Because I’m a writer & storyteller and enjoy weaving words together into tapestries of stories both real and imagined, I’ve dedicated Wednesdays to my novel writing. I am currently working through the revision of a story about a young man named Daniel who embarked on an incredible quest based on a series of dreams he had involving people he’s never met.
The Dream Quest – Chapter 4: It’s Been Too Long
Daniel’s mind races. He cannot believe Peter is sitting across from him on a charter plane to who knows where. Does Peter know where we’re going? he wonders. Does Peter know Jonas? He searches through last night’s events. Did he talk about Peter with Jonas? Or do they know each other outside of me? Daniel watches Peter for a moment still trying to appreciate that he’s sitting across from his brother given how things went last night. At least he didn’t end up blowing Peter off this morning; it was the other way around this time.
“So, where you heading?” Peter flashes him another wry grin.
“Same place as you, right?” Daniel responds. He hopes Peter doesn’t realize he’s fishing.
“Hmmmmm. I guess.” Peter says.
Sara approaches. “Would either of you gentlemen care for anything?”
Daniel is half way through his coffee and it’s still pretty early in the day, not even close to noon, but he figures it doesn’t matter. “Do you have any tequila?”
“Seriously?” Peter looks at him.
“I don’t like flying.” Daniel shrugs.
Sara turns to Peter. “Anything for you? Maybe one of the same?” She lifts an eyebrow at him.
“Why the heck not. I’d hate for my brother to drink alone.” He smiles up at her and she winks before turning around and heading to the back of the plane. She opens up a lower cabinet and Daniel sees bottles of every shape and size and color backlit by a dim blue light on one side and a dim red light on the other. His mind tries to grasp the incredible swank he’s surrounded by right now. Had he become a lawyer, this might be a familiar sort of experience. But as a self-employed photographer, an artistic one at that, these kinds of digs and perks are definitely not typical of his experience.
Sara returns with a silver tray laid out with two good-sized shot glasses filled to the rim, a lime sliced into small wedges, a silver salt shaker and a high-end bottle of tequila. “We’ve got a few hours in the air,” she tells them and sets the tray down on the table between them. “So I brought over the bottle in case you decide one isn’t enough. No pressure though.” She winks playfully at them and disappears into the back.
Peter picks up his glass and raises it toward Daniel. “Here’s to the unknowns.” He looks at Daniel for a long moment and Daniel wonders if he sees a flicker of something behind Peter’s outward, smiling eyes. “And to brothers,” Peter adds with a robust flair. He lets his glass hang in the air for another minute and watches Daniel kick back his shot, no lime, no salt, no tap of Peter’s glass. The two look at each other until Peter shoots his drink, first licking the salt from his hand, then swallowing the liquid, and finally sucking on the lime. All of this is followed by a powerful exhale.
“It’s been a while,” he says, smiling. A few tears stand at the corners of his eyes.
Daniel nods. “You were always a bit of a wimp when it came to tequila,” he says, nodding toward the discarded lime on the tray. There is the smallest hint of a smile tugging at one corner of his mouth.
“That’s right,” Peter concedes. “You were all about the guts. I was all about the glory.”
“Another?” Daniel lifts the bottle.
“Why not? We’ve got some time to kill, right?” Peter holds his glass out and Daniel fills it to just below the top.
“When, buddy,” Peter says.
Daniel fills his own glass. “Ready?” Daniel nods toward the salt and lime.
“Nah. Going for guts today.” He grins at Daniel. “Three, two, one.”
The two kick back their shots. This time Peter coughs a bit and, despite his words, grabs up a lime.
“Good stuff,” he announces through an exhale.
Daniel feels the tequila burn from his throat down to his gut. For a moment he focuses only on that old familiar feeling. As he sits there, Peter reaches over, takes the bottle and pours them each another shot.
“I hope you don’t think less of me, but I’m just not the same kind of guts you are,” Peter says, picking up the salt and grabbing a slice of lime. “Though, I don’t guess you can, right?” He laughs at his own words.
“Just shoot it,” Daniel says, kicking back his drink and breathing out a long, slow breath. He slouches back against the love seat. “Breather,” he says.
Peter licks the salt, knocks his drink back and slams the glass onto the table, sucking hard on the lime before breathing out a choking breath. “Damn!”
“Yeah,” agrees Daniel. “Tequila’s evil.”
“Man, you got that right, bro.”
Daniel can feel the Tequila creeping up into his brain, his lack of breakfast intensifying the shots and their effect. He squints toward the back of the plane where Sara disappeared. As if he’s conjured her, she appears in the door and heads toward them with a tray of food.
“I prepared this as a just in case.” She smiles as she sets down the tray filled with several varieties of half sandwiches, some chips, some grapes and some cheese. “And, in case these don’t complement your drink choice…” she sets down a plate of hot wings with a side of blue cheese. Daniel’s mouth immediately starts to water.
“Perfect!” he says. “It’s like you’re a mind reader.”
“Just trying to do my part,” she says.
For several minutes Daniel and Peter do nothing more than inhale several wings apiece. Daniel is thankful for something to counter the tequila sloshing around in his empty stomach. After a couple more wings, he picks up a half ham and cheese, tomato and lettuce with mustard. He finishes it with incredible gusto and slouches back again. He eyes the bottle of Tequila and decides against it. Until Peter picks it up and pours them each one more.
“For good measure,” Peter tells him.
Daniel looks at him for a long moment, a memory floating up from deep in his mind of another time they shared a bottle of Tequila. A bottle that Daniel had brought back from a Spring Break trip to Cancun when he was a senior in college. He went to Peter’s apartment from the airport instead of going home. They sat up all night and through most of the morning talking about their lives, what they were going to do in the next two years, making plans to open a law firm together and take on the Goliaths together, trying to change the world.
Peter nudges the shot toward him and Daniel picks it up, staring at the golden liquid. He can almost see him and Peter slouched on Peter’s beat-up used couch, their feet propped on a scuffed up trunk, both of them in a Tequila haze.
“Hey, man, you ready?” Peter’s voice brings Daniel back to the plane.
“Always,” Daniel replies. He lifts his drink slightly higher in the air and in Peter’s direction. “To brothers,” Daniel says a little more quietly. He lets his eyes meet Peter’s and the two of them look at each other for a long moment.
“To brothers,” Peter agrees and taps his glass lightly against Daniel’s.
They toss back their shots and slam their glasses simultaneously on the table.
“Whooooo!” Peter gasps loudly and Daniel lets out a small laugh.
“Still a light weight, huh?” Daniel grins at his brother.
“I’m keeping up just fine with you, stud.”
Daniel laughs even louder now. “Haven’t heard that since the last time we drank like this.” They fall into silence.
“It’s been too long, Danny” Peter says, after a moment.
“Yeah,” Daniel whispers.
Daniel’s head swims with Tequila and memories and he lets his head loll back against the pillows. It’s a feeling he doesn’t want to lose even though he knows Tequila isn’t the real answer. But at least it’s helping for right now.
“Remember when we were going to save the world,” Daniel asks the ceiling above him. “What happened with that?”
“There’s still time,” Peter replies quietly.
“You think so?”
There’s another long pause.
“I never stopped believing we could change the world together, Danny.”
“Danny,” Daniel whispers. “No one’s called me that in a long time.”
“I’ve missed you, bro,” Peter says.
Daniel glances over at Peter and sees that his eyes are closed, his hands twisting a ring on his middle finger. A plain silver band.
“Where’d you get that?” Daniel asks.
Peter opens one eye. “Get what?”
Daniel points to where Peter continues twisting the ring around his middle finger. “The ring.”
Peter sighs in response and a look of pain passes over his face for an instant.
“Sorry,” Daniel says. “It’s none of my business.” He shifts a little and pushes his legs out in front of him.
“It’s dad’s, Danny.”
There is silence as Daniel absorbs what Peter just said. He considers another shot.
“How about a beer?” Peter suggests.
“Probably a better option,” Daniel agrees.
Before either of them can say anything else, Sara appears to clear the sandwiches and snacks and asks what kind of beer they’d like. Daniel wonders if Peter finds this at all strange, the way Sara seems to know what they need before they ask.
“You still a Sam Adams guy?” Peter asks.
“You know it.”
“I’ll be right back, gentlemen.”
“So, how do you know Jonas?” Daniel asks.
“Jonas. The guy who chartered this plane?”
“My company chartered this plane.”
“Jonas works at your firm?”
“Who’s Jonas?” Peter sits up a little. “I don’t know any Jonas.”
Daniel studies his brother, contemplating telling him what’s going on but Sara returns with two bottles of Sam Adams and two frozen mugs. “Should I clear the Tequila?”
“No. Can you leave it, please,” Daniel says. He also sits up a little more.
He and Peter tap bottles and each takes a swig from his beer. Daniel reaches over and picks up the bottle of tequila and swirls around what little is left in the bottom of the bottle.
“Can’t let it go to waste.” He gestures toward Peter’s empty shot glass.
Daniel pours out the rest of what’s in the bottle, filling each shot glass to the rim. “Bottoms up.”
They both sit back up and slam back one last shot. Peter flops back when he finishes.
“What no salt or lime?”
“Not necessary at this point.”
They laugh, but Daniel is pretty sure they’re both wondering what the other’s thinking. He wants to find that feeling again. The one from that spring break. He lets the liquor flow through his blood, chasing the tequila with a long swig of Sam Adams.
“Okay. So where we heading, boss?” Daniel asks.
“Boss. There’s something I haven’t heard in a while.” Peter’s head is back, his eyes are closed and his feet are balanced on Daniel’s knees.
“Pete, can I tell you something that’s going to sound completely crazy?”
Peter looks at Daniel. “You know me. I love crazy.”
Daniel weighs Peter’s seemingly simple words, words that carry so much of the recent past between them, and watches Peter absently twist the ring again. He decides to switch gears. “Why didn’t you tell me about dad?”
“I tried, Danny. I called. I texted. I think I even wrote you a letter.”
Daniel vaguely recalls these things.
“You were so angry.” Peter says it matter of factly, no accusation in his tone.
Daniel takes a deep breath.
“How’d –” he can’t go on. He’s not sure exactly what he wants to ask. Or what he wants to know. Guilt and regret rise up, pushing back the curtain of tequila buzz he’s been working so hard to maintain. Instead of asking anything, he calls out, “Sara, I’m guessing there’s a restroom on here.”
“Yes, sir. Right this way.” She beckons him to the back of the plane and motions to a couple of doors off to the left.
“When is the pilot going to announce our destination? Are we almost there?”
“Let me go check on that for you.” Sara walks toward the front of the plane.
Daniel closes the door behind him. At this point he is not as surprised by the bathroom as he would have been a couple of hours and a few shots ago. He sits on the comfy chair provided and leans his head back against the wall. His head vibrates with the sound of the engines beneath him. After a few more minutes he heads back to his seat.
“That announcement should be coming any time now,” Sara tells him on his way back to his seat.
“Thanks.” Daniel smiles as he stumbles slightly with the movement of the plane and the tequila coursing through his veins. He notices that Peter is stretched out across the love seat, so he drops into the closest chair.
“What happened with dad,” he asks Peter before he can change his mind.
Peter doesn’t say anything so Daniel nudges him lightly and realizes that Peter has fallen asleep.
“Hello, this is your captain speaking,” the voice coming over the speaker above him, startles Daniel awake. Not that he was completely asleep, but he was definitely enjoying a strong dozing off. “We are beginning our descent into Pittsburgh and should be on the ground in approximately 15 minutes.”
“Pittsburgh?” Daniel says aloud. He looks around and finds that the cabin is empty. No sign of tequila bottles or shot glasses or beer bottles. Or Peter. Daniel figures Peter is in the bathroom and searches through the newspapers on the table for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. He wants to read the story about the freak storm again and wonders why Jonas chose to send him to Pittsburgh. But the Pittsburgh paper seems to be missing, too.
He looks around and wonders what’s taking Peter so long. Daniel sees Sara in the galley, tidying up. He approaches and asks her if Peter is back here. She stops what she’s doing and looks at him somewhat strangely. She doesn’t say anything right away, but finishes folding the towel in her hand, then turns to face him.
“Did Peter come back this way?” he repeats.
“I’m sorry, sir. I’m confused. Peter?”
“My brother,” Daniel tells her, his mind clicking into higher gear. He heads to the bathrooms, checking each of them. No sign of Peter in either one. He turns around to find Sara behind him.
“Sir, are you okay?”
Daniel rubs his head. It throbs slightly. He wishes he hadn’t had so much tequila. “Could I get some water and maybe a couple of Tylenol?”
The speaker crackles overhead and Daniel heads back to his seat. “Okay, Daniel, we’ll have you on the ground in just a couple more moments so you may want to collect your things.”
That voice, thinks Daniel, I know that voice.