figment friday – baggage
this week’s daily themes have been focused on varying approaches toward developing a novel-in-progress. that has been interesting practice for me, because i’ve never actually crafted a fully-realized fictional piece, aside from the short stories i wrote as a kid. since novel development doesn’t really result in blog-sized essays, this week’s figment friday post is my response to a writing prompt from the first week in january–before i decided to share.
PROMPT: You’re on an airplane, mid-flight, when one of the overhead bins suddenly opens. Three bags fall out, spilling their contents up and down the aisle. Describe the three bags and what was in each. Through your descriptions, show us who their owners are and what those people are like. **Added challenge: Turn those bags into characters. Try using personification and other forms of figurative language to make the baggage itself have, well, baggage.
the occasional shudder of turbulence suddenly becomes a stomach-lurching dip in altitude that incites a collective gasp from the passengers. before i can fully recover, the overhead compartment across the aisle flies open, pouring it’s cargo into the cabin.
the strap of an oversized purple and orange tote snags on the latch of the overhead bin, and the tired bag hangs upside down from the hook, emptying it’s contents with a sigh onto the lap of the lady in the aisle seat. relieved to be free of the heavy load, the well-worn satchel dances an aerial jig with the bounce of the airplane.
while the startled young woman tries to decide whether to cover her head or catch the items raining down on her, the briefcase that was nestled behind the colorful carryall slides forward, launches across the aisle, and slams angrily into the headrest of the seat in front of me. the seat’s occupant, clearly oblivious to the concussion he narrowly averted, whips around to deliver a glare that says he holds me responsible for the rattling annoyance.
i immediately throw my hands up in a display of innocence, but before he can even acknowledge my gesture, an overstuffed backpack tumbles out of the open bin and catches him right across the nose. he curses and stares down at the paunchy pack, which has settled on top of what must be his own briefcase, judging by the speed with which he unbuckles so he can reach it.
but as the suit-clad man snatches the surly case up by the handle, it’s evident that the closure was damaged on it’s impact with either the seat or the floor. wounded from it’s attempted assault, the ornery attaché falls open and releases a steady stream of papers…no, pamphlets…no, comic books! “graphic novels,” i hear him mutter as he hastily gathers the fluttering pages.
meanwhile, the boy in the window seat is clamoring over the woman with a lap full of her belongings to get to his bulging knapsack. he upsets the pile of paraphernalia she had been assembling, and the magazines, lipsticks, candy, pens, half-crocheted scarf, ball of yarn, and red cloche hat spill into the aisle and roll toward first class. a flight attendant positions herself in front of the curtain in a wide-legged crouch, ready to play goalie and block any coach possessions from breaking through.
the boy crawls under a surprised passenger’s feet to retrieve his bag, and trips the businessman chasing down a runaway comic caught in the stream of an air vent over his head. both right themselves, and while the red-faced man retreats to his seat, the boy tries to refasten the canvas belt that had been cinched around the pudgy backpack.
the numerous zippers were already straining to contain the excess of stuff, so with the belt loosened, the sack exhales gratefully and lets the hoodie in the middle pocket hang out a little. the boy shoves it back in, but this only widens the gap at the top, ejecting an mp3player and tangle of headphones. the poor guy clamps his hand over the opening too late to prevent a heavy book from forcing the zipper wide open. the bright yellow volume lies on the floor just long enough for me to read “Baking for Dummies” before it disappears under his t-shirt.
the uncompliant backpack continues to refuse the property of its exasperated owner, so he finally scoops up all his things in a bulky bear hug. he awkwardly climbs back into his window seat just as an attendant announces “the captain has turned on the fasten seat belt sign…”