by Bryan Russell
The Corpse Who Loved Shakespeare
The woman pushed the elderly man in the wheelchair up to the airport counter. She smiled. The old man’s head was slumped back. He was wearing a hat and sunglasses. A little blanket was pulled high up his chest. A book was propped open on his lap.
“Here’s our tickets,” the woman said. She was still smiling. “For my father and I.”
The woman at the counter took the tickets, but she was looking at the man in the wheelchair. “Sir?”
“Oh!” the daughter said. “He’s sleeping. Ha ha ha!”
“Sir?” the woman at the counter asked again. “Sir?”
“Ha ha ha! He’s sleeping!”
“He looks very grey.”
“He’s old! Ha ha ha! Liver problems, you know. Travel will be good for him!”
“Is he dead?”
“Ha ha ha! That’s a good one! He was just reading a few moments ago. See?” She pointed at the book on the old man’s lap. “Right, Dad, you were reading?” She spoke very loudly, without looking at the old man.
The woman at the counter leaned over a little speaker. “John, could you and Mike come up to the front, please?”
“What’s this?” the daughter said with a smile. “What’s going on?”
“Just routine, Ma’am. Do you have your passport?”
“Oh, somewhere in here, it’s always so hard to find…” The daughter fumbled inside her purse.
John and Mike approached. They wore airport security uniforms. They eyed the old man in the wheelchair, and huddled with the woman at the counter, whispering.
John looked over and smiled. “If you’ll just come this way, Ma’am. We’ll check over your documents. Just a few questions for you and your father.”
“Oh, yes, yes, ha ha ha,” the daughter said. “Hear that, Dad? Just a wee delay. Ha ha ha.” She pushed the wheelchair forward, the two security officers on either side. The old man’s head slumped forward. The sunglasses were very dark, and now hung askew from his face. His eyes were open.
Mike was frowning. “Are you trying to smuggle your dead father onto a plane to avoid the transport fees?”
“Ha ha ha! No! My father was just reading, see? He loves Shakespeare. He falls asleep all the time reading it!”