02 November 2012

#fridayflash: a long trip

 "How much longer?" Ethan went limp-limbed against his mother in the manner of all tired children.

Grace peered up the line, then craned her neck to check behind them. "We're over halfway now, honey."

"My feet hurt. Daddy, can you carry me? Just for a little bit?"

"Ethan, we told you, Mommy and Daddy have to pull the suitcases. You're a big boy now. Big boys stand in queues all by themselves."

Ethan pouted, but straightened up and placed himself between Grace and Frank as they shuffled forward a few more steps. He reached up to take their hands. Frank manoeuvred the suitcase to his left hand so he could hold on to Ethan's hand with his right.

The next time they moved forward, Ethan went limp, still clutching their hands. Grace and Frank hauled him back to his feet. Their eyes met over Ethan's head, and they let go at the same time.

"But I'm tired!" Ethan was starting to sound snivelly.

"Gran has lots of cushy chairs at her house," said Grace. "It'll be dinner-time when we get to England, and she'll sit you down on one of her dining room chairs with a big pillow on the seat so you can reach the table-top. She said she's making macaroni casserole just for you." The rest of us get roast, she mouthed to Frank over Ethan's head.

Ethan perked up a little when his favourite dish was mentioned, then he sagged again as they moved forward a few more steps. "We just had breakfast before we came to the telly port. It's gonna take us until dinner to get there?"

"No, we'll be there in about half an hour. Remember Mommy told you about time zones this morning when we were having breakfast? When we step on the teleport, it will be just before lunch-time, but when we zap to England, it will be almost dinner-time there. Then we go to the local teleportation queue, and then we'll be just four houses from Gran's."

"Why did we have to come here first?"

"It's the way they regulate it Ethan, you have to go through security and passport control first, and then you can go. Remember last summer we went to Vancouver? Anything more than one time zone you have to go through the checks. Look," Frank said, pointing to a gigantic black and white photo that decorated a section of one wall. "See that? That's the airport we're in now, thirty years ago. Those things sticking out are... are access bridges, that people used to walk on to go to travel. See those pointy machines with the wings sticking out? Those are airplanes. That's how Gran and Gramps came to Canada when they lived here, when I was little. Three hundred people used to get in one of those to travel all together."

"Airplanes," said Ethan. He stared at the photo. "So everyone got on, and then they all telly ported together?"

"There wasn't any teleportation yet. They flew through the air. It took them five or six hours to get to England from here."

"Wow," said Ethan. "That's really slow." Grace took his hand and gently pulled him forward when he didn't notice the people ahead had moved up again.

"See?" said Frank. "We've only been in line for about twenty minutes, and we've got only ten or fifteen minutes more until we're at Heathrow. That's not so bad, is it?"

Ethan was silent for a few shuffles, staring at the photo until they were too far ahead to see it anymore. Grace still had his hand, and she swung his arm back and forth in big arcs to distract him. Ethan giggled, and chanted a rhyme:
Gina Saunders
Sticks and bones
Ground her up
Far from home
When the police
Came out to play
Her head got up
And rolled away
The nerds tried
To make her better
But they’re too late
She’s gone forever!
"That's awful!" said Grace. "Where did you hear that from?"

"School," said Ethan. "Gerald and Charles and Anthony were saying it. Who's Gina Saunders?"

"Someone from a long time ago," said Grace. "She was a thief, and she got a bad scientist to help her get away. But then it turned out the bad scientist was even worse than she was."


Grace flinched. Gina Saunders was the reason the old travel regulations had been reinstated.

"He complained about standing in line," said Frank, coming to her rescue. Ethan scowled up at him, knowing he was being teased but unsure what to do about it.

"Look," said Grace. "There's only three people left in front of us. And then they'll scan our passports and check our luggage, and then we'll step on the pads and zap! we'll be there. It'll be night-time already, and Daddy will call Gran to say we're on our way, and then we'll get in another queue, but a short one, and zap! we'll be on Gran's and Gramp's street."

The person at the front of the queue put their suitcase on the baggage scanner and stepped into the body scanner. The queue shuffled forward.


  1. Love the link back to your earlier flash. I really enjoy your teleportation stories.

    1. Yeah, I don't know if there's an overarching plot with these, but they're definitely all in the same world. Glad they're enjoyable.

    2. I'd actually prefer if there wasn't an overarching plot, but rather they just connected in their own emergent ways. Enjoyed this one for different reasons than the previous telly porting flash - you did a lovely job drawing out the child's cuteness while also making him the mouthpiece for the deepest ugliness.

  2. Hah, the "telly port." Yup, kids are kids. And imagine the jet lag. It's bad enough now, but Ethan is going to be up until about 2am local! "But I'm not sleepy!" Poor Gran! :) At least he won't be cooped up on a plane, driving 300 people crazy.

    I remembered the story with Gina Saunders, once the parents explained it. Maybe you should add a link to people to get the context?

    1. Ha! I almost put a thing in about how in a world with teleportation, the parents give the kids Gravol after they arrive.

      Right, the magic of the world wide web! I should put that link in. Good idea, thank you.

  3. Hilarious that the queue takes longer than the journey itself. I remember after the would-be shoe bomber, we all had to remove our footwear to be checked at Dublin airport. Plane loads of people hopping around the concourse...

    marc nash

    1. In the future travel feels like waiting to get on a roller coaster at a popular amusement park.

      Recently I was allowed to walk through a scanner with my shoes on for the first time in years. Something about wearing flexible soles (just boring Clarks flats).

  4. It doesn't matter how the means of travel changes, kids still hate waiting in line.

    Usually it's "Are we nearly there yet?" Every five minutes.

    Really enjoyed the read Katherine.

    This line did make me smile too.. "He complained about standing in line," said Frank,

    1. Glad you liked it!

      Yeah, somehow Frank became one of those parents who see every interaction as a teachable moment.

  5. Teleporting sounds so much better than flying - to England from here its 22 hours at least!

    1. Yikes!

      What gets me is how much the "in-between" time takes -- getting to the airport, going through security, getting through customs. My recent 1.5 hour flight to New York City started at 10:00am and ended at 4:30pm.

  6. This was cute. There's a universality about the bored/tired child that lulled me nicely for the shock of the rhyme and the realisation that this was another of your teleporter stories.


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