earrings clanging as if to announce the arrival of a sheep on his cousin Bertrand’s farm.  “Jesus Christ,” he muttered, certain she was going to be his companion for the next 8 hours in this sardine can.

          Addy had been right: he was going to publish this damned dissertation, get an amazing teaching position somewhere that respected what he’d tried to do, and then never fly coach again.  He added it to his bucket list.  He was pleasantly surprised, however, when the woman opted for the row of seats in front of him.

          Of course, the two lads who had come for the summer for sports camp had not sat with him.  He’d been thankful for that too, though for very different reasons. The one had legs as hairy as a gorilla.  He couldn’t stop staring, and he wasn’t sure he wouldn’t have made a fool of himself if he’d had to make chitchat for the length of the flight.  He’d caught himself surreptitiously eavesdropping on the lads as he waited to board, and he thought the hairy one was named Kevin or some such.  Why was his mouth so dry?  They weren’t that much younger than him, Colin equivocated, maybe between high school and college. That’d make them…

          “Freshmen,” Colin grimaced as he shook his head. Now that he was headed back to San Keros, he was sure Alexandra would goad Dr. Hendricks into giving him all of the freshman survey courses.  There had been something so casual and freeing about teaching here in Britain, and the students seemed ever so much more interested than the frat and sorority kids that surfed through his offerings back home for a gen ed credit. 

          Returning to the matter at hand, he gave a half-hearted wave as a freckle-faced beanpole of a  12-year-old with Beats headphones dwarfing his head nodded towards him askance. A woman he could only assume was the kid’s mum sat down afterwards, taking the aisle. There.  Skinny kid next door, not cramped at all, piece of cake.

          That was when the first gangly elbow plowed into his side, and the seat in front of him leaned all the way back, crushing his knees deeply into the seat back to the tune of the dull clang of a sheep’s bell.

          Shit.

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