as far as they can reach, and the seatbelt is stuffed up under his
belly like a tourniquet. In a way, he looks peaceful. It takes me
a moment to realize that something is off. A big man like him would
normally be shaking the cabin with his foghorn snore, but he is silent.
His belly quivers with the airplane, but otherwise he's still. My
stomach drops and then rises slowly into my throat.
It takes me a several minutes before I attract
the flight attendant's attention, and she takes her time getting down
the aisle. "Yes, sir?" The woman across the aisle looks up from her
book and peeks around the flight attendant.
"I think there's something wrong with the
man sitting next to me."
She watches the old man for a second, her
face paling, a controlled panic settling into her eyes. "I'll alert
moment later, the captain comes on the intercom. "Ladies and gentlemen,
we're just an hour outside of
Chicago. Conditions are good out here-beautiful day to fly. It has
come to my attention that a request has been made for any passenger
who is a medical doctor to please notify the flight attendant. Thank
I pop up over the seat, scanning the tops
of heads for a doctor. I see the flight attendant come out of the
cabin, close the door quietly behind her, and walk past me to the
back of the cabin. I watch her lips move as she whispers to someone
in an aisle seat, and then a short, balding man stands up and follows
her up the aisle.
Approaching my row, he nods in my direction
and then watches the old man. "He's not breathing~-that's no good,"
"Please keep your voice down, sir," says the
flight attendant, smoothing her tight skirt over her knees.
doctor seizes the man's flopping wrist, holds his finger underneath
it for a long minute. He shrugs. Leaning over, he feels for a pulse
on the man's swollen neck.