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Economy Part 2
David returned to his seat slightly flushed and slightly flustered.|
"Took your time,” Austin observed.
"Yeah, I wanted to freshen up and those loos are so damn cramped.”
"Oh, tell me about it. If you have trouble, imagine what it’s like for a guy my size. I’m scraping the darn walls.”
David imagined. He started to doze and continued imagining, creating a very pleasant effect. When he woke with Austin’s heavy hand gently rocking his shoulder, the cabin was dark, illuminated only by small pools of light focussed on the late night readers and the dull glow of tiny television screens.
"Sorry buddy,” Austin whispered, "gotta go.”
Austin had stood up, awkwardly squashed between the seats in front and the overhead lockers. His rumpled shirt must have got untucked while he’d dozed and his jeans had edged down, and a big soft roll of hairy gut fat was hanging over the belt, peeking out beneath the shirt, and tantalisingly almost brushing David’s slouched chest. Gazing up at the massive Texan, David thought he’d grown startlingly in the night. Then he realized that he’d slipped down into the vacant seat and was now looking at Austin from a strange angle, the dangling gut outrageously foregrounded. He lurched up into his proper seat, then slipped out into the aisle to let the man mountain pass. Austin sauntered up to the toilets, the broad seat of his jeans filling the aisle and his chubby elbows bumping every seatback. Austin politely whispered an apology to any aisle sitter who was awake. Sorry, buddy. Sorry, ma’am. Sorry, buddy. Sorry, ma’am.
Hey, buddy. Austin was back. David must have lapsed back into sleep immediately. He didn’t know how much time had passed. He groggily stood up, let the big guy through, then slumped back in his seat. As he drifted off again, he could smell the rich dark chocolate Austin was munching.
David woke blinking into the morning? afternoon? light and Austin was still eating. Now he was working his way through a gigantic bag of corn chips and a tub of salsa. He offered the bag to his dozy companion, who gladly accepted.
"Where are we?” he asked, chomping.
"A few hours out. They’ll be serving breakfast soon. Though it should really be lunch. Good sleep?”
"Yeah, surprisingly good. Being able to sprawl a bit makes a big difference.”
"Yeah, you sure were sprawling,” Austin laughed. "I thought you were about to crawl into my lap at one point. Luckily that seat’s taken.”
David blushed and changed the subject. "Did you get some sleep?”
"Yeah, a few hours. I can just about sleep anywhere.”
They continued to chat amiably through their breakfast. David filled Austin in on his family and studies; Austin sketched his own background a little more impressionistically. He travelled a lot with his work and hadn’t really settled down anywhere for long. No mention of a family or a home. Played golf. Big soul fan, and he seemed to be impressed that David was familiar with Brenda Holloway and Lorraine Ellison. From various cultural references, David inferred that he was in his late forties, maybe fifty – twice his age. The two got on well, with more in common than simply their shared obesity, and David was trying to figure out how he could arrange to stay in touch without it coming off as creepy. At least there was still the next leg of the flight to go. Maybe some opportunity would arise there.
At LAX, David and Austin stuck together and headed for the transit lounge. They had several hours before the flight continued on to Sydney and were obliged to go through immigration. In the queue, they were asked what flight they were taking, and when they replied they were informed that the Los Angeles – Sydney leg of the flight was seriously overbooked, and the airline was looking for passengers to volunteer to take a flight the following day.
David, focussed on getting home, immediately declined, but Austin insisted on hearing the woman out. The sweetener was $500 cash and an upgrade to Business Class, and of course the airline would put them up at a nearby hotel overnight. She handed them both a sheet of paper with the details on it and told them to let her know if they wanted to accept the offer, then moved on down the line.
"It’s a pretty good deal, you know,” Austin argued.
"Yeah, I suppose so, but I just thought we’d carry on and be there tomorrow.”
"Well, you know what this means if we carry on, don’t you? Full flight. You and me are going to be squashed in like sardines. It’s the business class seat that’s sold me.”
"So, are you going to do it?” David asked guardedly.
"Absolutely, and if you’re smart you’ll do the same. You don’t have any urgent family business or anything?”
Hell no. David wanted to put that off as long as possible.
"And we can hang out a bit longer. It’ll be fun.”
"Sold,” said David.
Hearing a rumble, the petite airline attendant turned from the sour-faced, affronted middle-aged lady in front of her to see the two big guys bearing down on her at a rate of knots, waving signed sheets.
By the time David and Austin’s luggage had been unloaded and collected, and they’d completed immigration and customs, it was late evening, and they still had to go to the airline counter to collect their hotel vouchers and find out about transportation.
They were the only people already on the flight who’d volunteered to wait until the next day, so the other passengers who’d been bought off had long since passed through, and they found a slightly frazzled attendant who’d had to wait back past the end of her shift to meet the tardy pair. She passed them both an envelope containing accommodation and meal vouchers for a nearby hotel, plus a voucher for their $500 cash, which they’d have to redeem at one of the airport banks (she indicated vaguely where these could be found). Finally, she presented them with complicated instructions for finding the shuttle bus that could take them to their hotel.
Austin was already grumbling about all the walking he was doing. He reckoned he’d be halfway to Australia already if it had been in a straight line, so he wasn’t relishing the prospect of further ramblings all over the airport. Plus he was hungry. A rare occurrence, but one that would without fail put him in a bad mood.
As for David, he was getting puffed and cranky too, and started to wonder whether this was even a good idea. The $500 would be a nice bonus, but the real reason he’d tagged along was to spend some more time with Austin, and Austin had turned moody and uncommunicative.
When there was a minor hitch with the cash payout and the teller had to call her supervisor, Austin swore at her and turned to David red-faced and furious. He must have noticed the boy’s look of shock and disapproval, because his stormy countenance immediately cleared and he apologised profusely when the woman returned. A couple of minutes later, she was so thoroughly charmed that she wished him sweet dreams. By contrast, she served the regularly polite fat kid behind him with indifference and a trace of disdain.
"Boy, I’m in a foul mood, huh?” Austin said to David as they wandered in the general direction of the transportation they’d been promised. "I’m so fucking hungry, and I don’t run well on low fuel. You wanna grab a burger or something before we get the bus?”
"I know what you mean. We’ve been wandering around for hours. But we’ve got a free meal at the hotel. Should we wait until then?”
Austin sighed. "Kid, I’m seriously not into delayed gratification, but I guess you’re right. I gotta eat, though, and my stash is all cleared out. How about I restock at that concession stand and then we might just make it to the bus.”
David took a seat, his plump haunches comfortably filling the wide plastic tub chair, and guarded their cases while Austin headed for the store. Just before departure, he did a little well-practiced jeans-hitching gesture, hiking each side in turn up over the first roll of fat above his buttocks – calling them hips would amount to anatomical turpitude. As the big man receded, David appreciated his swaying, rolling gait. He had the powerful stride of somebody wading waist deep in water. Maybe that was what carrying that much bulk was really like: all that drag. But Austin had muscle under all that flab. His over-eager movements towards this oasis of chocolate and sugar in the middle of the sterile desert of the airport were positively vigorous, and his fat arms pumped, fleshy thighs shuddered, jowls trembled and abdominal flab bounced and shook powerfully with anticipation.
If I were able to really let myself go, thought David, I could get that big. Wow.
Austin returned triumphant a few moments later carry two plastic bags stuffed with candy bars and bags of nuts, and a ruminating mouth stuffed with chocolatey goo.
"Fave mah fuggen gife, guggy,” Austin mumbled, mouth full, trying to express the live-saving properties of cheap chocolate, caramel and nuts, and inviting a fellow traveller to sip from the same oasis. "Alp yisell.”
David stuck his hand in the proffered sack of goodies and pulled out a Snickers, which he gleefully devoured. Austin pulled out another and started in on it while still chewing on the remains of the first. He swallowed, said, "Crap chocolate, but beggars can’t be choosers,” then chomped into the remainder of the bar.
The shuttle bus stand they had to find turned out to be way down the other end of the airport, so the pair were pleased that they had stopped to pick up the snacks after all. David could only imagine how foul a mood Austin would have been in after another quarter hour of dragging 100 pounds of luggage and 200 pounds of excess fat around without anything to eat, but as long as he was ploughing through his replenished snack stash – he was merrily popping honey-roasted peanuts now, and had evidently made of this some kind of semi-acrobatic art – he was his old amiable self. David was exhausted, his t-shirt was dark with perspiration, but he was enjoying the big man’s company.
They finally found the bus stop, but there was no bus and nowhere to sit. The next shuttle would be along in 20 minutes and departing in 25. David parked his suitcase and cautiously sat down on it.
"Lucky bastard,” Austin remarked. "I don’t think there’s a suitcase on the market that would survive me doing that. Actually, you’d better be careful yourself. I doubt that’s designed to take somebody your size.”
"Oh, I know. I’m being careful all right. I’ve had experience.”
"Aha! Busted some furniture yourself, have you?”
David blushed. His modest legacy of broken chairs had been a source of deep shame for him, but he was surprised to find himself irrationally elated that he’d been exposed. Shyly, he replied, "Yeah, a couple of times.”
"Occupational hazard for guys our size, Dave. Park this big rig on just about anything and it caves. I’ve started designing my own furniture now.”
Guys. Our. Size. David felt his reality stretch and distort like a track-zoom in an old Hitchcock film. His dick did something similar. Here was this impossibly huge guy, with the kind of outrageously outsized body David idolised and coveted, but thought he’d never achieve, and he saw David as a peer in fatness. At one stroke, this stranger had made David equivalent with his masculine ideal. He fell silent, awed by the privilege and by his own potential.
"Hey, no offence, man. Obviously you got a way to go, but we’re on the same highway and in the same lane. Am I right?”
"Yeah,” David chuckled. Should I? Can I? "And we’ve both got ‘WIDE LOAD’ plastered across our backsides.”
Austin roared with laughter and swatted David’s back with a big heavy hand. "You’re okay, kid. Wide load, all right.”
The bus dutifully arrived and the weary pair hopped on board. Fortunately, at this hour there were few other passengers, as Austin pretty much filled a double seat and David spread out far enough to make a second passenger unwelcome. Normally in these circumstances, he’d force his chubby thighs together as tight as possible and try desperately not to meet the eyes of anybody who might want to sit alongside him. Sitting across from sprawling monster Austin, knees wide apart (how many years since one of those had been in contact with the other?) and huge gut filling the gulf, chomping relentlessly on a chain of candy bars, David had the confidence to nonchalantly spread his hefty butt out and sit comfortably for a change.
The shuttle bus trundled around a series of local hotels. By the time it reached Austin and David’s, they were the last people left and if was well after 11pm. It had been a very long day, but now they could crash.
Austin placed his hands on either side of his thighs, at the edge of the seat, and pushed himself up off it, succeeding on the second attempt with a stifled whoop. David eased out past him, scraping the surging untucked belly, and grabbed his suitcase and bag. Outside, a porter offered to take his bag, but he waved them away and headed for the reception desk.
Austin trailed behind messily, trying to roughly tuck his shirt in with one hand while his cabin bag slipped off his soft, round shoulder on the opposite side. He grabbed the strap in midair and let the suitcase he was wheeling with that hand fall to the ground. He then let go of his other suitcase, which teetered on his right. Two porters bustled towards the bug clumsy man to relieve him of his bags and he slipped them a five each in gratitude, then paused to tuck his shirt in properly before ambling up behind David, who was in the process of being checked in.
The clerk perused the voucher, checked David’s ID, and swiftly handed him a keycard in a small folder with the room number printed inside. He stepped aside to wait for his friend to check in.
Austin was a tall guy, and even leaning heavily on the counter he towered over the clerk. The clerk entered the details from the voucher and frowned at his computer screen. "One moment, sir,” he said, and promptly vanished.
"Here we go, Dave,” Austin said. "I bet you got the last room.”
"No way. They must have known we were coming from hours back.”
"I tell you, my luck is shit. I bet there’s some fucking disaster about to smack me down on my fat ass.”
The clerk was back, smiling. "Mr Rivera,” he said matter-of-factly. "We were expecting you both several hours ago and unfortunately the room we were holding for you has been let go.” Austin shot David a here-we-go, told-you-so glance and the younger man braced himself for an explosion of anger. "BUT,” the clerk continued, drawing a sharp breath, "I have confirmed with the airline that we can offer you our Presidential Suite instead.”
"What the?” Austin blurted, "Where the hell do I sign! I could hug you, boy!”
"Easy, big fella,” the clerk said, eyes twinkling, then he added, more composed: "No hugs required, sir. We’re happy if you’re happy.”
"Oh, I’m happy all right. Presidentially happy.” Austin signed the form with glee, took his keycard and headed for the lift with David. He nudged him. "Presidential. Fucking. Suite. Fucking sweet.” Walking proudly, he waved his porters over.
"Presidential Suite,” he told them, grinning. "I kid you not.”
David thought a little meanly that if only he’d let the fat bastard go first, he’d be the one gloating about his good luck. Still, he was glad one of them had landed butter side up.
David got off at the sixth floor. Austin was going right to the top. As he got off the lift, Austin said, "Hey Dave. Let’s freshen up and meet back down in the foyer in twenty minutes and grab some dinner. I could eat a bear.”
David nodded. Just as the door was closing, Austin yelled out, "Don’t forget to ring your folks. Let them know. . .”
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