Atmosphere & Pressure

I have a schizoid radio inside my head that literally never stops. Not an earworm, but a runaway rambling jukebox that underscores my joys and mocks my pain. Happily, an equally capricious nickelodeon also plays inside my head with similar wantonness.

Thus, when I first laid eyes on the helicopter Liv had chartered for us last week, Skywalker proclaimed, “What a piece of junk!” while Blood, Sweat & Tears informed me that what goes up must surely come down. I had a bad feeling about this.

Regardless, she beckoned me to climb into the cabin. The stocky pilot helped us into our seats, clicked us into place, and slipped into his own seat.

“You want the usual, young lady?”

“The whole stinking town!” she exclaimed with delight, over the roar of the rotors.

He winked.

I had no reason to fear. Liv had just treated us to an exquisite dinner of bean soup, veal cutlets with roast asparagus, and raspberry sorbet.

“Do you trust me?” she had asked, as usual, her blue eyes gleaming in her round beaming face.

Indeed, I did. It was our third date and as yet we had gone wherever she wanted, eaten whatever she had ordered for us; she had even paid for us each time.

As the chopper began its ascent, something struck me odd about how dinner had ended. I suddenly remembered the shiny-toothed waitress declaring, “All of our desserts are sugar-free.” I should have wondered why Admiral Akbar popped in and shouted, “It’s a trap!” But I didn’t.

One just didn’t tell Olivia Wainwright no. Valedictorian, head cheerleader, debate team captain; I was astonished she had even asked me out at all.

The first twenty minutes of the tour were pleasant enough. The night sky, the lights on the bayfront, the sparkling water reflecting the moonlight. I sensed Liv watching me as I took in the sights. The pilot dutifully droned on about the landmarks and important locales as we climbed higher.

But then something happened that should only happen in my nightmares. Truthfully, I had started to feel a discomfort on the ride over to the airfield. I thought maybe I wasn’t responding well to Liv’s hairpin turns and overreliance on her anti-lock brakes. However, as we ascended higher and higher, I could feel the treacherous gases reproducing in my gut. What would Blood, Sweat & Tears say about this?

“I can hold it,” I said to myself.

“What’d you say?” Liv asked.

“Uh, nothing! I said it’s getting colder,” I answered, which didn’t matter since I had remembered to throw on my bomber before I left the house. I was lying to her and I was lying to myself. It was only beginning. Soon P!nk was getting the party started, singing “I’m coming out!” while the only black X-wing pilot in the Battle of Endor shouted, “She’s gonna blow!”

I was going to blow it. The most amazing, dazzling, captivating girl in Pullman High School was taking me on a romantic ride through the sky, and I was going to break the most hideous wind since Han Solo cut open a Tauntaun. The angels were going to weep, first at my misfortune, and then probably because they would be close enough to smell it.

“Are you okay?” Liv implored, her eyes almost seeming to water. Already?

“How much longer is this?” I asked, not really caring if it sounded rude.

“I booked an hour.”

No! It was getting worse with each passing moment. A Persian-sized cloud of gas was descending on the vastly outmanned pass of Thermopylae. The mountain trolls of Mordor were gleefully hurling Grond against the crumbling gate. Queen Elsa was crying out to let it go while Santa Ana’s horde swarmed toward the Alamo!

“Blast it, Biggs! It was the dessert!” I yelled with cold certainty. Had to be.

“Mel! It’s okay!” Liv said, gripping my arm.

That’s when the odor hit me, a wave of things long dead and unlooked for that filled my head instantly.

Only, I was still holding it in. Did she just…?

I looked at her, still smiling, and our eyes locked like lasers. I tell you with an almost holy assurance that in that instant, that woman knew me, and I knew her.

“Let ‘er rip, Tater Chip!” she screamed.

I did. I should say, we did. We made onions cry. Since the invention of gas, there were five farts that were rated the most malevolent, the most appalling. This blew them all away.

“Good grief, that’s the worst!” she howled, laughing hysterically, tears streaming down her face. Somehow, our ice-cold pilot remained calm throughout the ordeal.

I couldn’t stand it. I fished an old playbill from “The Phantom of the Opera” out of my jacket and fanned the air around me while Liv ducked down to the floor in search of fresher air.

She spotted the paper in my hand.

“You went to see Phantom? Did you like it?”

“I loved it,” I answered, this time not lying.

“We should go! Next week,” she declared. “Dad, can you take us to see Phantom next week?”



“Oh yeah, sorry,” she exclaimed, turning toward the pilot. “Dad, this is Mel. Mel, this is my dad.”


My heart stopped cold in my chest. Sweet Sarlacc, Pit of Carkoon, please swallow me up right now.

“Hello, Mel! I’ve been wanting to meet you ever since I caught wind that you two were dating.”

He was a dad, alright.

“Uh, thanks. I mean…yeah. I mean, pleased to meet you,” I stammered as I tried to recall if Liv had ever mentioned anything about her dad. Details!

The rest of the flight went quietly, relatively speaking. Not a word from Dad or Liv. She just smiled. We landed back at the airfield and Liv drove me home at breakneck speed.

“See you next week,” she said as I stood on the curb outside my house.

I nodded.

“As you wish.”


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