The Samoa Incident – Chapter 1
The Samoa Incident is something I’m writing for fun. I’m going to publish it on my blog a chapter at a time.
The plane touched down at Faleolo International Airport. A broadcast from the cockpit came over the speakers as the pilot confirmed the smooth landing.
Sean sat on a couch, two rows from the last. The reek of the toilets was strong, his flight had not been pleasant because of this.
“Enjoy your stay in Samoa,” the pilot said and the broadcast ended.
Sean was not entirely sure why he had chosen to come here. But Samoa was far from home and that suited him just fine.
The plane rounded the runway and at last came to a stop. Sean unbuckled his seatbelt and stood. He gathered his bag from the overhead stowage bin and waited.
It had been a full flight. As far as Sean could tell, not a seat had been empty. Now passengers were in the aisle waiting for the moment they could get off the plane. Sean guessed that more than a few people were travel weary and cranky.
The line started to move. Sean walked carefully, carrying his bag in front of him. He hated planes, because of how tight they were. There was barely enough room to move. No wonder terrorists saw airplanes as worthy targets. Passengers were grounded to their seats and would not be able to do much in a crisis.
He reached the end of the aisle, had a brief look into the cockpit and then exited the plane.
The heat consumed him as he walked down the steps to the pavement. The moment he was on solid ground again was the moment he felt relief.
It was dawn, the sun still a thin yellow line to the east. People back home would be finishing their lunch hours and going back to work. Alicia was probably lodging in the living room of the house she and her sister shared, watching TV and wondering when he was going to call.
He hadn’t told her he was leaving. He hadn’t mentioned it to anyone for that matter, and he wasn’t sure when he would. He wasn’t ready to talk to anyone, especially Alicia, and he didn’t want to think about her.
He turned away from the rising sun as if turning his back on home.
Sean walked across the tarmac toward the huge building. Every window was alight and he could see various people inside, many looking out on the aircraft he had just arrived in. A sign near the entrance glowed white, red and blue.
Talofa & Welcome
Sean pushed through the door and got into one of the lines of people waiting to have their passports stamped by the immigration officer.
Sean recognized some of the people from the plane. There was the big guy who had sat a few rolls in front of Sean. The guy had been talking a lot on the plane, but now he was quiet.
The elderly couple who had been in front of him on the plane just had their passports stamped and were moving off, each towing a suitcase on wheels.
The line shortened.
The three young women in front of Sean were a group that had sat across the aisle from him on the plane. They put their passports and other identification on the counter together and the immigration officer looked over each quickly and stamped them in order. The passports were handed back and the women moved on.
Sean stepped up to the counter and handed over his passport and driver’s license. He was lucky he remembered to bring the passport at all. He had left home in a hurry, just threw some things into a bag and hit the road. He had no idea where he was going, but somehow ended up at Bishop International Airport in Flint and booked a flight out of state.
That flight had taken him to Chicago and he still didn’t know where he was going.
The immigration officer stamped Sean’s passport and handed it back over the counter with his driver’s license.
“Have a nice time,” she said and smiled.
Sean nodded politely and stuffed his passport and license into his bag.
He left the immigration area. Four men in Aloha shirts stood on a platform playing acoustic guitars. Two of the women who had been in front of him in the immigration line were collecting their bags from the baggage claim. Both were in their early to mid twenties. The third member of their group was not there, but she had been at least a few years younger than her two friends.
As Sean walked by, one of the women said something to the other in a language he didn’t recognize. When they started looking around, Sean understood that they had realized the third member of their group was not with them.
Sean made a quick scan of the airport, but the youngest of the trio was nowhere in sight. Perhaps she stepped into the bathroom and hadn’t taken the time to inform her friends because of a sudden kick of leftover air sickness. He remembered the girl had said very little on the plane, while her friends had talked constantly. If they spoke English, though, they had not uttered a word of it while in his presence.
Sean wanted to suggest the two women check the bathroom, but he didn’t want to deal with an awkward moment if it turned out they couldn’t understand him. He moved on. If their friend didn’t show up soon, he was sure they would check around and find her.
He walked into the middle of the airport and stopped. The exit was in front of him, but he didn’t know where he was going from there. There would be taxis and buses, he was sure. But he hadn’t made reservations anywhere and hence had no destined place to be. What would he tell a taxi driver?
Then a sign for Discovery Rentals caught his eye.
Forty-five minutes later, Sean walked out of the airport with a temporary Samoa driver’s license and a rental agreement in his pocket. The Hyundai Tucson was already parked at the curb and a Discovery Rental employee climbed out.
“Have fun,” the man said.
“Thanks,” Sean said. He slid into the driver’s seat and closed the door. Relieved that the man had let the air conditioner run, Sean dropped the gear lever to Drive.
He had driven cars with the steering wheel on the right side many times before, but he still felt awkward as he drove through the parking lot.
He turned left onto the road. Traffic was almost nonexistent as he drove east toward Apia.