The plane landed gracefully on the six thousand feet long runway despite the heavy rain. A nice bit of maneuvering of the pilot for sure, which in turn was commended by the passengers whom had started applauding the fact they made it across the Atlantic in one piece.
“Ladies and gentlemen welcome to John F. Kennedy airport, New York”
The airport was a marvel of space age architecture. Big, expensive, undeniably American and utterly futuristic in its appearance, the reception looked like a space station from an old 20th century sci-fi flick if it weren’t for the giant windows that let in grimy autumn weather daylight. The terminal where people would arrive from their flights had a huge slightly forward leaning glass wall which looked out over the wet runway and the foggy city beyond. A man in a beige overcoat with his hands in his pockets looked on as an announcement was called over the intercom. Echoing over the sound of busy airport traffic in the hall.
“Announcing the arrival of Atomica flight 2-2-1 arriving from London, Belfast and Reykjavik. Passengers with connecting flights, will you please check in with the airline counter at the main hall? Thank you!”
The man in the beige overcoat casually puffed away on his pipe, to maintain the thing balanced on his lips however, he needed to pull his right hand out of his pocket to straighten it by holding it at the base of the curve. Once that was sorted he checked if his navy blue bowtie was still in pristine order with the hand he had just freed from its warm pocket. Obviously, the man was waiting for someone. Someone to collect no doubt, since he still wore his coat in the terminal hall of the airport. He looked down at his feet and noticed his faint reflection in the stark linoleum floor, and while it was indeed a well-scrubbed floor it wasn’t exactly what one would call polished to a mirror shine. Incidentally, it was too late for him to get to the lavatory lest he’d miss the person he was waiting for. While he worked his gaze back up to the window he noticed the fern plant that was placed along the base of the huge windows. A rather sterile and pointless effort to liven up the terminal lounge, mainly because they were obviously plastic.
At that point the passengers from flight 2-2-1 arrived into the lounge. The women held their purses strongly in hand and men their suitcases. Most of them also hung their coats over an arm and fanned their head with hats. Seeing as the those planes could be rather warm, especially when you sat close to the atomic engines, this wasn’t an uncommon sight at airports these days.
The blue bowtied man extinguished his pipe and walked up to the checkpoint where guards diligently checked the affaires of the incoming traffic from the old continent. Despite the recent political tensions, things seemed to be going smoothly and respectfully. The hunky metal detector and computer hid most of the people from bowtie-man’s view, until they would eventually walk through the chrome doorway. He waited anxiously for the man he hadn’t seen in years: ‘Doctor Malcolm Wakefield‘
Malcolm and him were old friends, they had both gone to CIT and Cambridge. Though they separated when they both wished to lecture and continue their research on their ‘own soil’ respectively. They had said their goodbyes about seven years now. And just when it started to sink in how long ago that was a familiar voice called out:
Kent saw a man waving his hat behind a woman in a floral dress; It was Malcom! The American was rather amazed at how he got recognized so quickly by the Brit. He did wear his coat lapels up and his hat low. But it didn’t matter, he just felt giddy seeing his old schoolmate again so he waved back. At first the women in floral dress between them thought it was for her but she soon realized the friendly gesture wasn’t directed at her. She looked down while smiling a sheepish grin as she took her shoes and bags away from the metal detector, leaving only official paperwork, mandatory TSA checks and a distance of about ten feet between the old friends.
Once everything checked out the doctor in a grey tweed three piece suit with light-blue shirt and dark-grey tie that made him look a lot older than he actually was in that typically British way, walked up to his colleague in a beige overcoat under which he wore a brown double-breasted suit and a starched white shirt with his favorite navy-blue bowtie that Malcolm had suggested to him years ago in a shop down King’s Parade. Which, now that he thought about it, was probably the item that gave him away.
“How do you do, old boy?” Malcolm asked, happy but reserved.
“I’m doing mighty fine, pal!” Kent said with a big grin across his face. After which he stuck out his hand to give him a firm handshake and a pat on the shoulder, which was something Kent would do spontaneously. Then again, Malcolm had his raincoat crossed over his arm so he couldn’t really extend any more than one limb. After the friendly exchange Kent turned around and gestured towards the exit of JFK airport.
“It’s good to see you again, Callaghan” Malcolm said, this time being a bit more serious.
“It’s been how long now? Seven years?”
Kent Callaghan nodded and agreed, he had only just thought about it himself so the answer was still fresh in his head.
“So how’s Britain been since I left? If it’s anything like I’ve read in the newspapers recently… I suppose not all that well?”
“Yes, the whole nation has been suffering after we lost you.” Malcolm replied dryly. And it garnered an equally dry chuckle back from Kent. “Still got the humor with O-U, huh?”
Malcolm didn’t dignify that light question with a response. Instead he was far too busy looking around.
“Something wrong?” The American asked when he noticed his British friend’s absinth minded-ness.
“Oh? Hah, no no…” Malcolm defused in a gentlemanly manner. “It’s just. I’m quite thirsty, flying at the speed of sound does that to me. And the drinks on the airplane were way too expensive.”
Kent Callaghan simply pointed at a vending machine in the corner but tossed Malcolm a coin before he could walk away from him. With a thank-you (and what could only described as a wink) the Brit walked up to the bulky looking vending machine, which was one of those that exclusively sold nicely cooled milk. He plunked the coin in and looked on, slightly mesmerized at the how the bottle he had paid for made its way through the machine until it reached the flap where he could collect it from. Which he promptly did and without much ado he opened the lid and let the fluid cleanse his dry throat. Although ‘wince’ might not be an accurate word to describe the minute spasm it was obvious enough for Kent that Malcolm didn’t like the milk when he joined his colleague.
“Urr… This is milk?” Malcolm asked, slightly in disbelief as he looked at the label, just to be sure. “Well, the vending machine says so.” The American hinted in a somewhat jokingly sarcastic tone.
“It’s just so… Sweet…” The Briton made clear.
“We like our things sweet and well-preserved.” Kent smiled. He wasn’t one for distinguishing tastes.
“Surely you yourself must’ve noticed a difference when you were with us in Cambridge?” Malcolm asked with a notion of disbelief, his face still not one-hundred percent recovered.
The American shrugged.
“I guess? It was more expensive.”
The Brit mustered a strained grin in response. It became apparent that neither he or Kent really wished to stay here and discuss the culinary differences pertaining milk between The States and The Kingdom so they decided to laugh it off and made their way to the exit, but before they did Malcolm threw away his unfinished bottle into a nearby bin. The parking and taxi transfer went around the building in a concave curve, the broad sidewalk was completely covered by a long protruding canopy roof to keep waiting travelers out of the cold and the rain. It had rained earlier this morning but now it was just wet and grey. Malcolm blindly followed Kent since he at least knew where he was going. This was the Briton’s first visit to New York City thus it shouldn’t have come as a surprise that he had no earthly clue where to go or how long it was going to take them to get from here to the hotel. In short, he was completely dependent on the guidance of his apple pie loving friend. And even if that was a cliché, it was a true cliché in Kent Callaghan’s case. That man really loved his pies.
“This way, pal” The American beckoned. To Malcolm’s annoyance; Kent didn’t slow down for his luggage carrying buddy and also didn’t need to careen his way through oncoming pedestrians. But at this point it was quite obvious to Malcolm where they were going: To the parking lot. The parking lot had a large neon sign “P” above the entrance, on a futuristic chrome shield with decorative metal fins at the side. It was a rather bulky design, build in that typical post second world war American futura style. Kent swiftly entered, followed by Malcolm. The Englishmen noticed all the cars he was passing by were a lot bigger and broader than the ones you’d see on the streets of a town like Cambridge, I mean, certain ones of these wouldn’t even fit on the old medieval roads!
“Here we are…” The American said with a small sense of relief. Airports were always so loud and busy, two things in particular he didn’t like. If there was anything Kent missed about his time in England, it was most definitely the quiet countryside. At least, the parts of it that wasn’t claimed by Scottish petroleum giants. Malcolm, though slightly out of breath, joined up with Kent at his car. It was a fancy candy-apple red Corvega with a huge booth at the back caught between two shark fin tail lights.
“Hop your bags into the trunk and I’ll bring you to the hotel” Kent instructed somewhat functionally. But it had an oddly endearing zing to it only Malcolm could probably tell on account of him knowing the good friend for nineteen years now. Both men were rather pragmatic in both their work and social mannerisms so it didn’t bother The Briton really all that much. Friendly catching up would probably take place later tonight at a fine dinner. And on a smaller scale now during the ride to Manhattan. Dr. Wakefield carefully placed his suitcases in the booth and joined Dr. Callaghan who had already taken his place in the driver’s seat. The passenger seat was spacious, just like the whole car. If he wanted, Malcolm could stretch the seat back all the way which would allow him to fully stretch his long legs. But he didn’t expect to go on an interstate road trip, so he decided not to fiddle with the levers under his seat.
“Comfortable?” Kent asked with a beaming smile which mainly stemmed from his affinity with cars. He just really liked showing his baby off to people, especially foreigners so they could marvel at the All-American ingenuity.
“Yes, I am.” Malcolm nodded while straightening his tie for a second. After which he felt the need to humor Kent and vocalize the obvious observation regarding the size of the vehicle for politeness sake.
“Rather spacious isn’t it?” “Yeah, they don’t make em’ like this anymore in Europe, Do they?”
“I don’t think they ever did.”
Kent didn’t respond to that last reply, he was instead turning the engine on and the car as a result thrummed to life. Malcolm in turn put on his safety belt and with that final check, they were off.
A few minutes later they had reached the highway which would allow them to zoom across Queens towards Manhattan Island with incredible speed and ease. But first they would pass the construct of their meeting, the culprit of their reunion. Yes, this wasn’t a social call but rather business with a fun twist. From the elevated speedway it became quite clear in the distance, The Flushing Meadows Corona Park. Where the 2077-2078 World’s Fair would be held. At the appropriate time Kent leaned over to Malcolm’s side and pointed at it.
“See that giant globe shining in the distance?”
Malcolm didn’t see it at first, his view quickly racing to focus beyond the bypassing cityscape, but after a second or two his eyes flickered up and he nodded when he noticed the giant mascot of the park.
“Ah Yes, I do!” “That’s the World’s Fair Meeting Center where we’ll be representing our respected countries. Tomorrow we’ll go there, so you can see how truly massive that globe actually is.”
But Malcolm didn’t need actual convincing, he had some notion of the scale just by looking at it even from this distance.
“I presume it was rather costly?” He said, bringing a dash of realism in between Kent’s upbeat American optimism. “Boy, it sure was. But hey… World peace is worth it if you ask me.”
Malcolm didn’t want to appear cynical but neither did he one-hundred percent believe that an expensive one-year theme park was going to mend the world’s grave wounds overnight. Surely it would take more than that. But optimism was nice. At least it was a welcome change from the doom mongering he has been trying to avoid back at home.