The plane shuddered and then rocked — not violently, but severely — from side to side. Water splashed up and out of my glass. The seatbelt light came on, and the captain announced that we were in some moderate turbulence.
I took a deep breath, put my faith in science and aeronautical engineering, and made sure my seatbelt was fastened. So it went from the Rocky Mountains to Lake Michigan. To tune it out as much as possible, I worked on the second draft of the comic script I wrote before PAX. When I finished that, I opened up a new document and worked out the page beats for six short comic stories that I’ve been playing around with in the back of my mind for about a year.
It was a very productive flight, and I was so focused on being A Writer, I didn’t even realize that the turbulence had stopped, or for how long the air had been smooth.
I grabbed the flight attendant’s attention and asked for some more water. When he walked toward the front of the cabin, I got my first good look at the man in seat 1B, across the aisle and one row ahead of me.
I … I think that’s Ray Gideon, I thought.
Ray wrote Stand By Me with Bruce Evans. The last time I saw him was on my 25th birthday at my parents house.
He looks like Ray, but a little olde– then I realized that, yes we probably would have aged at the same universal constant rate of time.
I unfastened my seatbelt, took off my headphones, and walked up to him.
“Excuse me,” I said, “did you write Stand By Me?”
He looked up at me, and I knew it was him before he answered.
“Yes, I did,” he began.
“I love that movie so much,” I said with a smile. I paused for a second as he smiled back at me. “I was Gordie in that movie,” I added.
I watched his brain try to match up the way I look now with the way I looked when I was twenty-five, and the way I looked when I was thirteen.
“Oh my God! Wil!” He burst out of his seat and wrapped me in a joyful hug.
“I thought it was you, but I wasn’t sure and … man, I am so happy to see you!”
He held me at arm’s length, the way a parent does, and looked at me.
“I didn’t recognize you at all! You’re so … the beard and …”
We laughed together, and for the next hour or so, caught up on our lives. By the time we began our descent into Montreal, we’d traded numbers and planned to get together when we got back to Los Angeles.
As I walked out of the airport and toward the arrival lounge to meet my convention liaison, I reflected on the conversation Ray and I had on the plane. I told him about marrying Anne, raising the boys, adopting Ryan, and getting both Ryan and Nolan successfully through school and into the beginnings of happy and healthy adult lives. It’s never easy raising a family, but it was extra hard for me because of the relentless legal and emotional assaults from Anne’s ex-husband during their entire childhoods. But when it got really rough, I strapped in, focused on what was important during the turbulence, and eventually learned to ignore the annoying and nauseating things outside that I couldn’t control.
I focused on what was important, what was right in front of me, and when that plane landed, the rough air was barely a memory.
I cleared customs and found my con liaison.
“How was your flight?” He said.
“A little rough in places, but not bad,” I said.
Not bad at all.