1. Fantasy brawl

2. Creak freak

3. Caught pants down


I don’t have anything, really, against Chicago, especially since the only time I’ve spent there was in a terminal at O’Hare, but I gotta tell you I can think of a whole lotta places I’d rather be. Don’t get me wrong. I’m sure the Windy City has more than a few attractions that might appeal to a classy guy like me. I just think I’ll find them somewhere else without having any chance at all of running into Florence Fatterly again.

Flo wasn’t all bad, you understand, but she managed to get me into more trouble in four hours than I’ve been in all the rest of my life. She wasn’t bad-looking for an old broad, with dark brown hair except right down the middle where the part was. She had a lot of hair, kind of wavy and reaching down past her shoulders. She had a lot of everything, come to think of it, but what I remember best was how that hair got flung around when she talked. Flo could listen okay. It was when she was expressing her opinions that she’d wave her arms and shake her head so that fingers and hair presented a problem to anyone standing too close. One Saturday last December the “anyone” turned out to be me.

I never meant to go to Chicago at all. I was in West Virginia for my uncle’s funeral and spent a couple of days visiting with kith and kin. By the time I was scheduled to come back home to nice, sunny Phoenix, the weather took one of those unexplained dumps on us and flights were being cancelled right and left.

“Listen,” I told the man on the phone. “I got a job in Arizona. You can’t just tell me I’m stuck here for several more days. I don’t even own a coat, for God’s sake!” The man, who’d apparently been properly trained by the airline to deal with travelers like me, was polite but firm.

“Oh, I’m so sorry,” he told me. “There are many, many folks in your situation. There is simply no way to get you a direct flight to Phoenix at this time.”

I grabbed at that word “direct.” “You mean I can get out of here if I make a stop somewhere? Get me on a flight. I don’t care where I have to make a stop.”

It was the truth. I’d have accepted a layover in Cairo if it meant I could escape W. Va. and get on my way home.

“Let me see,” the unseen man said. “It looks as if there are two remaining seats in economy class to Chicago, leaving at 10:00 this evening. I do have to warn you that Chicago may be a problem, too. The storm is huge.”

“I don’t care. I’ll take care of any problem if it comes up.” With a few more words and a large hit on my Amex, we finished the transaction and I hurried to pack.

I couldn’t have known the problem would be named Florence.