Avi Rosenberg shouldered past the group of soldiers — likely fresh from Vietnam — milling just inside the entrance to Chicago’s Midway airport. Perhaps shouldered was an incorrect term. Though just sixteen, Avi towered a full head and shoulders above everyone else in the crowd.
Checking the gate numbers against his ticket, he took a seat in the rank of molded plastic chairs ubiquitous to airports everywhere. A few more uniforms passed him carrying Styrofoam coffee cups and fast food bags, probably catching up to the group at the door. He didn’t envy them. He also didn’t blame them for hesitating at the exit. Before he passed the servicemen, he’d passed a small, but vocal group of anti-war protesters. A man in uniform passing though those doors was not going to receive a comfortable welcome.
Truthfully, he felt sorry for them. Sure, he was against the war, but most of those guys never asked to be sent and very few actually volunteered for the Army. He frowned. If the war continued a few more years, would he be called up? What would he do if he was? The question might be a moot. After all, his dad told him just that morning that the Senate was discussing legislation to end US involvement.
No use worrying about something that hasn’t happened, he thought, pulling a three-ring binder from his backpack. The archaeological dig he was headed to in Georgia was of more immediate concern. Shell middens were notoriously complex and difficult to excavate properly. He was extremely lucky to have won a place on the student team and the last thing he wanted to do was screw up by going into the dig blind.
He’d barely read the first page when someone slid into the seat next to him. “Fascinating plot, but it’ll never make it to the big screen.”
“Huh?” Avi looked up to find his long-time friend, Victor Pale, grinning at him. The two had grown up together, and until the murder of Vic’s parents and older sister had placed him in his uncle’s custody, they’d been inseparable — or as Avi’s mother observed, “Joined at the hip.”
“You didn’t think I’d let you go off to the wilds of Deepest, Darkest Georgia without saying goodbye, did you?”
“I’m glad you didn’t. Mom and Dad had exams to give today. Esther dropped me off on her way to work. Everyone else has school, so I figured I’d be here by myself.”
“Wondered where everyone was.”
“It’s only a four week dig.” He shrugged. “Not all that different from Summer Camp, I suppose.”
“Yes it is!” His friend. “This is your first real archaeological gig, man! How could it not be important to the guy who built Stonehenge out of Twinkies for a third grade science project?”
“I’d forgotten about that,” Avi laughed. “Nostalgia aside, how are you doing? I heard you joined a band?”
Victor nodded happily. “The Wolfpack. Great bunch of musicians! We got our first club gig coming up Saturday.”
After a pause, Avi asked, “They do know you’re only sixteen, right?”
“Weeelllll, the band knows, but I expect Hattie kind of glossed over that fact to the club manager.”
“Somehow that doesn’t surprise me. Where is she? You guys have been pretty close since you met.”
“She’s busking outside the terminal.” Vic squirmed in his chair, then pointed at a window. “There! I give you Hurricane Hattie Harper!”
On the other side of the glass, a young woman stood slightly out of the pedestrian flow, playing a guitar with the case open on the sidewalk in front of her. She danced as she played, tossing her wild cascade of long, wavy, caramel-colored hair.
After a moment, Avi said, “Okay, I understand where ‘Hurricane’ comes from now.”
Vic laughed. “Nah, that’s just a minor squall. You should see her in front of a club audience.”
The PA announcements, which had previously been background noise, prodded Avi’s attention. He paused and listened more carefully.
“That your flight?” Victor asked.
“Yeah.” He stood to collect his bags.
Vic rose to help him. “You better boogie, then.”
Everything collected, Avi straightened. “I’m glad you came. I was afraid it would be a while before we saw each other again.”
“Not a chance!”
The PA called again.
“MOVE, man!” Vic said with a good-natured push.
Grinning, Avi joined the stream of humanity flowing toward the boarding gate.
“Good luck with the ancient garbage heap,” his friend called after him.
Turning, he called back, “Thanks! Good luck with the sonic assaults, too.” With a final wave, he hurried to catch his flight.