A Stop in the Tropics

by Stephen Fournier

Scene: A corridor. People are in line. Talking.

Marge: “Excuse me, but do you know what's happening?”

Joe: “No more than you do. I slept for awhile. Maybe I missed an earlier announcement. ”

Marge: “I was asleep, too. Still pretty drowsy. My phone won't work.”

Joe: “Mine either.”

PA: “(Please proceed to the exit at the front of the aircraft. Technical problems have delayed us temporarily, Please leave your carry on luggage on board. On leaving the aircraft proceed in single file to the arrival lounge for a complimentary dinner.) “

Marge: “There’s that announcement again. Well, that's some information. I haven't heard anybody say where we are, though. I'd ask one of the attendants, but I haven’t seen one. “

Joe: “I haven't seen one. I’m pretty hungry, though. “

Marge: “I’m overdue at home. Just spent two weeks with my sister and her new baby. I’d like to know where the heck we are and why we’re getting off.”

Joe: “To refuel, probably. We’re not where we’re supposed to be. I’ve been diverted before, but never like this. I didn’t hear about any weather before we left. “

Marge: “Do you think it was weather?”

Joe: “I just don’t know. I’m a little drowsy, too, almost like I was drugged. Somebody drugged the coffee? Don’t think so.”

Marge: “I didn’t have coffee. I’m Marge, by the way.”

Joe: “Joe. Better turn around. The line is moving. “

Marge: “Oh yeah. Slow.”

PA: “(Please remain in single file. Out of consideration for fellow passengers, please keep voices down.)”

Kevin: “I paid for a ticket, and I demand to know what the fuck is going on here. Let me talk to a person, for Christ’s sake. Hey . . .”

Joe: “Joe.”

Kevin: “Hey, what’s your best guess what this is about?”

Joe: “Haven’t the slightest. I don’t like it.”

PA: “(Please remain in single file. Out of consideration for fellow passengers, please keep voices down.)”

Kevin: “I hate it. Have you seen anybody to complain to?”

Joe: “I just woke up. As we were landing. Couldn’t make out anything on the ground, just the runway lights. It’s not any city I ever landed in before. “

PA: “(Please remain in single file. Out of consideration for fellow passengers, please keep voices down.)”

Kevin: “Hey, is anybody out there? What is this? “

Joe: “Maybe at the end of this corridor we’ll find out. “

Marge: “Oh, sorry!”

Kevin: “That’s OK. Leg cramp?”

Marge: “Yes. I’m Marge.”

Kevin: “Kevin”

Joe: “OK Kevin and Marge, it looks like people are leaving the line maybe 20 places in front you.“

PA: “(Please remain in single file. Out of consideration for fellow passengers, please keep voices down.)”

Kevin: “Yeah, fuck you. I don’t like this single file crap. “

Marge: “It’s not like there’s any room to cut. That must be the arrival lounge up there. Maybe they’re checking people in. This is weird. I feel like a prisoner. And no people around except passengers. Like a phantom flight or something. “

Kevin: “So you don’t like it either. “

Joe: “So you think this is some sort of scam? How? Why?”

Kevin: “Don’t know. What’s happening at the front of the line.?”

Joe: “Looks like they’re going through a door on the left.”

Marge: “Are those video cameras up there?”

Kevin: “Looks like. So somebody’s watching us and dispensing instructions from a control room of some kind. “

Joe: “Could be miles away. “

Kevin: “Could be. Probably not the airline. The instructions would be in six languages. If I knew where I was, I’d be considering an escape about now. “

Joe: “Yeah, we’re probably better off following instructions. Nobody’s hurt anybody.”

Kevin: “Nobody’s here. “

Marge: “I think it’s some sort of psych experiment. Or maybe a TV show. It will probably be over just as we’re catching on to the gag, which this isn’t. Kevin, you’re next. Maybe it’s an elevator. Or something is eating the people up. “

Joe: “There he goes. “

Marge: “My turn.”

Scene: A large open room. People are grouped in twos and threes. Talking. All wear identical white cotton trousers, smocks and shoes.

Marge: “So that was interesting. Everybody cool in cotton. Gin and tonic. Still in season. Still no people but us. Everything’s automatic. Complimentary. Sorry I didn’t wait for you at the exit.”

Joe: “Don’t worry about it. What do you think? I didn’t care for the part where the shower stall took my stuff. Not that this outfit isn’t comfortable. “

Marge: “Whatever this is, it’s comfortable. Buffet, very nice. Drinks. Conviviality. Except I’m supposed to be in Los Angeles by now, and this isn’t it. And there’s nobody to ask. Just video instructions.”

Joe: “What about Kevin?”

Marge: “Haven’t seen him. Nobody has phone. It’s warm and a little humid on the patio over there, and there are palm trees and bugs on the screen. Could be Florida. Could be Mexico. “

Joe: “Anybody count us? “

Marge: “Somebody said 85 Some of them don’t speak English. I heard Japanese. Spanish. Arabic. A few are crying. One is definitely over 80. A couple of diabetics. They’re pretty shook.”

Joe: “You hear that? That’s an airliner taking off. Hope it’s not ours”

Marge: “I think we’re definitely marooned here, and somebody’s definitely got plans for us. What are we supposed to do, start a colony?”

Joe: “It doesn’t seem like anybody could get away with a mass kidnapping like this, but if this place is as remote as it looks, maybe it’s possible. Somebody landed us here and flew away.”

Marge: “Maybe it’s Cuba. Maybe it was the US government that kidnapped us. Somebody was on board, maybe Kevin, and the government doesn’t want to have to explain what they did with him and we’ll be back on our way in an hour. I bet it’s Cuba. There’s a US Navy base there. The weather is right. Look, more people. “

Joe: “And I recognize one of them. He was behind me in line at Dunkin Donuts this morning. I didn’t see him on our airplane. Hey. Excuse me. What do you think is happening here?”

Earl: “I don’t know. They’re deporting tourists to concentration camps? Where do I know you from?”

Joe: “Dunkin Donuts. This morning”

Earl: “Right, right. “

Leader: “Hey everybody, announcement, announcement.”

Joe: “I’m Joe, this is . . . Marge, right?”

Marge: “Marge.”

Leader: “Announcement”

Earl: “Earl. Let’s hear what this guy has to say. Can’t believe what’s going on here.”

Leader: “People, we’re passengers without an airplane. Our crew left us here, and nobody seems to know where we are. We have no communications. It looks like somebody’s providing us with food and there are dormitories back there, but it’s all automated. The people that are just arriving are from another flight, and they don’t know why we’re here either. Passengers on Flight 11 with me heard two jets take off and two jets land, so there may be more people coming. I appointed myself to speak because I have a loud voice, but we ought to get a committee together to figure this out. “

Joe: “Experiment in self-government. You were right.”

Marge: “Like Lord of the Flies, but with grown-ups and a cafeteria.”

Joe: “Earl, what do you make of all this?”

Earl: “Maybe there’s something going on in LA that we’re not supposed to find out about. Your flight and my flight were both headed there. “

Marge: “Two planeloads of passengers, Boston to LA. “

Joe: “Excuse me, but do you know the guy who made the announcement? “

Guy: “I think that’s him over there. Joining the committee? “

Joe: “Well, I have some ideas. (to Marge) I think we’re stuck here for a good long time. “

Marge: “Why”

Joe: “We’re witnesses to our own kidnappings. This is a spectacular crime. If we get loose, people go to jail”

Marge: “Like who?”

Joe: “Our crew, for one. Their uniforms looked genuine, but I’m not so sure of their name tags. We had a good look at all of them. Let me loose, and I’ll find them and see them in irons.”

Marge: “What if we quit worrying and enjoy this while it lasts? Pick out partners. Multiply. Choose up sides. Have wars. Keep a history. Wear shells. “

Joe: “Happy ending?”

Marge: “Why not?”

Joe: “Obligations. For me, tomorrow at 7. I’m not going to make it either. “

Marge: “Me too, day after tomorrow. What’s today. The 11th? “

Joe: “September 11. 9/11/01. Appropriate. 9/11. Get it? “

copyright 2008 Stephen Fournier