The flight, a short story

savage am bristow the flight

The following is an excerpt from Savage, a collection of short stories about the worst of human nature. The e-book is available for pre-order now on Amazon, Apple Books, Barnes and Noble, and Kobo. Read it, enjoy it, review it online. If you must, you can send me hate mail, but if you do, I’ll probably assassinate your character in my next book.

Literally. 


The flight

“This is the final boarding call for flight 672 en route to San Juan. If you’re headed to San Juan, please make your way to gate 32.”

In an effort to be as far away from the crowds as possible, Mia sat alone at gate 32 as she waited for her flight to begin boarding at gate 33 across from it. She watched the flight attendants print up the final flight list before closing the gate door. Pretty soon, the walkie talkie chatter would die down, and the gate would go quiet until the next scheduled flight.

Across the bright concourse, flight attendants were doing preliminary work for the scheduled flight while eager passengers began to arrive. Getting bored with her phone, Mia looked up and tried to figure out which of the passengers were from New York and which ones would be traveling back home to London.

Tweed cap – definitely London.

Yankees shirt – probably New York.

Lady reading an airport paperback – do Americans even read? Likely London.

Mia laughed to herself as the lady in question looked up from her book with an air of judgment at the approaching family of four who sounded like the Sopranos.       

Definitely London.

A matching tracksuit and giant headphones – a chav for sure.

Her game was rudely interrupted by an announcement.

“Passengers to London, the aircraft is undergoing a brief mechanical check. We ask that you sit down while you wait for boarding to commence.”

Even though boarding wasn’t scheduled to begin for another 15 minutes, some people were already in line to board with large bags that looked like they probably should have been checked. Upon hearing the announcement, they collectively groaned and threw their hands up, firing off a series of annoyed mutters. Many of them remained in line, even after the flight time was updated reflecting a 30-minute delay. Mia got up from her seat and decided to stretch her legs.

This was one of the last flights of the day which meant the options for shopping and dining were becoming limited. After a quick trip to the bathroom, Mia grabbed a pack of gum from a news shop and returned to gate 33, now more crowded than before. People who had nowhere to sit at their gate had sprawled out onto gate 32, ruining Mia’s quiet section. Some people sat on the floor next to their bags while others leaned against the large columns in the concourse, looking at their watches impatiently and waiting for news.

It was clear that the delay would continue when the new boarding time came and went without any announcements. Passengers were dismayed to see their aircraft taxi out of the gate without them on it. A few people began to huddle around the frazzled gate attendants and ask questions, which forced them to make a general announcement.

“Passengers on flight 82 to London, we apologize for the delay. At this time, there seems to be a technical issue with the aircraft. Unfortunately, we do not have a new boarding time right now. We will notify you as soon as we have more information.”

Loud groans and complaints could be heard all around the gate area. A few pushy passengers continued bombarding the gate attendants with more questions.

“Is there a chance the flight could be cancelled?”

“This is ridiculous. What’s wrong with the plane?”

Mia rolled her eyes as she watched the red figures on the screen change. New departure time: 11:25 pm.

With little information about if or when their flight would ever depart, even the most stubborn passengers gave up on the queue to board. Many went for walks or curled up in their seat with their travel pillow to try to squeeze in a nap. Some parents were trying to entertain their children, but most people just sat around looking annoyed and tired. Mia spotted someone getting up from one of the only four seats at the gate’s device charging station and sat down. Next to her was a man who looked to be in his 20s furiously typing on his laptop while dressed as if he was going to an important business meeting. On her other side was a girl in a hoodie charging her iPad as she looked through her vacation pictures of the Statue of Liberty.

Definitely London.

Mia plugged in her phone and started idly browsing the internet. Ironically, something that took up a lot of her free time on a regular basis seemed monotonous and boring while she waited to board her flight. She kept glancing up at the gate to see if the departure time had been pushed back again, feeling a small sense of relief to see the same number each time she looked.

“Passengers, once again, we apologize for the delay,” came another announcement. “At this time, we have been assigned a new aircraft, so we will be boarding shortly. However, this is a smaller aircraft than we were originally scheduled to fly. So we are asking for any volunteers whose travel plans are flexible to please come to the gate. As this is the last flight to London of the day, we can offer you an $800 voucher on future travel with TransAtlantic Airways as well as provide accommodations to anybody who can volunteer their seat on this flight.”

The gate erupted into chaos as people began looking around at the other passengers, loudly discussing the possibility that they might get bumped from their seat. Others seemed to jump at the chance to volunteer their seats and a small line formed in front of the gate. Mia had had enough of dirty subways and pushy people; she didn’t need to spend another night in New York. She also didn’t want to lose access to the outlet she had, but if they randomly chose her to give up her seat, she wouldn’t necessarily have minded an $800 voucher.

As new seat arrangements were made, the new aircraft pulled into the gate and standard boarding procedure began behind the scenes.

“Paging passengers Edward Pickering, Beatrice Hayes, Matthew Beckett, and Lance Davis. Please come see one of the gate agents at gate 33.”

The man on the laptop next to Mia looked up in surprise as he heard his name called. He slammed his laptop shut and tucked it into his briefcase before sprinting quickly to the front of the gate. Immediately, a teenager took his place next to Mia to charge his cell phone.

Mia resumed her web browsing until an argument broke out at the gate, making her take notice.

“We apologize, Mr. Davis. We can either put you on the next flight to London in your booked class, or you’ll have to fly in economy class.”

“This is un-fucking-believable!” the well-dressed man with the laptop said as he ran his fingers through his hair, which was thinning despite the fact that he was obviously young.

That’s a New Yorker, no doubt.

“I can’t leave tomorrow. I have to be on this flight. I need to be there tomorrow morning.”

The gate attendant continued to apologize profusely, trying to communicate fifty shades of understanding while still politely refusing to give in to his demands.

“Then unfortunately, you will have to be moved to a lower class. We can try our best to accommodate you in the exit row, which has more leg room, but we have no other alternatives. This aircraft has four fewer seats in first class. The selection process is random for who gets bumped.”

Everyone at the gate was captivated by the angry man who wouldn’t accept anything but the first class seat he had paid for. Some people held up their cell phones to record his outburst, which had him stomping on the floor and flailing his arms in the air.

“This is ludicrous. As a loyal flyer, I promise you, the airline will be hearing from me about this unacceptable treatment.”

A few of the spectators stifled laughs as his tantrum droned on. Others began to get annoyed that this entitled douchebag was holding up the boarding process for everyone.

“I give him five more minutes before they call security on him,” whispered a woman to her husband.

Feeling trapped in the situation, the Indignant Mr. Davis eventually agreed to a seat in economy class, stomping away from the desk with a scowl.

In a few short minutes, they would finally be boarding their flight to London. People began filing in line once again in preparation.

“Passengers on TransAtlantic Airways flight 82 to London. We would like to begin boarding at this time. We’d like to ask you to please disregard the seat numbers on your boarding pass. As you board, you will be given a piece of paper with your new seat number. At this time, we’d like to begin boarding our First Class and Business Class passengers.”

Everyone gathered their things and rushed to the gate, starting to create a mob where a line had been. The Indignant Mr. Davis approached the front of the gate with his boarding pass even though he was no longer in first class.

The gate attendant dealt him another blow. “I’m sorry, sir. Since we’re assigning new seats to passengers as they board, you will have to board with your new class.”

“Are you fucking kidding me right now?” he said, slamming his briefcase into his leg. A few people snorted with laughter. Mr. Davis made a show of stomping away and getting into the line for regular boarding, shaking his head the whole way.

“Here I am!” he yelled from the back of the line in the direction of the gate attendants, who were too busy scanning in other passengers to notice.

Mia arrived at the front of the line, relieved that she would soon be in her seat and hopefully asleep before the plane even took off. She handed the attendant her boarding pass and was given a small printout with her new seat number. Despite the last minute seat changes, the boarding process was fairly quick. Mia filed in with the other passengers and placed her small rolling bag in the overhead bin before taking her seat in the aisle. She had started making herself comfortable and sending a few final texts before going on airplane mode when her seatmate arrived.

She looked up to see the Indignant Mr. Davis standing above her, pointing at the window seat next to her.

Fuck. My. Life.

She got up quickly, trying to avoid standing in the way of the other passengers. Mr. Davis placed his briefcase on the seat and began removing his coat before proceeding to meticulously dust off a few bits of lint. As she stood waiting for him to finish, Mia knew that this guy was going to spend the next seven hours pretending he was still in first class. He finished folding up his coat and placed it neatly in the overhead bin, still shaking his head at the injustice of it all.

Though she wanted to get to sleep, Mia felt oddly captivated by this man’s anger. She watched him from her peripheral vision while he huffed and puffed as he put his briefcase under the seat and then scoffed at the seat belt.

Eventually, she began to feel more and more relaxed, and it seemed like the Indignant Mr. Davis was, too, so she put on an eye mask to help her get to sleep. The ambient sounds of feet shuffling past her and bags being placed into the overhead bins started to lull her into the deep relaxation that comes before sleep.

“Excuse me!” came the voice to her right. She immediately removed her eye mask, thinking Mr. Davis was talking to her. “What do you think you’re doing? My coat is in there!”

She looked up to find that Mr. Davis was actually talking to a heavy British man who had just placed his bag in the overhead bin above them.

“The overhead is for bags, not coats,” the man replied calmly.

Her seatmate fumbled with his seat belt before yanking it off and lunging toward the man in the aisle. Without even apologizing, he trampled over Mia as he pushed his way out.

“You’re going to ruin my coat with your shit!” he told the man. He pulled out his coat from under the man’s bag and began dusting it off once again.

“He’s losing the plot, isn’t he?” the British man muttered under his breath as he walked away.

Mia got up and let him take his seat before he could squeeze himself between her legs and the seat in front of her again. This time, he brought his coat with him.

“I’m sorry,” he said to her as he sat down. “People don’t know how to behave.”

“I’ll say,” Mia replied sarcastically, pulling her eye mask back down over her eyes.

The flight attendants announced that boarding was complete and that they would be taking off shortly.

Ding ding.

Mia peeked from under her eye mask to find that Mr. Davis was pressing the flight attendant call button. She didn’t want to give him any more attention than she had to, so she tried to ignore it.

“Can I help you?” came a voice from the aisle.

“Yes, I’d just like an orange juice,” replied Mr. Davis. If he could have seen Mia’s eyes, he would have seen them widening with astonishment.

“I’m sorry, sir. You will have to wait for our drink service after we’re airborne.”

“You don’t understand. I had a first class seat, but they bumped me. Do you think you can make an exception? We’ve been waiting to board forever. I’m so thirsty!”

“I’m sorry, sir. There is nothing I can do. Since you’re not seated in the first class section, we cannot provide you the same kind of service,” she replied kindly.

He sighed loudly. “Fine, thank you!”

Mia felt him throw himself back on the chair, making their whole row shake under his body weight. She didn’t know whether to laugh or give him a piece of her mind. She figured it was best not to acknowledge him at all to not risk becoming the subject of his exaggerated ire. But in a few minutes, he would become the subject of hers.

The plane was finally airborne when Mia felt her neighbor jam his elbow onto the armrest between them, pushing her arm off it.

She ripped off her eye mask and turned to him, “You know we have to share the armrest, right?”

“This seat is just so small! I was supposed to be in first class,” he began to explain like a child who is committed to his hissy fit.

“I know! Everybody on this plane knows! You haven’t shut up about it for the past hour.”

He shook his head angrily, once again faced with someone who wouldn’t understand his plight.

“At least you have the space in the aisle you can use,” he said, still trying to justify why he deserved the armrest.

“And you have the space in the window to yourself!” Mia shot back. “Just because this isn’t the first class seat you expected doesn’t mean you can infringe on other people’s space. And the armrest is a common space meant to be shared.”

“Jesus Christ,” Mr. Davis said. “Have the fucking armrest then!”

He grabbed his coat from under the seat and curled it up into a ball before wedging it between himself and the window seat.

Now fully awake, Mia turned on the seatback screen to check the flight path.

Just six and a half more hours of this.

She let out a long sigh and watched as Mr. Davis shifted uncomfortably in his seat. Every time he moved, their entire row vibrated from the sheer theatrics of it. Mia shook her head in disbelief.

Shortly after takeoff, the smell of packaged food being microwaved started to fill the cabin. It was almost time for the meal service. Mia decided she would eat before attempting to go back to sleep – no point in being woken up again in 20 minutes. She hoped that her angry neighbor would manage to fall asleep before dinner so she wouldn’t have to hear his tirade about the food, but Mr. Davis was up with his tray table open before the flight attendants arrived at their row.

“What would you like to drink?” asked the woman, whose voice Mia recognized from earlier.

“I’ll have a ginger ale, please,” Mia said with a smile. The woman handed her a cup with ice and a can.

Mr. Davis was already leaning over Mia, ready to place his order.

“Do you have any red wine?”

“Yes, we do. Would you like some?”

“Yeah, I’ll take some red wine. And could I also get a water?” he asked.

“Your meal will come with a water.”

He exhaled loudly as she handed him a single-serving bottle of wine. He pulled the tiny bottle close to his face and read the label before cracking open the twist-off cap.

Then a second team of flight attendants made their way down the aisle with the food.

“Would you like aubergine pasta or beef and potatoes?”

Mia asked for the pasta and then leaned back in her chair so the Intolerable Mr. Davis could get his order in. He looked down at Mia’s tray and after making a disgusted face, asked for the beef.

Mia started buttering her roll while watching her neighbor out of the corner of her eye. Peeling the aluminum foil off of his beef, he grimaced and put two his fingers up to his nose to block the smell. As he had throughout the entire experience, everything he did was intended to put on a show for anyone who would pay him any attention.

“This is disgusting,” he muttered under his breath. “I don’t know how you people eat this.”

Mia rolled her eyes and took a bite out of her bread roll, pretending she didn’t hear him.

Despite his dramatic show of disgust, he managed to eat most of it. Still, he wasn’t done complaining about the meal. He opened up every package and inspected every piece of food closely, occasionally muttering “ugh” to himself.

“This bread is hard as a rock,” he whined. Though Mia hadn’t acknowledged him in any way, he wouldn’t stop reacting loud enough for her to hear.

He took a few bites of everything, finishing only the small piece of cheddar cheese and the brownie dessert. When he was done, he pressed the button for an attendant to come pick up his tray.

The same poor flight attendant came to his seat, saying only, “Someone will come and collect everybody’s trays shortly.”

Mia was impressed by the flight attendant’s continued politeness and warm demeanor. She herself did not have that kind of patience. When she finished eating, she put on headphones to try to distract herself from her annoying seatmate. Though it had been her intention to sleep through most of the flight, she found herself so pissed off by his behavior that sleep seemed like a distant possibility, at least for the time being.

When the cabin crew came to collect their trays, Mr. Davis took his laptop out from under the seat, powering it up to resume work on whatever he had been typing at the gate before departure. Mia tried to ignore him and continued listening to music and playing with the seatback screen in front of her, but she knew what was coming. In order for him to get comfortable typing, he would have to push his elbows out and into her personal space. After he plugged in a USB drive, which began flashing red as if it was a warning light, he indiscreetly pushed his elbow onto the armrest between them.

Mia took a deep breath and closed her eyes, trying not to let her anger get the best of her. To assert control, she kept part of her arm firmly on the front half of the armrest. She didn’t think he would dare push her arm off again. Instead, he wedged his elbow in behind her arm and into her side; slowly, as if she might not notice that way.

She shifted slightly to see if he would move, but he didn’t. Mia felt enraged but didn’t want to risk having to hear another one of his rants about first class, so she decided not to say anything. Instead, she tried to shift away from his elbow to see if she could get some rest. Pulling her eye mask over her face, she curled up into a ball with her arms crossed. From the thin sliver of light that penetrated beneath the eye mask, she could see the harsh glow of his laptop and the red flashing of his USB drive. Even though she was listening to music, she heard the clacking of the keyboard during the quiet parts of songs.

When he noticed that she had moved away from the armrest, Mr. Davis pushed his arm out even further into her seat until his elbow was once again at her side. Her heart beat fast with frustration. She wanted to reach over and smash his laptop into the tray table until the keyboard separated from the screen. She wanted to take that stupid blinking USB drive and make him eat it. She wanted to cut his arm off, though that would mean getting even more of him on her.

She angled her face in a way that allowed her to look down through the tiny slit beneath the eye mask to see what he was working on. The document was over 60 pages in length. She wondered if he was an author; maybe she could leave a terrible review on all his books. Trying to make out what he was writing, she noted that it all looked very technical, like an engineering manual. He looked too young to be a scientist. Then again, he was also too young to be such an entitled prick, but here he was.

Mia deduced that he was probably a student, maybe working on a research paper. Perhaps he was even studying in her home in London. She thought of all the ways in which she could singlehandedly ruin him. He could be studying at her own former university, where she had contacts who would be horrified to hear what an incorrigible twat he had been throughout this entire flight.

Soon, her suspicions were confirmed as he opened up the contents of his flash drive and scrolled through a folder labeled Lance Davis Thesis for a chart to add to his document. It would be a shame if his 60-some pages of hard work suddenly disappeared. It would certainly give him something more important to worry about than the quality of the airplane food in economy class. Mia smiled at the diabolical thought even though she had no realistic way to put the evil plan into action.

As she had countless times before, she would probably feel consumed with fury for the duration of the flight, helpless to do anything to ameliorate that, before forgetting about it as soon as the offending party was no longer around. After all, on a day to day basis, she was faced with dozens of situations exactly like this one – riding the tube as someone’s handbag continually grazed her head, sitting squeezed between two men whose legs were bowing into her personal space, people jumping the queue. The little ways in which people could be aggravating to one another were innumerable, but it was rare that she had to sit with such a person for seven hours in a tin can on a flight to another continent. The continuous irritation made her feel hateful, though she couldn’t possibly know this man well enough to actually hate him.

Trapped in her own angry thoughts, Mia managed to doze off. She didn’t know how long she had been asleep when a passenger walking past her in the aisle bumped into her arm and startled her awake. She removed her eye mask to find that the cabin was mostly dark. Even the Intolerable Mr. Davis had managed to fall asleep with his laptop closed in front of him and the USB drive, no longer emitting an annoying red light, sitting on top of it.

She yawned and glanced down at her watch, already set to London time. They were just a couple of hours away. Soon the cabin lights would be coming on, and the cabin crew would be coming around for a short snack service before landing. She could already picture Mr. Davis’s insufferable objections to being woken up for a greasy shrink-wrapped muffin and a watery yogurt. Just the thought of it made her feel hot with anger.

Mia looked over at her cantankerous neighbor. Though she’d had to put up with a lot of his childish entitled behavior over the past couple of hours, this was the first time she allowed herself to get a good look at his face. He had a five o’clock shadow and thick prominent eyebrows. If she didn’t know intimately well how much of a pompous ass he was, she might even find him attractive. He slept peacefully, which softened the scowl he’d had on his face for the duration of the flight. It was almost hard to believe that someone who looked so angelic could be such a prick.

Lost in her own contemplation, her eyes suddenly fell on the USB drive rattling lightly on top of his laptop whenever the plane hit a bump. Her thoughts raced as she contemplated knocking it to the floor or finding a way to destroy it.

No, I couldn’t… could I? He would know it was me. Then again, why would a stranger on a plane have any incentive to destroy someone else’s personal property?

She remembered how he had jumped over her to wrangle his coat away from the person putting his bag in the overhead and how he’d elbowed her in her flank continuously for part of the flight.

Hmm, that’s why.  

As she reminded herself of everything he’d done in the short time they’d crossed paths, she felt a growing sense of duty to take this guy down a peg or two on behalf of society as a whole. She was going to do it for the flight attendants he had yelled at, the people who had to wait on him, the people whose personal space he didn’t respect because he felt entitled to have more to himself.

With a sense of righteous indignation, she snatched up the USB drive, sticking it in her jean pocket as she got up to go to the bathroom. She quickly pushed open the lavatory door, looking back to her row to see if he had stirred. He was still sitting in a peaceful sleep with his coat tucked under his jaw. Inside the lavatory, she felt a rush as she removed the USB drive from her pocket and took a closer look at it.

It was labeled L. Davis, the way an organized sociopath might label something that’s never out of his possession anyway. Without giving it a second thought, she threw it in the metal latrine, making it bounce around loudly against the sides of the toilet.

I guess there’s no turning back now, she thought to herself.

She relieved herself and then flushed, watching with delight as the gray plastic USB drive got forcefully sucked down into the tank carrying everybody’s waste. Then she returned to her seat, trying her best not to make any noise or sudden movements that might wake up L. Davis. As before, she pulled down her eye mask and put in her headphones. As far as her neighbor was concerned, she had never gotten up at all.

The downside of getting revenge that you’re still around to enjoy is the anxiety that you might get caught, in addition to the guilt that maybe you overdid it. As Mia sat curled up with her arms crossed, she wondered if she hadn’t made a mistake. She was convinced he would blame her and simultaneously scared that he might break down in a panic and she’d feel sorry for him. But then, the upside of getting revenge that you’re still around to enjoy is that people are more apt than not to show you that they fully deserved it.

L. Davis finally stirred awake after a bit of turbulence started rocking the cabin. Mia still had her eye mask on but she could feel that his movements were that of a person awake. Her heart started beating out of her chest, sure that at any minute, he would wake up the whole cabin with his shouts. She was even scared to face him even though her eyes were covered. When she heard him rustling under the seat, the temptation to peek became too great. She angled her head again so she could see him from under the eye mask, and she felt a wave of relief wash over her as she watched him put the laptop back in his briefcase and lean back in his seat. He hadn’t even noticed!

After the euphoric release of tension, Mia started to get cozy to see if she could get back to sleep. That’s when her seatmate tapped her on the arm. Mia jumped up, a mix of surprise and guilt that made it seem even more convincing that she had been asleep. He only pointed at the aisle, motioning for her to let him pass. She unbuckled her seatbelt and stood up, watching him closely as he walked away. He didn’t go into the same lavatory which was comforting, though he would have no way of knowing where his removable drive had been discarded even if he had. All signs suggested that he didn’t even realize it was gone.

Jittery with nerves, Mia decided to stay awake for the duration of the flight. It was only a matter of time before the cabin lights turned on again. As Mr. Davis made his way back to his seat, she was scrolling through the movie selection on the seatback screen. He took his place at her side once more, pulling his phone out of his pocket to check the time. It was in that moment, with his phone held lazily in his hand, that his head jerked up and Mr. Davis came to the unmistakable realization that his drive was gone. Mia’s heart started thumping loudly in her chest as he reached for the briefcase, pulled out his laptop, and looked inside.

She didn’t dare to react to his shuffling, nervous that any wrong move could give her away. Instead, she pressed play on a British comedy and pretended she didn’t notice Mr. Davis’s increasingly frantic search. He looked in every pocket of the bag. Then reaching up to turn on the light for his seat, he proceeded to check all around him – between the seats, under the seatbelt, inside his coat.

Mia swallowed hard, still looking straight head. Then Mr. Davis turned on her seat light and started looking under her feet.

She pulled off her headphones, not knowing whether to react with anger or feigned concern. She ended up not reacting at all, as he dismissively explained, “I’m just looking for something.” Mia moved her legs aside to let him, knowing well that his search would be fruitless.

“Fuck,” he muttered to himself.

“Did you happen to see a little flash drive?” he asked, looking up at her from his search.

Mia just shrugged her shoulders, but she appeased him by shifting around so he could look where she was sitting.

“Fuck!” he said loudly. A woman across the aisle looked over at the commotion, then rolled her eyes when she realized who it was coming from. “I need that drive! Everything I need for my master’s thesis is on that drive!”

Mia wanted to ask him if he had any other copy of it, but then realized how much that question would implicate her. He thought it had just been misplaced, and she wasn’t in a rush to give him a reason to believe otherwise. Instead, she continued to look around under her feet and the seat in front of her.

Mr. Davis pushed the attendant call button three times in a row, and a new flight attendant rushed over. Mia imagined that in the galley, the flight attendants must be drawing straws to determine who would have to deal with this guy. The man who approached clicked off the call button and asked how he could be of service.

“I’ve lost something vitally important. Is there any way you could help me?”

“Did you check the seatback pocket?” he asked Mr. Davis, who threw his hands up in response.

“Of course I did. I checked everywhere on the seat. I checked her seat. It’s not here. I’m not sure if it fell during turbulence.”

Good theory, Mia thought to herself. Let’s stick with that.

“The only thing we can really do is make an announcement to see if anyone’s seen it. Is it a phone?”

“No, it’s a flash drive. Small, gray… it’s labeled Davis.”

“I’m sure it’ll turn up,” the flight attendant tried to reassure him. “When the crew begins their next meal service, we will make an announcement.”

“You can’t do it right now?” Mr. Davis insisted.

“Many passengers are still sleeping. It’ll be just a few minutes,” the flight attendant reiterated before walking away.

Mr. Davis’s concern instantly turned to anger, and he slammed his hands hard into the seat in front of him. A bald man popped up from behind the seatback and turned around.

“Excuse me!” he said to Mr. Davis in an angry whisper.

“I’m sorry,” he replied. “I’ve just lost something. Do you think you could look under your seat? It’s a gray flash drive.”

The man looked incredulously at him. “You kicked my seat to ask me for a favor?”

“I didn’t kick your seat!” Mr. Davis said, raising his voice. “I’m just frustrated. I need that flash drive.”

Where every apology for his behavior should have been, Mr. Davis gave a poor excuse for his own reprehensible actions. Just when Mia had started to feel sorry for him.

A few of the other passengers looked up from their in-flight movies and their naps, trying to figure out what the uproar was.

“I haven’t seen it!” said the bald man emphatically before turning back around and throwing himself back forcefully against the seat so that it hit Mr. Davis’s knees. Mr. Davis let out a groan and pushed the seat forward again.

“This is why I don’t fly coach,” he said loudly, making a few of the sleeping passengers stir in their seats.

Whatever guilt Mia might have felt for stealing this man’s work and flushing it down an airplane toilet was dwindling as the Intolerable Mr. Davis returned full force. Probably aware of the increased noise coming from row 37, the flight attendants began making an overhead announcement as the cabin lights simultaneously turned back on.

“Passengers, we hope you’ve had a restful flight. Shortly our cabin crew will be coming around with a small breakfast service. At this time, we’d also like to ask that you take a look around your seat. A passenger has lost a gray USB flash drive. If you happen to find it underneath your seat, please just ring the call button.”

Mr. Davis popped up from his seat and announced to the passengers around him, “It has a label that says L. Davis on it. It’s probably around this area.”

He motioned to the section around him like he was giving a safety presentation. Mia could see that almost everyone around them had the kind of look on their face that said, “It serves you right, you knob.” This was the kind of revenge that everyone was enjoying, though few would carry out themselves.

You’re welcome, flight 82.

When the flight attendants came by with drinks, Mr. Davis immediately asked for an update.

“Has anyone found my flash drive?” he asked.

The flight attendant merely shook her head and continued pouring tomato juice for another passenger.

“Is there a way you could check people’s bags? Maybe someone took it thinking it was their own,” he said, glancing momentarily at Mia as he did so. She scowled at the obvious implication.

“Unfortunately, we cannot assume it was stolen, particularly since it wasn’t anything that could be of value to someone else. This kind of thing happens all the time. Sometimes the cleaning crew will find it and send it to the airline’s lost and found. Would you like something to drink?”

The flight attendant was trying to pivot away from the suggestion that they might need to carry out an elaborate investigation to find his missing USB drive. But the Indignant Mr. Davis expected that and more.

“You listen to me. Not only was I bumped from first class, I’ve now had something potentially stolen from me, and you guys aren’t interested in doing anything about it.”

“Sir, it was our understanding that you thought you dropped it,” the flight attendant corrected him. “You’re welcome to file a report with the airline, even with the police department when we land, but we can’t check other passengers’ bags just because you haven’t found something that’s been misplaced.”

“You bet I’m going to file a report with the airline! I’ve been treated like an animal every step of the way after I paid for a first class seat. I’m not going to let you people get away with losing my personal belongings, too! You people should be ashamed of your service.”

Mia sat back in her chair with a stubborn smile creeping up on her face. Where she had been previously furious to hear him yelling at everyone like this, she was now tickled. More than that, she felt justified in her decision to throw away all of his hard work. She felt like he deserved this almost as much as he felt like he deserved to be treated like royalty by everyone he came in contact with.

“Sir, we will have to continue our meal service, but you’re welcome to file a report when we land. We can take down your information, and if your hard disk turns up, we will contact you immediately.”

Without further explanation, the flight attendants pushed on, ignoring the adult temper tantrum in progress in seat 37A. Meanwhile, Mia sat comfortably in her chair with her arm sitting on the armrest as she enjoyed a greasy muffin and watched the in-flight entertainment.

Mr. Davis continued his futile search in the seatback pocket, between the seats, and as far under the surrounding seats as his spine would allow him to look. Mia relished every second of his search, which made the rest of the flight far more entertaining than she could have imagined. Before long, they would be arriving at Heathrow. The cabin was noisy once again as people started getting their coats, replacing things in the overhead bins, and queuing for the bathroom.

“We hope you’ve enjoyed your flight with us, and on behalf of the cabin crew, we thank you for choosing TransAtlantic Airways,” said the overhead announcement when they touched down in London.

Upon arrival, Mia grabbed her luggage from the overhead bin and began moving toward the exit with Mr. Davis walking nervously behind her, craning his neck to see if he could get the attention of any of the flight attendants. When the line made its way through one of the galleys, he used the opportunity to skip a few people in the queue and made his way to the front where he immediately accosted the flight crew.

“I’d like to file a report for my lost flash drive,” he said.

“Sir, you’ll have to move to the side so the passengers can exit the aircraft,” said one of the flight attendants in their characteristically calm tone. Mia walked right past him, no longer curious about what would become of the Indignant Mr. Davis in the saga of his no-good-very-bad flight. She walked out of the gate feeling accomplished and refreshed on her way to catch the tube into the city.

Having been escorted off the plane by one of the crew members, Mr. Davis ranted wildly at the gate, hoping for compensation for all he had suffered.

“The airline should be footing the bill for my entire trip! Not only did I lose my first class seat, I’ve now lost months of hard work. I’m holding you responsible for that! And believe me, you’ll hear from my lawyer about this.”

The tall male flight attendant was steely in response to his threats about official complaints and lawsuits. He stood there looking unperturbed as Mr. Davis unloaded the full weight of his wrath.

With a short sigh, the flight attendant met his aggression with a canned response, “Sir, you’ll have to file a lost and found case on our website. However, you can provide a local number where you can be reached, and if the cleaning crew find your drive on the aircraft, we will contact you straight away.”

Mr. Davis jotted down his information and stormed off with the same nasty attitude he had when he boarded the flight in New York. As he watched him walk away, the flight attendant took the piece of paper with his contact information and threw it in the waste bin without a second thought.

“What a wanker.”

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