The Cast: Nielsen (bewildered), Myself (amazed), the Model (casualty of war), Thornton (toxic).
Once, my Uncle Sam decided it would be fun to take me and about 170 of my brothers to Hawaii for two weeks. We had lots of fun there, like when we played the License Plate Game. That road trip game where you call out the state on the license plate of passing cars. It went something like this, “Hawaii!” “Hawaii!” “Hawaii!” “Hawaii!” “Hawaii!” “Hawaii!” “Hawaii!” “Hawaii!” “Hawaii!” “Shut up Baxter!” Followed by some laughter. Then a few minutes later, “Hawaii.” “Hawaii.” “Hawaii.” “Hawaii.” “Hawaii.” “Hawaii.” “SHUTUP!!! They’re all going to be Hawaii! It’s an island!” “Utah!”
It was then that we found out that there was a Marine in our unit that sold his truck a few weeks before our deploying to Hawaii to another Marine who was being transferred to Hawaii. As we pulled into the base that truck was parked near the gate for all to see. But that’s not the reason I tell this tale. No, this story is about something entirely different. This is about the flight home.
While waiting for our plane and all the logistics that are required to get a company of Marines on a civilian flight, we were provided the opportunity to sit and wait (it’s a military thing). Now all this was pre-September 11th so things were a little different than they are now. And a group of us were just standing around and talking about the training we had just undergone, and how we were excited to go home to family and whatever. During this Thornton decided to go and check on something at the ticket counter regarding our flight.
After some time we noticed he was still there, talking not to the staff behind the counter, but to some lovely lady. Now, you need to understand that Thornton wasn’t your typical I’m-going-to-go-chat-up-that-hottie type of guy. He wasn’t a scumbag or anything, nor was he good looking. He was a decent Marine, he didn’t stand out one way or the other. But he wasn’t in this ladies league by a long shot. But he had been there talking with her for a while and she was smiling and laughing with him.
This woman was no ordinary good looking woman. She had long, dark hair, olive skin, sharp, pleasant facial features, and her curves weren’t too bad either. She had a Mediterranean vibe about her, and she could have easily been a model. We found out when Thornton returned to our little group that she indeed was a model. He gave us the information update on our flight and then returned to chat with the model. A very gutsy move by him.
The two of them talked until the plane arrived. They talked while boarding. They sat together, front row, center seats, chatting, smiling, and laughing the entire time! Thornton was gonna get a girl! Nielson and I sat about nine rows directly behind them. Nielsen lined up with Thornton and I was behind the model. The two of us were kind of watching the two of them get closer, both physically and in friendship. I had to keep laughing to myself because I was honestly happy for Thornton but at the same time it would have been one of those couples that you look and say, “How did he get her?”
After about one of our four-hour flight Nielsen and I began to see signs of unrest in front of us. We could see the passengers around, and immediately behind, Thornton and the model beginning to shift about in their chairs and look around. The two of us were thinking maybe we missed an announcement or the stewardesses passing out something. After just a moment or two, Nielsen figured it out and I quickly did too, “Oh no. He didn’t.” “Yes, he did. It’s a Tactical Fart.”
‘Tactical’ in the military can be—and is—used as a noun, a verb, an adjective, an adverb, or anything else, including an order. “Make [it] tactical.” Means to silence it, or secure it, or paint it because the color stands out. “We’re moving tactical.” Means we are moving in formations or strategically with stealth. ‘Tactical’ was a label attached to Thornton’s farts because they were not of this earth and we didn’t know what else to label them.
The farts could move and do things only an entity with its own intelligence could do. And they had had their own distinct smell. You knew it was his. And you could find Thornton with a goofy smile on his mustached face just staring at you as if to say, “That’s right. I did it.” It’s like Thornton and his farts worked together with telepathy or some other unnatural power. They could move around one person and hit the next. I was in a trench with an East wind blowing and was hit from the West with a Tactical Fart. Thornton also took out our whole platoon. At once!
So when Nielsen and I began to see the faces of the people around Thornton and the model we knew exactly what had just happened. What we didn’t know was what it would do, so we watched and waited. The two of us were far away enough we could asses the Tactical Fart and learn its movements. This one made itself into a barrier one row thick and went from floor to ceiling and from wall to wall. And it was moving toward us. Slowly
This was no ordinary plane, this was a Hawaiian Airbus A330-200. It has 294 seats and where we were sitting there was a column of two seats, then four, then two again. And this fart was working its way through them all. Nielsen and I watched as each row reacted to the toxic cloud, screwing-up their faces, plugging their noses, fanning their faces. One guy stood up, after it had passed him, and walked back toward the bathrooms. When he hit the Tactical Fart again he mumbled, “Again?” And after he came out of the bathroom and passed through it again, headed back to his seat, he said, “Seriously?” The fart was slow moving.
When it hit, Nielsen and I were ready. After all, we had had a captain that had been known to use tear gas, just to wake us up. So the two of us sat. Held our breath. Waited (because we timed the reactions of passengers ahead of us). And then went about our business afterward. Nielsen went to the front of the aircraft to use the bathroom and I went to sleep.
Upon landing I overheard someone from 1st Platoon ask about a horrible odor about an hour into the flight. Someone else informed him that it was a Tactical Fart and wondered where the other Marine had been sitting. He said that he was in the far back of the plane and he could see people freaking out about something, and he figured it was the smell. When informed that it began at the front of the plane he couldn’t believe it. “They’re Tactical Farts. They can do anything.” Was the response.
I don’t know whatever came about regarding Thornton and the Model. But I do know that when I fell asleep they weren’t talking. And when I woke up and disembarked, they weren’t talking then either.