The Days & Nights of Trudy Netherworld

Bryan Alston Patrick

Part 1

A bunch of drunks walk into an airport bar. Actually, they were already sitting here. Shelly is hunched over her gin and tonic as usual. She’s in her late fifties and barely resembles the cutie she once was. Her face sags with resignation and despair. Her dark hair is wild and frizzy from being washed occasionally and otherwise ignored.

Jerry is next to her, drinking whiskey and beer and not quite chain smoking. This is the Raleigh-Durham airport where smoking is still permitted. You can smell the collective ashtray upon deplaning.

Jerry used to work at the airport. Now he just hangs out here, slouching and balding. The bar is curved in a way that allows the regulars to sit next to each other without sitting next to each other. Bill is a semi-retired attorney. He and Jerry don’t like each other but they like to argue, especially about religion. Bill has a condescending patience with Jerry. It flows from his suspicion that Jerry has a bona fide cognitive or neurological disorder.

Shelly can’t stand either one of them. But that doesn’t have much to do with either Bill or Jerry. Shelly can’t stand anyone.

Mack is a baggage handler. He winds down here after almost every shift. Occasionally, he goes to the imitation Irish pub in terminal C but normally it’s right here at the unnamed bar in the older section of D that looks like the basement of Blade Runner. Flights to Mexico, Puerto Rico and Dominican Republic depart from the nearest gates so “there’s a lot of español going around,” as Jerry likes to put it.

Thaddeus has never been here. He’s stuck between flights due to weather delays in Dallas, missed connections and rerouting that now has him spending the night in the Raleigh-Durham airport. Because the problems are weather related and not mechanical, the airline is under no obligation to do anything for him. Forget about a hotel room, they haven’t even dealt out meal vouchers.

He’s on vacation, technically, so he can’t expense his accommodations, like he could have in the old days before the fucking shareholders took over, sweating accounts payable to drill down to the bone on every expense report. He could easily afford a decent hotel but he’s on standby. It’s totally possible the way things have been going that the moment he gets settled into his room he has to turn around and head right back to the airport.

So fuck it, he’s drinking.

“Cheers,” he says emptily to Shelly, Jerry, Bill and Mack, even though he doesn’t know them.

He’s just being friendly.

“What’s that even mean, ‘we’re all going to hell’?” Bill asks Jerry in a lazy cross-examination.

“You know damn well what it means, shyster.”

The insult rolls off Bill like a cocktail spilled on chemically treated polyester. “There are so many different hells described throughout the history of religions. Which one do you mean?”

“I mean the hell, son. Rest a them is just a bunch a made up manure.”

“So, okay, I think I’m beginning to understand. The hell is the one that’s not made up.”

“Yeah, you finally startin’ to get it now with your fancy degree and your important profession, ain’t gon’ mean jack rabbit turd in that lake a fire.”

“But I’m curious, Jerry. Does one size really fit all in hell? I mean one man’s hell could be another man’s paradise. Shouldn’t it be more personal?”

“Oh, son, it’s plenty personal. You just wait. I bet you’ll not be disappointed.”

Jerry is showing signs of real sizzling rage and spite while Bill plays semantic games with an apparent insouciance that betrays his true feelings. The things he’s done for acquittals, to keep the sign on the door and the lights on, to make that mortgage payment—the part of him that would rather drink than speak desperately hopes that Jerry is as ignorant, full of shit and borderline crazy as he seems.

Thad raises his second martini as another friendly gesture no one notices. And that’s fine. He shouldn’t want to talk to these people anyway. He wouldn’t have ever encountered them were it not for this unforeseen sequence of events hurdling him into such a…there’s a word he’s looking for but suddenly doesn’t want to use in such…an unpleasant setting.

Maybe a few years earlier, he would have approached a similar situation differently, with an air of opportunism he can no longer conjure. He was better looking then, and might have scanned the area for a single woman interested in an empty, slightly demeaning sexual encounter. Tonight, he headed straight for the bar having already made the semi-conscious choice to sit down and get drunk.

Because fuck it—he’s on vacation—getting sober can wait. As a senior consultant for Grant Information Systems, he’s overpaid to do a job he can do competently while drunk, high and napping. He hasn’t seriously dated anyone in a number of years he refuses to count—it’s however many have passed since the divorce and that makes perfect sense because there’s a reason—there are reasons—for it, having tried to love, gotten all vulnerable and been burned. It’s no wonder he hasn’t been able to get anything going romantically, on a lasting basis. He’s naturally reluctant after that oil spill of a marriage poisoned everything in the surrounding environment. Only a fool would rush back into commitment after something like that. Reluctance in Thad’s case is a clear sign of intelligence.

Another martini arrives just in time as the result of eye contact and hand gestures that have become an instinctive, reflexive language like an expat might pick up on the streets of Bangkok, learning to get around, acquire food and survive without fluency in the native tongue.

He lifts the glass again but not as high, giving up on the motion before completing it. The cold salty liquid fills his mouth just in time to wash away troublesome thoughts looking for purchase as future words.

Jerry and Bill are still going at each other. While there’s no overt racial tension between them, it would surprise no one to hear the n word come out of Jerry’s mouth. Such an utterance wouldn’t necessarily disclose actual prejudice or even race-based resentment. It would simply make sense as the syntactical choice of a man seething to the point of a craving only idiotic meanness can quell.

“You two are such dopes.” Shelly finally says, having heard enough, or perhaps too little.

Mack chuckles in a way that could be real appreciation but is more likely the first move in a surreptitious campaign to have sex with Shelly that will come and go in the time it takes him to drink beyond desire.

“You have this same argument again and again without ever seeing the absurdity of it.” She swirls the ice around in her glass, prepping the next sip and the punch line. “Both of you ‘r already in hell. This is it.”

Jerry softens up for the first time all night. Bill sips his drink like he’s considering the point on a purely academic level, just to be polite.

Thad is overhearing everything from the slope of the bar opposite Shelly. He’s inclined to dismiss anything a “woman like her” would say with zero hesitation but he can’t quite do that. She’s tickled the darkness within him and it’s stirring now like a wild dog that hasn’t eaten in days. It’s skinny and mangy and desperate. It doesn’t care who gets hurt. Hence, it needs to remain caged.

“I don’t know,” Thad says, addressing his bar mates for the first time directly as he glances around the space—at the televisions rolling sports and news feeds, the mirrored wall behind the shelves of bottles, the colorful branded tap handles, the mix of old and youngish tossed together indiscriminately by the sweeping current of modern air travel like tiny marine animals in the mouth of a whale, swallowed in this case by the maw-like opening at the end of the terminal—contextualizing his next remark. “This place isn’t all that bad. I’d say it’s more purgatorial than hellish.”

“She ain’t talkin’ ’bout the bar,” Mack says like an old bluesman sneaking wicked riddles into song.

“No, I hear you,” Bill says, showing the bartender his empty glass.

She gives him the look that says she’ll be right there even though she doesn’t want to but that doesn’t actually have anything to do with Bill despite appearances to that effect.

According to her nametag, the bartender’s name is Jo-Jo. She’s been dating a man named Percy for several years. Percy is in and out of rehab and jail regularly. He comes home to Jo when he’s loose. Then it’s only a matter of time. Last night he got arrested again. She’s sad and disgusted with herself. Although she’s been working at this bar for three years, she just got this shift two nights earlier and the regulars are still new. The guy in the suit she doesn’t recognize at all. He’s not a regular, just an alcoholic, aging prematurely now that it’s caught up with him. He keeps looking at her mouth with undisguised prurience.

“Shelly’s suggesting that everything we know as normal day to day reality is actually a kind of hell.” Bill says like he’s translating for Jerry.

Jerry sneers at him.

“Not a kind of hell,” Shelly says. “Just hell.”

“That don’t make no sense,” Jerry says, having had a moment to reflect. “Where’s my daddy and my mama then, rest their souls? Ain’t hell supposed to be eternal?”

“Jerry makes a good point, Shelly.” Bill plays moderator.

“They went on to a better place or a worse place,” Shelly answers quickly, “depending.”

“On what?” Jerry makes no effort to hide his distress. He’s right out in the open like the cigar burn scars on his forearms.

“The decisions they made while they were here,” Shelly tells him like a weary expert on the subject out of patience with innocent naïveté.

“Well, that doesn’t sound all that different from notions within the Judeo-Christian canon,” Bill says. “If our choices and actions are being punished and rewarded with potentially varying consequences, what makes this hell?”

“Look around, man.” Shelly gestures at the atrocity highlight reel playing on the TV nearest them.

Bill clears his throat. “With all due respect, Shelly,” which may actually mean none, “anyone can turn on a television anytime of any day and see plenty of evidence ostensibly supporting your argument.”

“It’s not an argument, Bill.” Shelly rarely uses anyone’s name. When she does, it’s belittling.

“Your point of view, then. The surplus of cruelty, oppression and violence on Earth makes it pretty easy to look around and see hellishness.”

“Nope. Just hell.”

“Okay, well, as a friend, or at least a friendly acquaintance, I can only say be careful what decisions you make about reality, Shelly. If you choose to see the world as hell, then maybe you’re choosing to live in hell.” Bill is speaking from experience in a way that lets him believe that he’s not. “That’s all I’m saying. Keep an open mind. There’s also beauty in the world.”

“Yep. Just enough to keep the stupid guessing.”

“See,” Bill says, “right there. That’s the attitude. You’re holding on to a point of view that precludes the possibility of goodness. It’s no wonder the world’s in such bad shape with so many people thinking like you.”

“If we weren’t already in hell, I would tell you to go there.”

“Now that’s just uncalled for.”

“But she’s totally right,” says a tall, gorgeous blonde in a high fashion suit designed by someone famous no one in this place would know. She walked in at some point during the discussion and sat down next to Thad, staring at her device like she wasn’t interested. “You know she is but your conscious mind doesn’t want to accept it.”

Thad is captivated right away even knowing this woman is miles out of his league.

“Who are you?” Thad asks with guileless curiosity, knowing he doesn’t have a chance.

“Someone who knows what’s what. Shelly’s not the only person who figured this out, she’s just one of the few people I’ve encountered who isn’t afraid to say it. Most people just don’t want to admit what they know in their, ‘souls,’ to be true.”

“I don’t know,” Thad says, either afraid to accept something or just making conversation, “I’m with Bill. I see the hell you’re talking about. I don’t think I’m hiding from anything. But I do see lots of good in the world.”

“For instance?” The blonde is typing something into her device, challenging Thad with minimum effort.

“There’s a lot less racism,” Thad says as his eyes involuntarily pass over Bill and Mack, who are African-American. “It seems like there’s a lot more people around who value kindness and acceptance. Women are treated as equals now, that wasn’t always the case. That seems like an improvement.”

“Okay.” The blonde concedes absently, still looking at her screen.

“That’s how it seems to me anyway. I mean, am I wrong? Does that not count for something?”

Thad looks to Bill. He nods without much conviction.

The blonde finishes reading whatever she’s reading and pockets the device inside her slender, ornately stitched shoulder bag made of a material that, to Thad, appears to be unidentifiable and preternaturally supple. He swallows as the strange skin triggers his salivary glands.

“What do you think, Shelly?” The blonde asks. “Does he have a point?”

Shelly makes the universal yapping mouth gesture with her left hand while her right lifts the glass to her actual mouth.

“I don’t know, Thad. It’s Thaddeus, right?”

“How did you?”

“I overheard.”

“But I didn’t.”

“Look, Thad. It’s like the lady says. You can look around at political correctness and vanity legislation and tell yourself things are going in the right direction but you’re ignoring the much larger truths that are right in your face. Systematic oppression and genocide have never been more widespread or efficient. People aren’t using the n word as much but they really don’t need to when the real machinery of racism is running so well. Bill here got his law degree back when higher education was actually affordable for regular folk.

“Tell me, Bill: is it easier today for an African-American man with your socioeconomic background to obtain a college education, let alone a law degree? Or is it harder.”

“Arguably, it’s more difficult.” Bill admits. “That’s sad.”

“Okay, moving on. According to Thad here, women are equals in society. But which society is that, Thad? We talking worldwide or just North America? I’m assuming you’ve seen reports from the Middle East and former Yugoslavia that challenge your assertion—just a little. Bondage, rape, mutilation, murder and, oh yeah, let’s not forget good old systematic oppression—are you feeling me here, Thad?”

“I know, but I was really thinking about—”

“I know what you’re thinking about, Thad. You’re thinking about American women who still aren’t paid equally to their male counterparts despite all the hype on TV. Not to mention all the American women and girls who are sexually abused and assaulted all the time, in their own homes, on college campuses, in their offices—on video recordings that are some how argued into inadmissibility. If this is what you mean by equality, Thad, we have a serious semantic disjuncture happening.”

“I see what you’re saying,” Thad says with new force, sort of standing his ground, “and I know it’s all true. But I choose to retain hope. I choose to believe things can get better. Otherwise, what’s the point?”

The blonde draws a circle with her beautifully manicured index finger, indicating the area encompassing the bar and the neighboring gates. “This is hopeful to you, Thad? Are you inspired right now?”

“Not exactly—not right this moment. No. But that’s listening to you and Shelly droning on with all this doom and gloom.”

“Really? Because you were already on that stool when I walked in. You weren’t looking too hopeful.”

“It’s been a taxing day.”

“For all of us. Believe me. You know what this looks like to me, Thad?”


“A bunch of semi-delusional misanthropes enjoying a few cocktails on the starboard side of the Titanic. You know all the life rafts are gone, or you wouldn’t be here.”

“That is, just grim.” Thad goes for what’s left in his glass.

The blonde leans in close and whispers in his ear.

“Two minutes from now, get up from your seat and meet me in the ladies’ room. That is, if you haven’t already had too many of those to get it up.”

She’s off the barstool and headed in the direction of the restrooms across the concourse.

Thad downs the rest of his drink and watches her walk, biding time until he commits. There’s an ample supply of boner pills in his carryon—he wouldn’t have checked anything that valuable. But they’re not fast acting and will likely do him no good in this totally unplanned situation. Plus, digging into his luggage in attempt to discreetly extract such a widely recognizable tablet with so many people around—it’s just too embarrassing. But this is too good to pass up. It’s worth the risk of brief humiliation in front of a woman he’ll never see again. He’s only had three drinks. Anything is possible. Keep a positive attitude.



“I have to hit the head, man. Do you mind watching my bag for a few minutes?”

“I mean, we’re really not supposed to do that but.” Bill gets it. “Go ahead.”




She’s waiting for him in a corner stall. There’s no one else in the women’s room. When he reaches the last stall door, she reaches out and reels him in by the necktie, like in a screwball sex comedy.

The stall door slams shut. She flips the bolt and pushes Thad up against the tile wall, sniffing and groping him. Her style is quirky and aggressive—kind of animalistic. Thad’s not feeling any more confident than he felt leaving the bar. If anything, he’s completely intimidated and out of his depth. He tries to kiss her but she dodges his lips, thwarting his one attempt to match her intensity.

“I’m curious, um, I didn’t catch your name at the bar.”

“Not that it matters but it’s Trudy.”



“You don’t look like a Trudy.”

“This isn’t what I really look like.”

“It isn’t?”



“You smell like damaged flesh.”


“Disease is taking root. You’re in serious decline.”

“Okay, let’s see.”

“What?” She coils the long fingers of one hand around his throat while lifting the skin of his forehead with the other, stretching his eyes wide open as though performing an examination.

“I’m thinking maybe this isn’t a great idea.”

“This doesn’t turn you on?”

“Perhaps it might in another circumstance. I’m afraid I’m just not in the mood. Apologies.”

“So why’d you come in here?”

“I didn’t want to appear rude?”

“Bullshit. You wanted to fuck me, or at least get a blowjob.”

“Well, I wouldn’t go as far as—”

“Don’t worry about it, man. I didn’t bring you in here for that.”

“You didn’t?”

“No. I tricked you.”

“What are we doing here then?”

“I brought you in here to put you out of your misery.”

“Okay, then. I think I’ve passed the point of enjoying this weirdness at all. While I appreciate the creativity I’m a pretty boring person when it comes down to it.”

Thad tries to get by her but she jacks him up against the wall, effortlessly lifting him several inches off the ground with just the one hand around his neck.

“You are boring.” Trudy agrees. “You’re boring me right now.”

“I’m sorry for that.” Thad is surprised to find he can speak with her hand around his throat. He can breathe too. Somehow, she’s holding him up without putting pressure on his windpipe or vocal chords. It doesn’t seem physically possible but it’s happening, hence their ongoing conversation. “I’m happy to leave immediately and avoid you for the rest of time. I promise if you let me go I’ll never come ’round to bore you again.”

“If I erase you from existence,” Trudy says, “same effect—less cosmic entanglement.”

“That’s pure speculation really,” Thad says, “my sudden absence from the world could set in motion all sorts of unforeseen complications. For all anyone one knows, I could play an important role in helping someone else, or improving a situation somewhere in the world. There’s no way of knowing.”

“There is and you don’t.”

“You couldn’t possibly know that.”

“I could and I do.”

“Impossible. If you really believe that, you have a mental illness. You need help. I should have known as soon as you started going on about all that hell business. You’re not sane.”

“By human standards? You are correct. I’m not sane. What passes for sanity among your kind is in the most innocuous iteration a close-minded delusional functionality that’s generally acceptable only because of the weakness of the species. At its worst, it’s a viral ignorance breeding violence, misery and destruction. You’re like dolls in a dollhouse who can’t see the giant being outside, looking at you through the tiny windows and moving you around. You believe you’re real and you can do anything you want.”

“You make some interesting points. I admit. But even if we are the pathetic creatures you allege, there are far more of us than there are of you. Surely you don’t want to be arrested, charged with murder and incarcerated for the rest of your life.”

Trudy giggles. “Even if your laws were anything more than absurdist moralistic fiction, there’s not a correctional institution anywhere in this realm that could hold something like me.”

“See, there you go. You’ve stopped referring to yourself as a person and begun seeing yourself as a thing. I’m sure that’s a symptom of psychosis. I am a person—I’m not an object and refuse to be disposed like one.”

“Huh. You’re more interesting than I thought.”

“I am. I am. You’re wrong about me, Trudy. Please.”

“It doesn’t matter. You have no ecosystemic importance.”

“I do. I know I do.”

“I know you do not.”

“How can you possibly think you know that?”

“My information comes from the best trans-dimensional cartographers out there.”

“Is that a growing field? I hadn’t heard of such a thing.”

“You’re on your way to San Juan, yes?”


“You’ve got a bottle full of hard-on tablets and your buddy, Mike, linked you up with a dealer in Puerto Rico who can get you 69 or ecstasy or whatever you’re planning to get high on over the course of hammer-heading hookers all weekend. That about right?”

“That was the plan. But not anymore. This experience has inspired me to completely reevaluate.”

Something is happening. Maybe it’s a psychosomatic side effect of panic setting in. Or perhaps this woman is who, or what, she claims to be in terms of erasing him from existence. Either way, the sensation approximates an emotional microwave.

She puts her other hand on his chest. “Wow.”


“You’re not lying.”

“I’m not. I’m really not. Please, Trudy. Just let me down and we’ll forget any of this ever happened.”

“I can’t do that.”

“Why not?”

“It’s not my assignment.”

“That’s alright. Assignments change all the time. Take some initiative. Impress your boss with some independent thinking.”

“No. You don’t get it. I don’t have a boss in the sense you mean. There’s far more at stake here. You have to be eliminated. I’m sorry, Thad.”

“Don’t be. Don’t be sorry. Just please don’t do this.”

“Why not? What do you think you’re living for? You poison your mind and body everyday. You have no problem killing yourself slowly but I come along offering to do the job for you, hassle free, without even the slightest hint of discomfort and you flip out.”

“Well, now, let’s have a closer look at that premise. I wouldn’t call dangling from a fist in a public bathroom entirely free of either hassle or discomfort.”

“You’re right about that. It wasn’t supposed to go like this. It got complicated.”

“I’ll say. You could have just poisoned my next drink and walked away.”

“No, that wouldn’t have worked either. You’re missing the point.”

“I think you’re missing the point. I mean, why lure me into a lieu with all this theatricality if you wanted to kill me.”

“Again, you’re missing the point. To kill as you mean it is only to cause catastrophic harm to the physical body.”

“Oh right. Why stop there?”

“Because that’s not the job.”

“This is a job? I’m a job?”

“Of course, you think I hang around airport bars on my day off?”

“It would be an odd choice of hunting ground for a recreational predator.” Thad is thinking. “Is it David Brown behind all this?”


“David Brown. VP of Midwest Client Relations. He’s wanted my territories for over a year. He’s rather rude about it, though not to the extent that would lead one to anticipate a contract hit.”

“That’s not what this is, Thaddeus.”

“What is it then?”

“It’s part of something much bigger. It’s difficult to explain.”

“Difficult compared to my present situation? Because I doubt it could be that difficult.”

“It’s pretty difficult.”

“In all the time we’ve been here already, I feel you could have explained quite a bit.”

“We haven’t been in here that long.”

“Long enough that someone will be walking in at any moment.”

“Nobody’s walking in here for another eleven minutes. Two flights are boarding at the same time.”

“That’s no guarantee.”

“It is today.”

“Oh, you know that, because of your time map?”

“Correct. We’re standing in the middle of an…anomaly.”

“What does that mean? Why did you pause?”

“Don’t worry about it.”

“Don’t worry about it? Oh, right, I should placidly accept my fate so you can get on with your day, is that it?”

“Pretty much.”

“That’s ridiculous and it’s not going to happen.”

“Obviously.” Trudy lowers him several inches to the point that his toes almost hit the floor but not quite. “Tell me something, Thad. Do you really not want to die?”

“Of course I don’t want to die. As a biologically determined life form I’m hardwired to survive.”

“That’s not what I mean. When I saw you in the bar you looked like a man who had already given up.”

“That’s not fair and it’s not true.”

“According to my intel it is true.”

“Your intel could not possibly know what’s going on with me at an internal level.”

“Actually it could and typically it does. But for some reason.”

“The anomaly? That’s what you said. It’s making you doubt your intel. Isn’t it?”

“I wouldn’t put it that way.”

“It is. I can tell.”

“You can’t tell.”

“I can.”

“What changed?”

“How do you mean?”

“Somewhere between the security scan and this restroom, you went from a person fading to, someone else.”

“I don’t know, the lady at the security check was kind to me and that made me think about her, her job, her life, wondering what drove her to keep going because it felt like I could—like I could sense that she was happy. And then that strange conversation at the bar—I didn’t show it but that made me angry, hearing all that business about hell and meaninglessness. I was ordering my third drink out of sheer habit, going on this weekend getaway, alone, to engage in those activities you itemized before, staring into that emptiness, and it hit me that the plane had been delayed again and again and again to the point that I was stuck in the airport with nothing but time to think about what I was doing, my choices and so forth. Just before you lured me in here, it became clear to me that I wanted no part in this stupid trip. I had basically decided to get a hotel room, sleep the night and turn back for home in the morning. All of sudden, I just saw that, my life isn’t bad—I’ve just been cut off from it. I haven’t been living. I need to stop drinking and start living.”

“You really do want to live.”

“I’m telling you.”

“You don’t have to tell me. I can feel it in your heart. Shit.”

“I should think this rather good news, no?”

“This is anything but good news, Thad. This means there’s been a mistake and if there’s been one mistake there could be more.”

“Sure. I see that. But my view on it is perhaps I get to walk out of this toilet alive. In that sense, I’m seeing this mistake or anomaly as you call it as a positive development.”

Trudy puts Thad down and takes her hand off his throat. The sudden disconnection of her energy causes him to wobble and nearly fall before catching the back of the commode. He gasps several times for air and finally gets his breath, instinctively pressing his hand into his chest.

“You’ll be alright in a minute or two. Sorry about all that.”

She’s on her way out.

“Where are you going?”

“To find someone else. Someone to take your place. Why?”

“I’m feeling reenergized if you still wanted to go for that shag.”

“Not in the mood.”

“Sure. That’s actually fine. Bill agreed to look after my suitcase so I really should be getting back after all this time.”

“It’s only been a couple of minutes out there.”

“The anomaly?”


“I see.”

She’s turning the lock on the stall door.




“Why what?”

“Why are you doing all this?”

“You wouldn’t understand and even if you could you don’t want to know.”

“But I do want to know. Surely you can tell that I’m speaking the truth.”

“I know you think you want to know but you just have to trust me that I know better, Thad.”

“Please,” Thad is scrambling to exit the stall and catch up with Trudy but this gelatinous seam in time means that he’s barely moving, “just tell me. I must know.  Why?”

She sighs and throws him a wearily compassionate smile.

“Because hell is full.”


“Just be glad you’re walking out of here.” Trudy says, double taking on his laborious movements in the stall. “Eventually.”

And she’s out of there. Thad, despite his vigorous efforts, has failed to close any distance at all. For several seconds more he continues to struggle and then suddenly he’s eased back into the standard time current where gravity is once again normal. A Midwestern looking woman and her small daughter are paused in the restroom entrance. Thad has stopped to regard them for a moment. Perhaps they’re stuck in a heavy gravity pocket or something.

But that’s not it as Thad deduces from the mother’s protective reticence, moving slightly in front of her daughter as Thad nears the doorway. Rather than a passing fissure in space-time, it was more likely the strange, pale, inebriated man struggling to escape a toilet stall that gave them pause.

Back at the bar, Bill’s expression conveys desperately vicarious yearning at what he believes to have just taken place between Thad and Trudy. He lifts his glass to Thad. The suitcase is there at his feet next to a key decision.

Crackling through the PA is a boarding call for the rescheduled San Juan flight. Who knows if it will get off the jet bridge but it’s now or never in the event that it does. What happened in the women’s room a few minutes earlier now seems like a dream.

“Thanks.” Thad says to Bill, reaching for his suitcase. ” A pleasant evening to all.”

And he’s off at a full clip with the carryon bag rolling behind him, clicking on the grout lines in the floor like a second hand moving in a straight line, remarking on time and distance.