The Lost Country

Fall 2012 • Vol. 1, No. 1

issn 2326-5310 (online)

Threat Level Red

By Amanda Grace Poore

This work was published in the Fall 2012 issue of The Lost Country. You may purchase a copy of this issue from us or, if you prefer, from Amazon.

“Sir, I need your boarding pass and I.D. And I.D.,” said the amazonian woman.

Larry Miranda, who had called the airport on his way to check the flight schedule, who had printed two copies of his itinerary and stored them in separate bags just in case, who had had his shoes off as soon as he had entered the airport, and who had had all of his liquids in tidy plastic bags, fumbled for his driver’s license. After retrieving his things from the conveyer belt, Larry risked a tentative glance at the passenger behind him, a young woman in a pink sweat suit. She held out her boarding pass and I.D. while sending a loaded glance at Larry in one prompt gesture.

Larry plodded along to his gate, checking and rechecking the number and time on the ticket. The terminal seemed oddly empty after the congestion of the security line. His gate was quiet considering it had not received its last incoming flight. All of the hard, blue chairs were empty, except one facing the walkway. A tiny brown-skinned man in an oversized plaid suit coat and brown sandals, stared vacantly at the passersby.

Making sure to sit the proper three-seat minimum away, Larry picked a spot where he could see both the incoming gate door and the strange little man. For some reason, like many middle-aged, American white men, Larry couldn’t help thinking that he should keep an eye on a possibly Middle Eastern man at the airport. This thought was immediately rejected and then reassessed several times over the next ten minutes. Over this time, the strange, brown man had done nothing but people-watch. Larry eventually decided that he was being racist (or was he?) and dug out his itinerary for his trip.

Occasionally Larry glanced up from his itinerary to make sure the man was still there. After several minutes of this, Larry began to notice some concerning details. The brown man was sweating profusely. While the man’s suit did seem rather warm, the airport air conditioning was on full blast. Larry also took note of the fact that the strange man did not have any carry ons. Upon close examination of the man’s hands, Larry noticed they were fidgeting. One thumb over the other in a repetitive motion.

“Attention airport guests. Please report all unattended baggage and suspicious activity immediately. Thank you and have a safe flight.”

Larry stared at the imaginary speaker in the ceiling for a moment and then looked back at the stranger. The tiny man was fighting with something underneath his suit coat. It was very stubborn, whatever it was, and the man looked dejected. After a long moment the man stood and walked across to the nearby restroom. Larry’s inner voice was telling him a stream of possibilities for what that man could have been arranging under this jacket, but a hot, shameful dread persisted.

A red-faced man in a TSA uniform waddled down the walkway, balancing a coffee in one hand, and a bag of Cheetos in the other. Larry’s stomach clenched and he tensed his leg muscles as if to stand. Luckily the TSA officer had barely moved in the seconds of indecision. Larry finally broke the paralysis and lurched toward the officer.

“Excuse me,” Larry ventured.

“Yeah,” said the TSA officer without stopping, as if the act would lose him much-needed momentum.

“I would like to report a suspicious person.”

“Is that right?”

“Yes. There is a man in that restroom that may have something strapped to his chest.”

“Is that right?” the man said again.

“Yes,” replied Larry, who continued to follow the slowly moving officer.

They walked in silence for a few moments before Larry supplied, “He may be Middle Eastern.”

The TSA officer stopped and looked at Larry for a moment, then turned to keep walking.

“I’ll radio it in,” he said, shifting the bag of Cheetos to the other hand and reaching for his walkie. The officer said something indecipherable into the radio and kept on trucking down the walkway. He did not seem overly concerned. Somehow this eased Larry’s mind when really it should have frustrated him.

Larry sat back down and pulled out his itinerary. When the strange little man came out of the bathroom, Larry even smiled and waved. How could he have made such a rash assumption? The stranger smiled back and sat next to Larry.

“What a strange and busy world,” the man said, with a thick, mysterious accent. He didn’t even sound Middle Eastern, really.

“First time in America?” Larry asked.

The man nodded vigorously.

“I am, how you say, overwhelmed.”

Larry laughed, “Me too.”

“I was given this coat here. Nice, yes? It’s a little different,” the man said, pulling out criss-crossed suspenders from underneath the coat.

Larry let out a puff of air he didn’t know he was holding. Suspenders. Of course.

“What’s your name?” Larry asked the man.

“Jesus of Nazareth. What is yours?”

Larry heard the man say those words, but somehow came to the instant conclusion that that was a perfectly common name to have.

“My name is Larry. Nice to meet you.” The two men shook hands and watched people go by for a moment.

“Attention airport guests. The threat level has been raised to Orange. Please be cautious and watch for suspicious persons. Thank you and have a safe flight.”

Larry’s stomach turned over. This couldn’t have to do with him, could it? He looked nervously up and down the walkway, but no army of TSA officers awaited his gaze. Only a frazzled father and his sleepily trailing girl were in his view. The dad kept looking at his boarding pass and then up at the gate numbers.

“Come on, Gwen, stop looking at Knuffle Bunny and help daddy find the gate.”

Gwen pulled her stuffed bunny closer, put on her best pouty face, and stopped cold in the middle of the walk. The dad didn’t notice for a few moments, but then he saw her not moving and rushed back. He grabbed for her tiny wrist, but caught Knuffle Bunny’s ear instead. The stuffed animal ripped in two.

Jesus, who had been watching intently, stood and ran over to the little girl. He knelt next to her and examined the bunny like a combat medic. The dad was in the middle of a tirade about how if Gwen had just kept moving this wouldn’t have happened when Jesus hovered his hand over the bunny. Larry ran over, not knowing what to think of Jesus’ brash movement. The four of them stood awkwardly, the dad looking half-way confused and like he wanted to yell at Jesus. In the next moment, a light shot from Jesus’s hand and Knuffle Bunny was instantly restored.

Larry, Gwen, and her father stared at the stuffed animal with their mouths hanging slightly open while three men in TSA uniforms tackled Jesus to the floor.

“Attention airport guests. The threat level is now Red. I repeat…”

“Oh,” Larry said as the TSA men handcuffed Jesus, “That Jesus.”