Each month I participate in a short story writing composition. The details of the writing competition come out on a Friday and we, the writers, have 55 hours to come back with the best 500 or fewer words to that prompt. Each prompt has three things that must be included in the story.
This story is an example, and the three elements the phrase “it was empty”, the word “spring” and the story must take place entirely in an airport.
“…passport and boarding pass out…” the recording droned but at 03:07, departures was empty. Heck, it was empty in the whole airport. Sure, there were the few hundred people staying over until their early morning flights and my life would be speeding up in an hour as more people arrived for those sparrow fart flights to Europe. But right now, was my peaceful time. Old Hap and I had been walking this beat for close to nine years and it was showing in Hap’s spring, or lack thereof. He was wearing down and I had to face it, we were going to have to retire him soon. Everyone in security knew it; just none of us wanted to face the fact. Except for Butch and Tank, they were eager to replace us. I just had my concerns about Butch’s knowledge and Tank’s training. They were both so young.
“Shhookk” our radio, even on the low setting, echoed. “We have an unattended bag in section 5. Gate 22.”
“Let’s go boy,” I tried to inspire Hap to move faster. Gate 22 was a fair distance and I wanted to beat the new team there.
I’m not over competitive but I just really wanted Hap to go out with yet more wins on his plate.
Gate 22 was no different than the other tens of gates around it. It smelled stale and had that over used look of airports the year after they opened.
Sitting in the middle of the hard, plastic seating, was a small grey case with stickers from at least a dozen countries. I brought Hap in a wide arc around the case. It didn’t look particularly dangerous other than being out of place. But that was the insidious part of this whole charade. Inside could be contraband or something more dangerous.
“Hey, Seb. See you got Hap here in record time. How’s the old guy going?” Butch had the new uniform smell about him – starch and pressed heat. His badge was always just that bit shinier than the rest of ours.
“Hap’s great. I was just about to set his experience on the case.” I tried not to grind my teeth.
“Let’s give Tank the first go.” His grin set me more on edge.
“Fine. Send him. Might be good training and experience.”
Butch and Tank took over as we watched. There was a lot of sniffing and a few half-sits as if he wasn’t certain about his findings.
“Let’s see what Hap can do.”
We worked the case, and, in the end, it came up clean.
That’s when we saw it. A property tag: ‘Hap’
With shaking hands, he opened the case and inside was a gold watch and tickets for the misses and him to visit all those places in Europe they had talked about for years.
“Happy retirement, Hap!” I yowled as I wagged my tail.