Overheard in a Boston Cab the Day After a Famous Plane Went Down

Feb 15 '10  /  Filed under Short Fiction  Posted by

page_Plane_SplashOn July 17, 1999, my wife and I took a cab from Boston’s Logan Airport to our friends’ house in nearby Medford. The thermometer that day registered a whopping 98 degrees and the city was in the midst of a record-breaking, headline-generating heat wave that had covered the eastern two thirds of the country like an electric blanket. Without air-conditioners, our city friends had taken to sleeping on their porches, and in backyard tents. People, mostly older, unaccustomed to these types of temperatures were dying dramatic, lonely deaths. Stupid. Stinking. Hot. Despite soaring temperatures, however, heat indexes were not the hot topic of the day. In fact, we weren’t half way across the iconic Bunker Hill Bridge when talk of the Kennedy plane crash came up. Without much more than a, “Yeah, we heard about that,” our cabbie launched into his thoughts on the ongoing search efforts being made in Martha’s Vineyard. My wife and I nodded our heads in agreement whenever we caught his eyes stabbing at ours through the rearview mirror, and other than an occasional, “mmmm” minded our own business the entire seven mile trip through town. Since this is a family show, I’ve taken the liberty of replacing all the four letter words with simple effs, aes and esses. It’s a short burst of ideas and assumptions that has left a lasting impression on me.

“It’s all about the heat waves, you know what I mean? I told my brother last week that if we have two more days of this heat, some weird [S]’s gonna happen. Planes crash when it’s hot, you know. Don’t ask me why, but it happens. Five days of heat and you can bet your [A] a plane’s going down. I bet they’re gonna find their bodies tomorrow morning. You know, they ought to install a lojack on those [F]in’ things. I mean how are they supposed to find three bodies in 100 feet of [F]ing water? We’re spending millions of dollars on these [F]ing people when old ladies are dying in their homes. I’m not saying we shouldn’t look for ‘em cuz they’re rich. I’m just saying we got all this technology we’re not using. Know what I mean?”

The heat did finally break five days after we arrived, which turned out to be right around the same time a local fisherman spotted an oil slick floating in the Atlantic Ocean 115 feet above the downed wreckage. Our cabbie was just four days off. Somehow, a lojack on an airplane still sounds like a good idea to me. Even 11 years later.

Illustration by Eric Stine.

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