The Iron Writer Challenge #59
2014 Iron Writer Spring Equinox Challenge #9
A Scrapbooking Convention
E. Chris Garrison
“Tenk you wery much, ma’am,” said Walter, as he signed a smiling plump woman’s massive vellum photo folio. He stood at his booth near the entrance to Hall B at the Houston Marriott. His mustard yellow Starfleet uniform stood out among the more casually dressed scrapbooking convention attendees. He remembered his actor’s craft and stayed in character. It might be all he could do to survive this disaster.
The woman hugged the ten pound leather-bound scrapbook to her ample bosom and winked at him. “Thank you so much, Ensign Chekov, I always loved you in Star Wars, with your Beatles hairdo. So cute.”
Walter ground his teeth, but forced a smile and saluted her. “At your serwice.”
“Do me one favor?”
“Anyting, ma’am,” he said.
She giggled and blushed. “Would you say, ‘nuclear wessels’ for me?”
Walter died a little more inside as he struck a pose and said, “Please take me to your Nuclear Wessels.”
The woman laughed and walked off. She was replaced by the next in line, a tanned, wiry little old man carrying a green bowling ball. The man’s oversized dentures shined in the fluorescent lights of the hall. Walter imagined placing a Seti eel in his agent’s ear and watching him slowly lose sanity in the agonizing pain of having his brain nibbled away bit by bit. He should have researched the con past the title, as “Archiver’s Trek” had nothing to do with science fiction.
He missed his fans, the ones who lived and breathed that old show. At his usual sort of conventions, he’d been treated like royalty.
The old guy plunked the ball on the table in front of Walter and said, “Hey there, you’re the Russian space guy, right? Say ‘nuclear wessels’ for me. Ha ha, that’s the best part of that whale movie.”
Something snapped inside Walter, and he stood up so fast that his folding chair toppled over behind him with a crash. He wished the plastic phaser on his belt was real. “That’s it. Show’s over. I’m not your trained monkey, sir.”
The old guy laughed. “Nope, but you’ll like what I’ve got for you. Bill said he couldn’t get it through airport security, but that you’d want it. Here, take it.”
The thing on the table rolled toward Walter, and he caught it without thinking. A watermelon, not a bowling ball, its whorls seemed familiar… almost like… the spiral arms of a galaxy.
The old guy said, “He said you’d know what to do with it.”
An idea came to Walter. “Bill said? Oh!“
Walter hurled the watermelon to the floor, where it burst, bits of pink flesh and seeds spattering the ladies standing around his table. Inside the rind sat a communicator.
He opened it and spoke. “Keptin?”
“What took you so long, Mr. Chekov?”
“I was… delayed, sir. One to beam up?”
The scrapbooking crowd watched, mouths hanging open, as Walter dematerialized. Not one got a camera out in time.
Great! I’m late, I’m so dead. I hope my flight doesn’t leave me behind! All I have to do is pass through security and board the plane.
I sat my suitcase on the conveyor belt to pass through the x-ray machine. Last I checked, I didn’t have anything explosive or even a gun, so this should be quick and easy.
“Ma’am, can you come over here, please?”
Confused, I nodded. “Sure.”
The security guard pulled me to the side and pointed at my belongings that were x-rayed. “Can you explain to me why there is a watermelon in this? And isn’t this a bit too big for carry-on?”
“Oh, you’ve got to understand! I’m late for my plane, I was supposed to bring something with me to the convention and I won’t have enough time after I land to get anything, so—”
“Calm down, we’re going to have to take you in for questioning,” the guard grabbed my arm again and tugged on it forcefully. I tried to go over all the airport’s rules mentally to see what exactly I was doing wrong.
They sat me in a room with a chair on each side of a long table, and upon the table laid my watermelon. When they slammed the door closed, the watermelon tried to roll off the table. I caught it and held on tightly, letting it be the only thing to ground me to the real world. What the hell did I do? Oh, this is probably some kind of random selection.
Twenty minutes later, after my plane departed without me, two men entered the room to find me hugging my watermelon dearly.
“Miss, do you know why you’re in here today?” the taller one asked.
I shook my head no.
“Can I have ze watermelon, please?” asked the shorter one. His Russian accent was heavy and almost hard to decipher. Wait, there’s the Starfleet logo on their shirts. This is not a random selection! What did I do?!
I placed the watermelon on the table and he took it to the corner of the room and started to examine it.
“Can you tell me where you’re going?”
“A scrapbooking convention. Well, my luggage went, I’m still here. When do I get that back?”
“In due time.”
“What are you guys doing here? This is an airport, not Starfleet.”
“Part-time jobs,” the Russian one said.
“Your watermelon needs to be dissected and then will be returned to you; it appears the x-rays showed something suspicious inside.”
“Dude, it’s just a watermelon.”
“Chekov,” the tall one addressed the Russian.
I watched the two men as they held a conversation with their eyes. I was about to interject to the silence when the one referred to as ‘Captain’ started laughing.
“I’m sorry, miss, but ze Captain here thought zat zis was ze best way to notify you zat your conwention was canceled. I hope you can forgive him,” Chekov said and tried to hand my watermelon back.
In an outrage for the panic that he ensued, I threw the watermelon at his head.
He looked like Ensign Chekov, young and naïve. I’m not sure what caught my attention, perhaps the petite, young lady with him. Barely over five feet tall, brown hair laying on her shoulders, the only thing you would notice about her was the watermelon she had swallowed. It struck me how uncomfortable she would be on that airplane ride. Or so I would guess. Though I had never been “with child”, my lovely wife of 20 years had born me three and I had seen the discomfort of pregnancy and childbirth.
I looked back to my bride. Twenty years. And how were we celebrating our twenty years of wedded bliss? Flying to Arizona in the middle of the summer for a scrapbook convention of all things! But when she had asked, looking up into my eyes with that tender, sweet look… A few rounds of golf while she scrapbooks during the day, a few drinks over dinner, a quite night with the love of my life didn’t sound bad in February. In August it was beginning to take on nightmarish qualities.
I was drawn from my revere by a sense of confusion. I noticed that the young Ensign Chekov had been pull aside while boarding to have his bag searched, again. He had been stopped during the initial security, I figured he’d forgotten to check is razor or something. This was odd. His waddling wife had been waved aboard while he was again being patted down, bags checked. He looked confused, his poor wife looked scared. What could they possible have on this innocent, baby faced young man to warrant such consideration? After final scrutiny he was allowed to board the plane.
My bride located our seat right behind the poor couple. My attempts to strike up conversation failing, I returned my attentions to my wife. As the plane propelled us toward our vacation I began to drift into that land of restless, neck aching dreamlessness. As I drifted back awake, I overheard the snippets of the couples conversation in front of me.
“I don’t know. I’m just glad it was you not me!”
“No kidding. They’d have made you for sure.”
“That belly is convincing under that dress, but a thorogh pat-down and they’d have figured it wasn’t real. Then we’d be sitting in jail.”
“And that would be worse?”
“We’d have failed our mission.”
“But we’d be alive. More than I can say for 20 minutes from now…”
“But not for long. Face it, we go down with this plane, or we go down alone. Either way, they are taking us down.”
My eyes snapped open. In that instant of confusion, unable to decide if I’d been awake or dreaming, I screamed. The couple looked at me, quizzically. My wife searched my face with her eyes, taking my hand softly, the stewardesses descending upon me rapidly. Trying to clear my head I searched the face of the “pregnant” woman in front of me and the naïve Chekov.
‘How did the two of you meet?’
Josh smiled weakly, ‘It’s a long story.’
‘Try me,’ I shrugged, turning around to face him. I stood beside him, waiting to catch sight of her.
‘You’re going to have a laugh.’
‘Of course I am.’
He cracked a smile. ‘We met at the airport.’
I said nothing. Thinks like romance were beyond my understanding. I waited for him to continue.
He told me of how they had been waiting in line to pass through airport security, when they had struck up a casual conversation. A cup of coffee ad an hour later, they were exchanging numbers, making plans to enjoy one of their odd mutual interests—scrapbook conventions.
‘Wow. She is one of a million,’ I mumbled. I wondered if I’d find someone that unique. Right now, all I wanted was a living, breathing male human being, who wasn’t into Ensign Chekov. Or anything Star Trek related— long story.
‘So, let me get this straight. You were going to give up on this girl if I hadn’t intervened and knocked some sense into you?’
He wasn’t listening.
‘Kylie!’ he yelled, running towards the large mass of people.
The redhead stopped dead in her tracks. She turned around slowly, looking alarmed.
He slid to a halt in front of her.
‘Wh-what are you doing here?’
I jogged over to where they were standing.
‘Hi, I’m Jenny,’ I introduced myself, holding my hand out.
‘Who?’ she squeaked, reluctantly taking my hand. She looked stricken. The breakup hadn’t been easy on her either.
‘Oh, come on. Has he never mentioned me? And I just had to live through your entire love story. Shame on you, Josh.’
‘Shut up, Jenny.’ His eyes were gleaming, looking into her warm, heart-shaped face.
‘What the hell is that?’ she pointed at the watermelon, clearly alarmed now.
He moved closer to her, ‘From the moment that you first told me that your favourite book was The Perks of Being a Wallflower, I knew.’
She looked at him with wide eyes.
‘I was stupid and I’m sorry. I don’t care if you want a ten storeyed mansion for just the two of us and I don’t care if you want plates that are white or ochre. All I want is what you want. There’s nothing that matters to me more than you do.’
Kylie looked at him with tears flowing down her cheeks.
‘You really mean that?’
He nodded, apprehension evident on his features.
‘Will you forgive me?’
She burst into happy tears and grabbed him in a fierce hug. I cheered them on, despite the odd looks from people around us.
‘That still doesn’t answer my question,’ she sniffed, eyeing the watermelon.
‘This,’ he said, holding it up, ‘is because you asked me to put myself in your shoes. I was thinking that I could probably strap it around my waist to give you company for the months that you’d be bloated up with a child.’
‘What?’ she cried, laughing loudly, ‘You’re insane.’
‘It’s called love,’ I added helpfully, to which she just laughed harder and pulled me into a hug.