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Night Flight Mike
A novelette from Cheeseburger Brown
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Night Flight Mike, a novelette by Cheeseburger Brown, illustration by Matthew Hemming

CHAPTER 7

Once he hit the lobby Mike's pace slackened with doubt. The bloom of having bested his first obstacle, Bianca, paled as he recognized in his guts the challenge of the obstacles to come. Would they even let him, a minor, wander out of the hotel at night? Even if he did, would the nightclub have bouncers who would refuse all kids? Even if it didn't, would everyone inside laugh at him?

Mike felt the urge to pee but knew he couldn't. He had to stay on-mission.

He looked at his shoes as he passed the bellhops and swept out the wide doors, the bite of the evening air at first startling and then invigorating. It also exacerbated his need to pee. The street was colourful and loud, a jostling, veering, blinking blur that Mike found easier to ignore than to parse. He marched down the outer edge of the curb in the direction Sapphire had indicated, eyes locked along the sign-fronts hunting for any combination of spelling or logotype signifying Coriander.

"Coriander, Coriander..." whispered Mike. "Come on Coriander."

He crashed into something meaty and leapt back, gasping. "Heavens to Betsy Ross!" cried Sapphire, stumbling against a mailbox. "You almost ate my lunch there, kid."

They couldn't say anything to one another for a moment while a streetcar rumbled by. "Am I almost at Coriander's?" shouted Mike while Sapphire shouted, "What's your name again, sweetie?"

The streetcar screeched as it slowed and chuffed as its doors unfolded.

"Coriander's?" Mike repeated.

"Like the bar?" said Sapphire, frowning. "You're named after a bar?"

"My name is Mike."

"Damn, that's right," she agreed.

Mike was about to ask her to point him on to Coriander's when she held up a hand with long fingernails and then stepped into the road to chat with someone in a car. Mike wandered on, having caught sight of an illuminated letter C on a sign occulted by a Vietnamese delivery van in the reflection of a shop window across the street.

He tilted his head to reveal the reflected letters S R E D N A I R O C, and his purpose was renewed. The sign was wrought in neon which was just the way he'd imagined it. The R stammered an irregular buzzing tattoo.

Mike turned to see the nightclub and his triumph chilled: the mouth of the place was entwined in a snaking line of people in various combinations of black clothing advancing by impatient twos to have their wallets inspected by someone or something in the shadowy maw before passing on within. The snake of people cackled and murmured, tall and sophisticated and ribald and adult.

Frightened that they would catch him staring Mike put his hands behind his back and pretended to be studying something on the other side of the street. In the shop glass reflection he glimpsed hope: an alley running beside Coriander's. Could there be another way in?

Sapphire could not help him. She had climbed into her friend's car to go for a ride, waving to Mike as they passed by.

Mike steeled himself and turned to march into the alley, on-mission once again.


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