Chapter 2 – The Prophet (2.16 to 2.20)

2.16 – Executive Lounging

Tex would have run off the plane had the other passengers not been in his way. He wanted to put as much distance between himself and his alleged ex-boyfriend as possible. Brig was in no hurry to get off the plane himself. Just as the gate attendant in Salt Lake City had promised, he had plenty of time to make his connecting flight to Hong Kong. In fact, he had more than enough time to get an alcohol-fueled buzz started in United’s business class lounge. He made his way through the SFO international terminal, grading the women in his head as he went. Seven. Five. Yikes! Minus two, or is that a dude?

Brig found a flight departure screen to make sure that his flight was still leaving on time and out of the same gate. He had to pass through security again and did so without incident. He took an escalator up to the United lounge where two young women sat behind a large desk. “Good morning. May I help you, sir?”

Brig found a flight departure screen to make sure that his flight was still leaving on time and out of the same gate. He had to pass through security again and did so without incident. He took an escalator up to the United lounge where two young women sat behind a large desk. “Good morning. May I help you, sir?”

“I think you most certainly can,” answered Brig. Brig awarded both women a respectable seven while noticing that the name tag of the girl that was helping him said, Britney. “Which way to the alcohol?”

She laughed politely as the other girl glanced up. “If I could just see your boarding pass…” Brig sensed that Britney didn’t think he belonged in United’s “executive lounge.”

“Of course. We wouldn’t want any lower-class passengers or other bad elements to get into our lounge, would we?” he smiled. Brig handed Britney his ticket. As she examined his documents, Brig took the opportunity to examine her colleague who was writing something down. Blonde. Big Boobs. Perhaps a seven was too conservative.

“Here you are, Mr. Young.” It surprised Britney to learn that the rough-looking man in front of her was a Platinum Elite member of the United frequent flyer program. Over the last few years, Brig had racked up a lot of frequent flyer miles. “And here are two vouchers for free drinks at the bar, which you’ll find right down this way,” she said, motioning to her right.

He thanked the girl and made his way to the bar where he ordered two jack and cokes, grabbed several bags of pretzels, and found a comfortable seat near enough to the bar and out of the general traffic. It was blissfully quiet and uncrowded. He hoped his flight would be the same.

It was still morning, but he gulped the first drink down as if it were the first round of happy hour. Breakfast of Champions Brig thought to himself and opened a bag of pretzels. He scanned the lounge for talent. To his left was an older couple, the man reading a newspaper, the woman thumbing through a magazine, and far too old to register on Brig’s scale. A group of four men huddled together near a flat-screen television. Several other people sat by themselves, tapping on computers or talking on their cell phones. Just as Brig was about to give up, a tall Asian woman strode through the entrance of the lounge. He was raising his second J&C to his mouth but stopped the cup halfway to its destination.

Hold the phone. What’s this? Could it be? the superficial voice inside his head started the calculations. “Could it be? It is! It’s a ten!” Brig whispered reverently as if a miracle had just walked into the lounge. In truth, Brig awarded scores of ten every day, but as Brig got a closer view of, or spoke to a ten, a skin blemish, an annoying laugh, a bitchy tone, a nervous twitch…something would inevitably lower the score. Such was the case with the latest ten. As the woman walked towards Brig, her hips got bigger, her chest smaller, and she had a slight skin problem on her right cheek. Acne?

Sorry folks, I spoke too soon. She’s a nine. My bad, Brig announced to the audience inside his head. A nine was still good…very good. He kept his eyes on her face as she walked toward him. He was sure she would look his way, and he would meet her stare, smile, and flirt. She was Asian, and maybe she was going to Hong Kong. His hopes of enjoying the mile high club rekindled.

A man behind Brig yelled out, “Angie!” The woman paused, recognized the man yelling her name, smiled, and waved.

An eight, and dropping fast. Come on girl. You can still turn this around.

She walked past Brig without a glance.

You lose! Final score: six. It looks like I’m going to need to drink a lot more, and she’s going to have to beg for it before I crawl into an airplane bathroom at 30,000 feet and bump uglies with that tramp!

2.17 – Nepal

On an uncomfortably warm Friday evening, Brig surprised his father, who was in Salt Lake City and working from his home office. VII was on a conference call when Brig walked into his study. He acted surprised to see his father busy and pretended to leave, but those days Brig rarely initiated a conversation with his father. Still speaking on the phone, Brigham VII waved Brigham VIII in and motioned for him to take a chair as he finished his call.

“Son! To what do I owe this pleasure? What are you doing home on a Friday night? Surely one of the many beautiful sisters in our fair city would give up her spot in the Celestial Kingdom for an evening with Utah’s most eligible bachelor.”

“I could ask you the same thing. I didn’t realize you were in town,” Brig lied. Brig had known VII had an important fundraiser to attend the next night and had been planning to spring his plan on this specific night for weeks. Brenda was out, and the Young men had the house to themselves.

“Yeah, I’ve got that Primary Children’s Hospital thing tomorrow night, and I’m making a few calls to make sure we get a few healthy donations. So what do you got going on?” His Dad sounded genuinely interested, maybe even happy.

“Well. You know how I’ve been into mountain climbing the last couple of years.” He didn’t say since Mom died, but they both realized that climbing had been remedial for Brig. “I’ve completely recovered from my fall. In fact, I placed third in a competition up at Snowbird a few weeks ago.”

“I didn’t know you could compete at mountain climbing.”

“It’s actually a race up a rock wall they’ve built on the face of a building…I’m pretty good,” Brig smiled. He hoped that information would rekindle the pride VII used to have when Brig played football.

“I can see that. You’re so thin, and yet I can see the definition in your arms. Flex for me.”

Brig held out his right arm. “The beach is that way.” Brig bent his arm and his right bicep bulged through the sleeve of his t-shirt, his index finger pointing away, at some imaginary beach. For the first time in recent memory, they laughed together.

“Would you look at that!” VII barked in mock astonishment. “Brig, I’m glad you’ve found something you enjoy doing.”

“That’s what I wanted to talk to you about. Some of the guys are planning a climbing trip, and I was hoping you could sponsor me.”

“Sponsor you? You mean like a corporate sponsorship?”

“Not necessarily. I mean…I mean pay for,” Brig stammered.

“Pay for a climbing trip? I don’t see why not. How much could it be? Unless of course, you’re going out of the country…”

“Yeah. That’s definitely part of the expense.”

“Where is this mountain?”

“Nepal,” Brig mumbled.

“Nepal? The Himalaya’s Nepal?”

Brig nodded sheepishly. “Everest.” He wanted to be confident and knew his father responded better to confidence, but VII had entered intimidation mode. A long awkward pause followed, with VII staring incredulously at his son, and VIII staring down at the hardwood floor.

VII suddenly laughed, breaking the silence. Not a chuckle, or a sneer, but a real gut buster. “You had me going there, buddy. Everest. Don’t more people die trying to get up that mountain than make it to the top?” He laughed again.

Now it was Brig’s turn to be incredulous. Climbing Everest was his dream, and the one person on the earth that could either make it real or crush it thought he was joking. Brig stood up to leave. “You know what? Fuck it! And fuck you!”

Seven stopped laughing. He had never heard his son curse before, let alone the F-Word. “Now you listen here, young man. I will not have that kind of language in my home.”

“What? English?” Brig said in mock surprise.

“Oh, that’s funny. You know what I mean.”

“You mean fuck? Don’t you like the word fuck? Or you don’t like to fuck?”

“Get out of here!” VII demanded.

“Fuck! All right. Fuck. You’re serious?” Brig mocked.

“Go. Now!”

“Fuck! O.K. I’m fucking going. Fuck you later.” Brig slammed the door as he exited.

2.18 – Bumped Up

The sound of the lounge attendant announcing that “United Flight 971 to Hong Kong is now boarding” broke Brig’s thoughts, and once again he gathered his packs and walked towards the exit. He waved goodbye to the lounge greeters, rode the escalator down to the international departure hall, and made his way to Gate 96 where his fellow travelers were waiting to board. He wormed his way through the crowd, gave the gate attendant his ticket, and walked down the gangway onto the Boeing 747. Brig showed his ticket stub to one of the two flight attendants waiting at the open door. She pointed him towards the stairs leading to the upper cabin. “Excellent,” thought Brig. He had always liked the upper cabin. It felt somehow more exclusive than the business class seats below.

Business-class on the Boeing 747 was a significant upgrade. United’s business class passengers got their own entertainment system, meals were better, the seats could be adjusted to a nearly horizontal position making it easier to sleep, and the flight attendants were generally more attractive. But for Brig, the icing on the business class cake was the amenity kit that the airline provided, which included a variety of toiletries, a pair of slippers, and an eye mask.

Brig had just finished putting his large backpack in the overhead storage compartment and was arranging his seat when someone startled him from behind.

“Good morning sir, would you like a drink? Some champagne or a mimosa?” A male flight attendant held out a tray of drinks in plastic cups.

“Eh-h-h-h” Brig shuddered as he shied away from the young man.

“I’m sorry, did I scare you?” said the attendant.

“No. Just surprised me is all.” Brig had expected a female flight attendant. He got an effeminate man instead.

“Would you like something to drink?” he asked, nodding his head towards the tray.

“I was hoping for something stronger. It’s been a long morning. Do you have scotch?”

“I’ll be happy to get you something more suitable once we’re airborne,” said the attendant, whose name tag identified him as Cliff.

“In that case, Cliff, I’ll take two!” Brig grabbed two cups of Champagne and thanked him. Cliff moved off to serve other passengers that were boarding and reaching their seats.

Brig was again seated on the starboard side of the airplane. As he sat down, he banged his head on the ceiling and spilled some of his champagne. He chuckled as he realized he was feeling the alcohol from the lounge. Let’s keep the momentum going, eh? He pounded the first cup of champagne as if it were a Tequila shot. The second cup followed soon after.

He kicked his shoes off and slid them under the seat in front of him. He closed the window shade and donned his eye covers. No one would dare disturb him with a pair of those things on. He leaned his chair back and relaxed, oblivious to the other passengers.

Brig was beginning to drift off when he felt someone tapping his shoulder. A man’s voice whispered, “Excuse me.” Brig tried to ignore him, hoping that whoever it was would realize how inconsiderate they were being and reevaluate their actions before touching him again. The annoyer persisted, placing his hand on and shaking Brig’s shoulder. He repeated, “Excuse me.”

Brig snapped his eye covers off of his head and in a falsely controlled tone asked, “What?”

A man in a suit and tie with a strong jaw, high cheekbones, and a full head of dark hair stood before him. Not realizing, or choosing to ignore Brig’s tone, he continued, “I’m sorry for disturbing you, but I was wondering if you would mind switching seats with my fiancée?” Looking past the man, Brig saw that the fiancée was none other than Angie from the lounge. She smiled, nodded her head, and wiggled the fingers of her right-hand hello.

Brig wasn’t sure if it was the alcohol or not, but he readjusted Angie’s score back to ten. The annoying man, who Brig had nicknamed Ken, was waving his hand and snapping his fingers in front of Brig’s face. Angie giggled.

“I’m sorry, what was your question?” asked Brig.

“I asked if you would mind switching seats with my fiancée. It’s a long flight, and we’d like to sit together.”

“No,” Brig replied.

“Great. Thank you.” He stood up as if to give Brig room to change his seat. “We really appreciate it.”

“No, you’ve misunderstood me. I mean ‘no,’ as in ‘no, I won’t switch seats with your fiancée.’ Not, ‘no, I don’t mind.’ That said, I would be more than pleased if you switched seats with your fiancée.” Brig turned his head to the side, arched his eyebrows, and smiled lasciviously.

Ken stared at Brig waiting to see if he was pulling his leg. When he realized Brig was serious, he moved closer to Angie and whispered something. Ken helped Angie take her seat opposite his own, across the aisle.

Ken placed a small carry-on in the storage compartment and took his seat. He took another look at Brig, paused for effect, and said, “Thanks.”

“I’m sorry,” said Brig. “Doctors orders. I get claustrophobic if I can’t see out of the airplane.”

“Um-hm,” replied an unconvinced Ken. Ken looked over at Angie, extended his hand, and shrugged as if to say, “what can you do?” Angie took Ken’s hand and smiled.

Douchebag, Brig thought.

Despite the satisfaction of his self-proclaimed victory over Ken, and the ensuing silent treatment, which he wanted anyway, Brig couldn’t fall asleep. Brig was “jonesing.” He dug into his stash and swallowed another two pills, knowing the combination of pills, alcohol, and altitude was a dangerous one. He was 30,000 feet over the Pacific Ocean, and his anxiety was peaking. Perhaps this was as close as he was supposed to get to Mount Everest. He was flying at approximately the same altitude as the great mountain’s peak. Brig could open the cabin door and throw himself out but could muster neither the courage nor the energy.

Brig spotted Cliff and waved to get his attention. Cliff had been friendly enough at first, giving him two mini-bottles of Jack Daniels for his first round. “Even though I’m only supposed to pass out one bottle at a time,” Cliff had whispered as if he were conspiring with Brig. But their “friendship” had lasted less than two hours of the fifteen-hour flight. Cliff, seeing the frenetic drinking pace that Brig was setting, recognized that Brig might turn into a problem and forced him to slow down by serving him only one bottle at a time. After another three rounds, Cliff reported that they were out of Jack Daniels. Brig doubted that he had drained the ship of their JD, but he was undeterred.

“No problem. I’m an easy-going guy,” Brig tried to whisper. Most of the other passengers were asleep or watching their in-flight entertainment. “What alcohol do you have the most of?”

“We have lots of Sprite. How about a nice, cool, and refreshing Sprite?” Cliff countered.

“Doesn’t have the effect I’m looking for, but thank you for the suggestion.” He was trying hard not to get angry. “How about two vodkas?”

“How about we slow down Mr. Young? Why don’t you take a nap?”

“Would that we could Cliffy. Would that we could.”

“It’s Cliff. Just Cliff.”

“Well, ‘Just Cliff,’” Brig was becoming irritable again, “it’s nice and quiet in here right now, isn’t it? All my fellow passengers are sleeping. Not much work for you, eh? It would be a shame if a drunken asshole like me were to get loud…and obnoxious,” Brig said in an increasingly loud voice. Ken, who was sleeping in the seat beside him, stirred underneath his blanket.

“O.K. Mr. Young. Calm down. I’ll get you a vodka,” Cliff relented.

“Two please,” Brig said, holding up two fingers and whispering. “Oh, and a beer,” he smiled sheepishly. “And some pretzels?”

The rest of the flight dragged on. Cliff gave up trying to stop Brig’s binge. He was, however, effective at slowing Brig down by disappearing for long periods of time. It seemed to Brig that the other passengers were also getting upset with Cliff’s poor service. Three hours away from their destination, Brig finally passed out.

2.19 – Coming Apart

After his quarrel with his father, Brig spent the night in his Range Rover alternating between sobbing and sleeping. He had quit praying years ago, but when he was alone and down, he still spoke, and sometimes wrote, to his mother. He pulled out his journal from under the driver’s seat.

Why did you marry that asshole? Was it the money? His good looks? His ambition? OK…I sort of get it…and I can also understand and forgive you for finding someone else. I’m thinking now, hoping, that you were planning our escape.

Brig realized he was really writing this for his father. He imagined his father finding his journal, and reading how Brig hated him, and how Brig knew that his mother had been unfaithful.

I do. I understand. But he’s a horrible father, and Brenda and I don’t have you to protect us anymore.  He doesn’t care about us. He spends more time with his illegitimate children in the Philippines, or Germany, or wherever it is, he goes.

I’m sure, now, you see how he is…if given a chance to do it again, you wouldn’t, right?

I’ve never asked him for one God damned thing, but when I do, when I ask him for the one thing that matters most to me, he laughs. I expected him to say no, but to laugh in my face? It’s not right. He doesn’t even realize how destructive he is, how much I hate him, and everything he represents. He has more money than God, and he can’t part with a sum that he makes in a few minutes, maybe seconds, to allow me to realize my dream? What a dick!

Brig punched upward, hitting the roof of the Range Rover and hurting his wrist.

The next morning he called his father’s office, intending to leave his father a message on his answering service. A woman’s voice answered, “Brigham Young International, how may I direct your call?”

“Brigham Young please.”

“May I tell him who’s calling?”

“This is his son.”

The woman paused. Brig could practically hear the wheels turning in her head. “Why wouldn’t Mr. Young’s son dial his direct number?” she wondered. Regardless, she wasn’t stupid. She wouldn’t challenge the person who might be her boss someday.

“Please hold.”

“Wait, wait, wait, wait,” Brig pleaded.

“Yes. I’m here. How can I help you,  Mr. Young?”

“He’s in the office today?”

“I believe so. Shall I put you through?”

Brig thought about it for a few seconds and then decided he would still leave his message. “I’d prefer to leave a message with you if you don’t mind?” Brig said pleasantly.

“No, not at all. Please go ahead.”

“Hi, Dad. This is your son, Brigham.” He paused, allowing the woman time to write it down.

“Hi, Dad. This is your son, Brigham.” the receptionist repeated. “Got it. Please continue.”

“I have decided NOT…please underline the word ‘not’…to go on a mission.”

“Not… underlined… to go on a mission,” the receptionist repeated back to Brig.

“Fuck you! Brig.”

“Uh…”

“And if you could double underline the word fuck, and put an exclamation point after ‘you,’ I would appreciate it.”

“Let me…” the receptionist stammered, but before she could finish her sentence, Brig had disconnected.

2.20 – Hungover and Jet Lagged

Brig was being shaken violently. He opened his eyes, unclear where he was. Eventually realizing he was on a plane traveling to Hong Kong, his first thought was that the plane was going down. He curled into the fetal position and screamed.

“Mr. Young, wake up!” someone yelled.

Brig opened his eyes wider and shook his head. Cliff’s stern-looking face came into focus. Behind Cliff stood a large man in uniform. Military? Police?

“Mr. Young, wake up!” Cliff repeated. “We’ve landed in Hong Kong and it’s time to deplane.”

Brig felt the world spin. He sat up straight, trying to slow the motion, but to no avail.

“Oh my God. Don’t you dare,” squealed Cliff, realizing what would happen next.

“Quick. Grab his arm. Let’s get him to the bathroom,” ordered the uniform. It was the ship’s captain.

But it was too late. Brig managed to open the seat pocket in front of him before retching, covering the in-flight magazine as well as the bag he was looking for, in vomit.

The captain retreated towards the stairs. “I’ll send up the clean-up crew.”

“That’s the thanks I get for serving you all of those drinks!” Cliff hissed.

Brig retched again, though this time to his left, on the seat next to him, where Ken had been sitting.

“Can you at least try to keep it all in one place?” Cliff begged.

Cliff threw his hands up in surrender and backed away as Brig prepared to get off the airplane. He slid his laceless shoes on. There was vomit everywhere – on his shirt, on his shoes, on his pants. He wanted to lie down, but more than that he wanted to get off the plane.

Brig choked back the next urge to retch and stood up. He grabbed the seat in front of him to steady himself. He wiped his hands on the top of the chair and walked towards the stairs that led towards the plane’s exit. Halfway there, he stopped and retched again. Realizing he had forgotten his carry-on, he turned around, went back to his seat where Cliff stood in stunned silence, opened the overhead compartment, yanked out his backpack, and said “See you next time.”

Published by Scottthurman

You can purchase my novel "Suicide By Everest" at https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07HVT5MZF

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