“Mom, I’m going to die,” Sarah O’Brian whispered sadly down the plastic microphone of the airplane handset.
“Come on now with your dramatics. It’s just a flight. You’ll be in Chicago in no time,” her mother said while mixing cookie batter in the large glass bowl her daughter had just given her for Christmas, not three days ago.
“No, mom. Listen. Please,” the tears threatened to take her voice from her but she wouldn’t let that happen. She was an O’Brian after all. “Something’s happening on the plane.”
“Tell me,” Agnes O’Brian let the cookie mix slip from her fingers, the glass shattering all over the kitchen tiles in an explosion of tinkling glass. A mother’s instinct was never wrong and it was telling her to save her child.
“I…I don’t know. They stood up and started shouting. They hurt a…they hurt a stewardess. One of them spoke over the tannoy and … and… mom you know I never meant that stuff I said when I left don’t you?”
“You hush now,” Agnes had to grip the counter top to stop herself falling over. The weight of what she was hearing had made her legs go numb but her heart was strong and filled with fire. “Don’t talk to me about that nonsense, y’hear. It was forgotten as soon as you said it.”
“Mom, what am I going to do?”
What was she going to do? Agnes didn’t know.
“You’re going to talk to me. You’re going to listen to my voice and know that everything’s going to be O.K.” She wanted to cry, standing in that kitchen, her world spinning from her and all she could do was stand and watch but she couldn’t let the tears be the last thing her daughter heard. She had to be strong. She had to make sure her Sarah was … was what? What could she do?
“Mom how is it-“
“You listen to me, everything will be O.K.”
“Agnes what in blue blazes is this mess?” Harold O’Brian had come rushing from a re-run of a football game when he heard the glass bowl slip and shatter from his wife’s hands. He didn’t know that every step took him closer to the worst day of his life. He was just a man enjoying his last few days off before returning back to work.
The silent tears streaming down his wife’s face knocked him for six. The thought ran through his head that it could just be a teary reconciliation between Agnes and their daughter, but the same lurch that took his wife took him too.
“What’s wr-wr-wrong?” he stuttered as he hadn’t done in almost forty years.
“Is that dad?” Sarah mumbled to her mother.
“Yes, dear. He’s here.”
“Does he know how sorry I am?”
Agnes nodded over and over again with tears blurring her eyes and hitching her breath in her throat; not realizing her daughter couldn’t see her. The grief was awesome in its terror and had stripped away all her faculties. Striding to the phone, no fucks given about the glass pressing into his house slippers, Harold took his wife in one arm and the phone in the other.
“Sarah, this is your father,” he announced. “What’s going on?”
“Dad they’ve taken the plane.”
Memories rushed him like a charging back. Great lung fulls of air left him in fevered gasps as his worst nightmare dawned upon him like gruesome spectre.
“Are you alone?” he couldn’t bare the thought anymore than he could the question.
“I’m on a plane, dad,” Sarah managed a half-smile as a thousand of her own memories flooded back to her.
Her dad asking her if she found everywhere on her first day of college.
About whether her new boyfriend had a car and a job.
And if she had a shower in her new apartment as he had heard on the T.V. set that many low income houses didn’t have showers anymore.
Plus a thousand other smiling images that clouded her eyes and made her cry happy tears as the sad ones still dried on her cheeks.
“Someone’s coming,” Sarah was so frantic she couldn’t get the words out.
“Put the phone in the seat pocket in front of you, O.K.? Don’t you hang up. Don’t you dare hang up on me, Sarah,” Harold’s fist was clenched as he slammed it hard down on the marble surface.
“What’s happening, Harry? Tell me! What’s going on?”
“One of them is walking past.”
Agnes’ blood turned to ice.
“Dad? Dad?” Sarah begged down the phone.
“I’m hear, sweetie. I’m here.”
“Oh Dad, it’s happening now. I can feel it. We’re tipping.”
Static fizzed down the line as Harold lost all his words.
“Dad, will you sing to me?”
“Yeah, you and mom. Will you sing that song you used to when I was scared about monsters under the bed?”
“I don’t remember it,” her father was crying now too. “I don’t remember the words.”
“Close your eyes, it’s O.K.,” Agnes began to sing. “It’s just the end of a long day.”
“Go to sleep, it’s alright,” Harold’s lips trembled a he sang good bye to his baby girl for the last time. “And I’ll sing… a lullaby.”
“It’s time for you, to get some rest, but you know… who we love the best,” Harold and Agnes sang down the phone to their precious daughter, as they had done so many countless times when she was a baby lying before them, with her whole life stretching out before her.
“I love you, mom. I love you, dad.”
“We love you too, sweet baby girl.”
And then the phone went dead.
Thank you for reading this story. The words of Mr and Mrs O’Brian’s lullaby came from a song by Jimmy Scott. Please click the link below and give it a listen. It broke my heart in the context of this story, but it is a beautiful and well-written song meant for happier things.