Em and I went on a trip to Boise, Idaho. The only thing I knew about Idaho was that they have the best potatoes in the world, but I went to visit a cousin in Wisconsin one year, and the baked potato he bought me from Sam’s Deli and Craft Supplies was the best thing I've ever consumed. It was kind of fruity. That’s not to say the Boise potatoes weren’t good, but when you’re a state and you’re known for a food, it better be the best hands down.
I was recently fired from my job as a rock-climbing instructor, so it was nice to spend some time in Idaho with a good pal. Apparently to hold down this job, people really care that you know how to rock climb. And they tell you this after you lie your way through the interview. America is full of morons.
We stood in line at airport security to head back home to Mississippi, and I was sad our trip was coming to an end. Em got pulled over for having too many snacks in her bag. She had almonds, walnuts, dried mangoes. She preferred to snack over eating meals. I got pulled over because they thought my cantaloupe was a bomb. “It’s just a cantaloupe,” I said. “We’re gonna have to pat it down,” they told me. “He won’t let you until he gets his lawyer,” I said. No one laughed.
Once we got through, Em was up in boarding group 1, while I was back in boarding group 5. It’s a terrible system. Makes me feel like a feudal serf. As I waited alone, anxious to get on this plane to Mississippi, I started counting one Mississippi, two Mississippi, three Mississippi… as I was taught to in the fourth grade. Why do I have to be reminded of my horrible home every time I wait in lines? I just want to pass the time, not remember that family dinner when I found my cousin Earl and my other cousin Janis hooking up in the bathtub.
When I finally got to the front of the line, the lady told me the plane had just been filled, and there were no seats left. “Not with that attitude,” mumbled the man behind me. I turned around. It was Benjamin Franklin.
I couldn’t quite understand why Benjamin Franklin was boarding a plane to Mississippi. I also couldn’t understand why he was currently in Boise, Idaho. Maybe he wanted to try the potatoes. I wonder how he liked them. But there was no time to think about any of this.
Benji grabbed me by the arm, and told the lady, “Wait here.” As we power-walked, arms linked, he told me that we were never going to have to see that lady again. He didn’t look me in the eyes either. This man was on a mission.
“Benji, there’s one problem,” I said.
“There’s never a problem that can’t be fixed.” Benjamin Franklin was a true optimist.
“Well, my friend is on that plane.”
“Er, oof,” said Benji. He looked down at his shoes then spat on the airport floor. He rubbed his foot in the spit, making a squeaking sound. He ruminated hard. He then looked up at the ceiling and made an obnoxiously loud yawn. It looked like he hadn’t brushed his teeth in ages. “Alright, so we won’t find another flight. We’ll move to plan B.”
It’s never very reassuring to move to plan B when you came up with plan A five seconds before. Especially when it’s really plan C, because the original plan A was to just board the plane. Either way, I had heard a lot about this guy, so I felt comfortable trusting him.
He started emptying his backpack furiously. He took out a kite, a chess board, and a pros and cons list of staying with his wife, Deborah Read. That marriage must not be going too well. I saw something that said ‘affair with Jane Austen’ but I wasn’t quite sure. When he felt satisfied, he looked over at me and said, “Sometimes you just gotta lighten the load.” It sounded a little like a proverb, but it also sounded like what annoying people say when they feel like you can’t have silence in a conversation.
We returned to the front desk lady, and she looked no happier than before. One could say less happier as a matter of fact. But Benji made his case. If he had the time to become a lawyer, I swear he’d be a great one.
He threw his backpack on the front desk. An orange fell out and the lady grabbed it and took a bite out of it as if it were an apple. Juice squirted in my eyes. It stung like when you get shampoo in your eyes, but there was no shower to wash my eyes out. I groaned, and Benji slapped me on the back of the head. He later said that was a secret to curing stinging eyes, but that’s a load of bull.
While he explained why we needed to get on the flight, I stood there in pain. But I also started craving an orange. As I was about to go find an orange to buy, I heard Benji yell, “one Mississippi, two Mississippi…” God, I hate that.
The next thing I know, he leapt over the front desk screaming, so I followed suit. I felt bad for the lady though because we were really causing a ruckus, so I opened my bag and gave her the cantaloupe I had bought in Boise. I figured it was a nice gesture.
Benji and I sprinted down the jet bridge to board the plane, but when we got to the edge, there was no plane. The plane was gone. This was not good. There was rain and thunder, so it was difficult to see anything at all. I knew Em was probably worried about me, but she was also going to be pissed because I had her chickpeas in my fanny pack. If there’s anything better than a Wisconsin potato, it’s a Mississippi chickpea. And nobody knows that more than Em.
I started to panic, but Benji remained steadfast. He was a resilient man. Gears in full motion in his brain, I could feel him coming up with a plan. I thought about mentioning I had rock-climbing skills on my resume, but I remained silent because that was technically a lie. Grabbing his kite, he put it in his mouth as he continued digging through his backpack. A plane rolled by right next to us, and I could see Em, asleep, face pressed against the window. Benji gave me the line, as he held the frame and leapt onto the plane. The way this man was leaping today, you would’ve thought he was an ancient LeBron James. But as he jumped into the air with the kite, lightning struck and electrocuted him. Benjamin Franklin was dead. I’ll never know his thoughts on Idaho potatoes.
Not only did he die, but he discovered electricity too. It was a pretty remarkable feat. The whole fiasco became worldwide news, and it delayed our flight tremendously, but I was still able to get on and get a seat next to Em. She was out cold the whole time, though, so when I tell this story at parties, she insists I made the whole thing up. But I'll never forget the memories I shared with Benji. Every time I turn on the lights I think of his beautiful smile and his uncombed hair. And I wonder if Jane Austen misses him.
©2019 Jake Schick