“Airport Caddy,” flash fiction by Elizabeth Bruce; Art by Erik Kaye

"Jan and Theo," watercolor by Erik Kaye, copyright 2017

“Jan and Theo,” watercolor by Erik Kaye, copyright 2017

Editor’s Note: This is an endearing funny story by Elizabeth Bruce. Erik Kaye’s watercolor painting is pure genius!

flash fiction by Elizabeth Bruce, copyright 2017


One dollar? Just to rent a stupid cart? “Airport caddy,” they call it. “To lighten your load. Put the pleasure back in traveling.” Gillian let her hard suitcase plop to the floor. Christ, why the hell did she bring this dinosaur suitcase along? What was she thinking? Trying to re-create some bourgeois traveling experience of her childhood when her mother had insisted that her girls wear dark wash and wear dresses, thin plain white socks and black patent shoes, straps down for Marilyn the oldest, straps up for Gillian the younger?

Back then, though, they’d used Sky Caps, those hard working human caddies in red hats who could glide a dally full of luggage through a crowded airport like Jean Claude Killy slaloming down the Alps. “Thank you so much, young man,” their mother would have said to the dark-skinned man who would have smiled that surface smile that always fooled rich folks, Gillian’s mother notwithstanding, as she sailed through the airport like Grace Kelly herself, fluttering her white-gloved fingers at the check in gate. Tipping his red hat, the man would have nodded his head ever so slightly as Gillian’s mother pressed the crisp dollar bill into his discreetly unfurled palm, and off he’d go, his dolly racing behind him as the three of them—“Girls of the World,” she’d called them in her best Rosalind Russell voice—stepped up to the ticket counter.

Back then each little girl had carried her own pint-sized “make-up kits,” as if six and seven year old girls needed make-up, carefully packed with child-sized Oral-B soft toothbrushes and Pepsodent tooth powder, tiny soap bars from some Holiday Inn their father had stayed at and little shakers of Johnson’s baby powder to prevent blisters. Gillian and Marilyn had wrapped their Tinkerbell shampoo and crème rinse in pink washrags and stuffed them inside plastic sandwich bags, just in case, their mother cautioned, the glass bottles shattered in the altitude. Back then, Gillian remembers, cargo holds weren’t pressurized.

Back then, I wasn’t pressurized, either, Gillian thinks. Back then, time stood still, at least for their mama, who moved through the world like the Sky Caps did, sliding past all obstacles in her path, a smile on her face, and dollars in her sensible black pocketbook.
God, how did she do that? Gillian thinks and pulls her overfilled handbag up on top of her suitcase to begin the search for an elusive dollar. There, at the bottom of her bag, she finds one, crunched up next to a ballpoint pen leaking sticky blue ink all over the face of George Washington, all over the white lining of the thrift store purse, all over Gillian’s ungloved hands.

“Great. Just great,” she says, wiping off the shiny midnight blue smudged across three fingertips and a knuckle. This would have never happened to my mother, she thinks, remembering her mother’s hands holding theirs as they boarded the plane where the smiling beauties then called stewardesses handed them each a box of Chiclets to chew as the turbo prop plane rumbled down the runway and lifted up into the air like a water ballerina with wings.

Back then, their mother would have straightened her skirt, lit up a Viceroy and settled back for a well-deserved smoke.

Back then, Gillian wouldn’t have noticed any of it—not the Sky Caps nor the white gloves nor the ease with which her mother dispensed dollars–but now, ten hours into her transcontinental sojourn, she really, really wanted that airport caddy.

So Gillian, whom her mother had called her dear, sweet, unfrivolous girl, Gillian the miser, Gillian the tightwad, Gillian, the only solvent member of her family now, rubbed the shiny blue ink off the face of George Washington with the underside of her hem, smoothed the worn dollar bill into the slot, and, with a silent prayer to the patron saint of discolored faces, pressed the lever forward and magically, the airport caddy rolled forward, bumping Gillian on the toe and offering itself up to her, the bone weary traveler, with the same earnest brawn the pallbearers would show tomorrow at her mother’s funeral.

“Oh darling,” Gillian knew her mother would have said seeing her daughter lug the suitcase onto the airport caddy, “Not everything needs to be so hard. You deserve a little respite once in a while. And sometimes all it costs is a dollar.”
“Just one little dollar, dear.”

Bio: Elizabeth Bruce. DC-based Texas writer/theatre artist/educator Elizabeth Bruce’s debut novel, “And Silent Left the Place,” won Washington Writers’ Publishing House’s Award, ForeWord Magazine’s Bronze Fiction Prize, and was Texas Institute of Letters’ Best First Fiction Finalist. Fiction publication (USA/UK/Australia): Gargoyle64, FireWords Quarterly, Inklette, Lines&Stars, The Song Is.., ‘Merica Magazine, Pure Slush, Gravity Dancers, Olive Press, Remembered Arts, Degenerate Literature, BareBack Magazine, Washington Post. Upcoming: How Well You Walk through Madness, Vine Leaves Literary Journal, CentroNía Press–Theatrical Journey Playbook: Introducing Science to Young Children through Guided Pretend Play.” Fellowships: DC Commission on the Arts & Humanities, Poets &Writers, McCarthey Dressman Education Foundation.


Erik Kaye’s Real Autobiography: “I made a decision when I was in college that has defined my life. I decided not to pursue a career in Art until I first overcame a mysterious condition in my life that finally turned out to be Adult ADD. I thought I could just coast on secondary jobs, working in print shops and later, teaching English-as-a-Foreign-Language in Japan, until the inevitable completion of my real work, ADD-Busting. Which never came, at least not until now that I’m in my 60s. But such is the way of art; painting is a solitary avocation that is as much about the transformative journey as it is about acquiring technical skill.” Erik is now a full time artist living in Hawaii. To see more of his amazing artwork, click: https://erikkayeart.wordpress.com/



Categories: flash fiction by Ellizabeth Bruce, watercolor by Erik Kaye

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