General Fiction posted October 9, 2016

Not yet exceptional. When the exceptional rating is reached this is highlighted
A man has a strange experience on a plane

Tea leaves

by oliver818

The author has placed a warning on this post for language.

"Just pick up the pieces, Johnny. Be careful not to cut yourself. Then go and get the maid, that's a good boy."

Even as she lay on the floor, suffering from a broken leg after tripping on the chair leg, her only thoughts had been for his safety.

His hand in hers, tears streaming down his face, his fingers collected together the large pieces of broken china. Her body seemed so small. The tea seeped into the carpet, as his fingers collected the large bits of broken china. The thick, smoky odor of the tea wafted up, etching itself deep in his mind. Even after more than seventy years, he could still smell it. It lingered inside him like the blurred shadow of a half-discerned ghost.


The wing dipped far to the left and the plane vibrated and rattled as it gently spiraled through the clouds. Patches of dense forest and sea made brief appearances through the clouds. His fingers clutched a well-thumbed paperback, creasing the corner of the faded cover.

He shuddered as the plane hit a bump, and then there it was. The smell. A powerful, bitter and smokey odor that transported him back to that moment of his childhood. His eyes misted over. His fingers struggled with the seatbelt, it clinked and he was up. His eyes strained as they pounced on every passenger, searching, foraging, floundering in a sea of human bodies.

"Sir, sit down, please. Sir. You need to sit down, we're going to land."

His eyes struck upon something. Small, sharp fingers, pinching shut a plastic bag. The dark green contents came into view for a moment before the whole lot vanished into a pocket.

"Sir. I'm not going to tell you again. Sit down."

The fingers of his neighbor tugged at his sleeve. "Come on, mate, stop messing around. Sit down and put your seatbelt on before you get into trouble."

His eye took in the shape of the head, the folds of the long, dark hair, and then his body fell back into the seat.

His hands were still shaking as the plane taxied over to the terminal. His mind was overflowing with memories and questions. As the crowds stood, suitcases banged to the floor and bodies mashed together in an attempt to be the first off, the film-like scene of the long forgotten accident played out again in his mind.

Through the crowd he could still make out the long hair of the stranger. He knew his mother's accident could have nothing to do with him, but his memories pushed him forward. The man's pace was fast, and Johnny struggled to keep up. His eighty year old legs could hardly maintain the pace of the younger man, and sweat began to bead on his temples.

Still he thrust forward. At customs, his fingers twisted around his passport, his eyes firmly settled on the stranger walking away on the other side. Was the bag of tea still in his pocket, he wondered? If only I had a sense of smell like one of those drug dogs that had sniffed him before got on the plane, he thought.

The unsmiling customs officer had to pry the small, black book out of his hands.

"Business or pleasure?"

"I beg your pardon?"

"Are you in Australia for business or pleasure?"

"Pleasure, I guess. I'm here to see my daughter."

"Go through, please."

The long, wavy hair had disappeared. His eyes searched the baggage collection hall, moving on with a savage disdain for all that didn't match.

"Sir, do you need help?"


"Do you need help, sir? Finding your bag."

The gentle face of the airport worker came into focus.

"No. I mean yes. It's so big here. So hot."

"Let me see your ticket, please, sir. Oh yes, flight NZ767 from Auckland. Your baggage should be over here. What color is your suitcase?"


"Your suitcase, sir, what colour is it?"

"Oh, black I think. With a yellow ribbon on it. My wife's idea."

"What about this one here, sir?"

"Oh yes, that's it."

"I'll put it on a trolley for you, sir. Listen, sir, don't take this the wrong way, but is someone meeting you? You seem a little disoriented."

The black hair flashed as it slipped through the exit doors into the welcome hall.

"Oh, yes, my daughter should be here. Look, I really should be going. Thank you so much for your help."

The trolley wheels spun as it thrust forward. Startled passengers leapt aside as the old man raced across the hall. Shouts of outrage echoed after him.

"Sir, come back here. Sir. You can't run like that in here. Stop him."

His trolley burst through the doors. His eyes swung back and forth as he searched. Nothing. Loud barking and snarling could be heard as a dog scratched at the suitcase. Rough hands grabbed his shoulders, smooth hands pushed them off.

"What are you doing to my Dad? Get off him. Dad, are you okay?"

"Miss, we need to check his bags. He ran out of there like a nutcase. We can't leave that kind of behavior unchecked. And anyway, the sniffer dog is going crazy."

"Fine, check the bags then. He's an old man, he has nothing to hide."

"What's this, sir?"

"What's what?"

"These bags. Is that marijuana?"

"No, it's tea. Dad loves tea."

"Smell that, and tell me that's tea."

"Oh shit. Dad, what the hell is going on?"

"She didn't even get to drink any. She tripped before she could pour it for us. She went to the hospital. She went without the tea." Johnny swayed slightly as the memories crashed around his mind.

"It can't be his. He's off his rocker."

"Watch how you speak about my dad, you bastard. "

"You watch your mouth, miss."

"Don't you miss me. You can't treat him like this. It's not his, someone must have stuck it in his bag."

"Well, I suppose that would make more sense. We could go and look at the video footage."

"You do that. Meanwhile, he needs to lie down. He's an old man. This stress is bad for his heart."

"Okay, let's get him to the first aid room. Jimmy, you go take a look at his bags again and get someone to check the security cameras to see if anyone slipped anything inside them after he arrived."


"Mr. Banks, Mr. Banks, can you hear me?"

"Dad? Wake up."

The smell was back. That haunting, bittersweet scent wafted over him. "Mother?"

"Dad. Come on."

His eyelids struggled up.

"Is that you, Jenny?"

"Yes, Dad, it's me. It's okay, they found the man who did it. We can go home."

"Did what, dear?"

"Put the drugs in your bag. I told them it couldn't be you."

"Couldn't be me?"

"Of course, Dad. Anyway, are you feeling up to to standing up?"

"I think so, love."

"Okay, let's get you home."

The smell lingered for a moment and then was gone. His head whirled a little as they made their way out of the first aid room and out to the car.

What Happened? writing prompt entry
Writing Prompt
Write a story that starts with: "Just pick up the pieces..."
Pays one point and 2 member cents.

Artwork by Joelgraphuchin at

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