Both the pilot and copilot had taken ill. The doctor deemed it food poisoning. Ted looked out the window at the earth below, wondering if he could get the plane back on the ground. Nerves had ended his career as a pilot and he’d developed a severe drinking problem. He looked at the cocktail on the tray in front of him, wondering if it would calm his nerves or rattle them more. The doctor looked at him with gravity.
Dude tells me to call him Dude. It may be his actual name but I can’t be certain. As far as I can tell the word dude constitutes about fifty percent of his spoken vocabulary. Dude is wearing a shirt that says Stoned with a picture of rocks on it, like it’s not obvious enough. Trying to have a conversation with Dude is like speaking to an echo. There is a five second delay between the question and response, and usually he just repeats the question back with a slightly altered emphasis. Dude may have hearing loss or terminal brain damage or both, his synapses clogged with resin and his ears stuffed with gummi bears. He’s sucking on a straw and holding a cup of soda so enormous it should have a diving board attached. I’m betting there’s more than just soda in there.
“Well, Dude,” I tell him, “you can’t loiter here,” and he gives me a blank stare punctuated by squints and blinks. It takes a few seconds for my words to filter into his auditory process, draining in slowly between the charcoal and other crispy obstructions in his brain.
“Dude, I never litter.” He looks at the ground around him to confirm his own report. There is a backpack at his feet, and a sign scrawled on cardboard that reads Need Money 4 Weed. Tied to the backpack is a tiny puppy that looks like it might actually be a fluffy, battery operated toy. “Those butts aren’t mine, dude,” he says. “I don’t smoke that poison, dude.”