Don’s stomach lurched as the plane began its decent. He took a few deep breaths and prepared himself for the inevitable. Glancing around he confirmed that the exits were still there where they were supposed to be, but that gave him little comfort. He sighed and looked one last time over to Gene before closing his eyes and giving himself over to fate.

But, as his lids were closing, the instant before the darkness closed in, Don could see in that fraction of a second that Gene had powered on his tablet and was fiddling about with something on the screen.

Don’s eyes shot open so quickly that it should have been followed by a sonic boom.

“What are you doing!?” Don whispered incredulously.

“What?” Gene said. “Furious Fowl.” He indicated the digitally animated birds on the screen.

“A video game!?” Don’s whisper was now brimming with outrage. His vision blurred for a moment and he took a breath to get himself back under control. “You aren’t supposed to use electronic devices during take-off and landing.”

“What?” Gene said. “They changed that rule a long time ago. You need to watch the news and stuff.”


“When what?”

“When did they change the rule about electronic devices?”

“Like, I don’t know. Last year?”

“Is everything okay?” said light and bouncy voice to Don’s right.

Don turned to find a flight attendant looming over them, a smile on her face and a twinkle in her eye.

“Everything’s fine,” Gene said.

“He won’t turn off his electronic device,” Don said.

“Oh, that’s okay, sir. They changed that rule a long time ago,” she said, smiling once again.

Someone moaned from the back of the plane.

“Is that guy okay?” Gene asked. “He’s sounding worse.”

When they had boarded less than an hour ago, one of the passengers had looked a little uneasy. Don had figured the guy was like him and just didn’t like flying. But now—

“He’ll be fine,” the attendant said. “Just a bit of a sour stomach.”

Don swiped the dampness from his brow.

“How about you?” she asked, crouching down to look him in the face. “You don’t look so good. Can I get you anything?”

“No,” said Don, trying his best to smile. “I’m fine.”

“He’ll be okay once we’re on the ground,” Gene said. “Thanks.”

“We’ll be there before you know it,” the attendant said. “Just push the button if you need anything.”

“We will,” said Gene to her retreating back. Then he turned to Don and tsked.

“What?” Don said.

“You tattled on me.”

“I thought you were breaking a safety rule.”

“You owe me an apology,” Gene was smiling.

“I’m not going to apologize, I only had the safety of the passengers in mind. I did my duty.”

“You did your duty?” Gene laughed. “I can’t believe you tattled on me. You’re almost forty, Don. Forty. You can’t go around telling on people like that. Especially when that person is me. I thought we were friends.”

Don ignored him and checked his watch.

“How far back do we go, Don?”

Don sighed.

“Grade school, dude. Grade. School.” He put extra emphasis on the last two words. “Seriously. Looking at you now, no one would ever know that you were the Quarterback Super Jock Stud in High School.”

“And you were the Computer Super Geek Nerd,” Don said.

“There you go. That was us. The Jock and the Geek. We could have been a sitcom.” Gene smiled again.

Gene had one of those smiles that infected you like an airborne virus and soon Don found himself smiling right along with him.

But it was true. The two had been friends for a great long time. Ever since the First Grade when a young Donald Parker was given the desk next to a young Eugene Pak for no other reason than his name came after Gene’s, alphabetically speaking.

From that day forward, the two had been nearly inseparable. Gene was the brains, Don the brawn. Gene helped Don with his homework and made sure he graduated, Don kept the bullies away and made sure Gene stayed out of the hospital.

To be continued . . .

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