CLINT BO DEAN ran his finger along the zipper of the middle-aged woman’s travel bag.
îLooks like you’ve got a lot of reading ahead of you, ma’am! Anything you can recommend in here?î
The woman’s harried look gave Bo Dean pause; however he kept on with his goofish routine, in the hope that she’d save him the trouble of actually going through the stuff.
“Well, there’s the new Dorothy Porter best-of!”
“A-and, maybe one or two debuts, you know, chapbooks, just off the press.”
“Anyone I might have heard of?”
“Um, this guy called Murray?”
“Yeah, he’s pretty good. Quite promising stuff, actually.”
Bo Dean sighed. He felt like starting off this next phase of the interrogation with a line like “You disappoint me Ö” or his old favourite, “You have failed me for the last time, AdmiralÖ”
Instead he signalled for his fellow Air Poet, Enya de Burgh (no relation), to cease her own random bag checks and join him at the inspection counter. A line of relieved looking travellers picked up their bags and filed, in an orderly fashion, towards their departure gates.
“Sir,” Enya said, matter-of-factly.
“Enya,” Bo Dean whispered, pulling his colleague out of earshot of the increasingly nervous woman, “I’d like you to witness this.”
“Anything suspicious, sir?”
“Well, of course, it’s too early to tell. But I think we may have a Dan Brown reader on our hands.”
“Oh, for Christís sake. I thought that guy went down the vanity press route years ago.”
“Well, you know these self-publishers!”
Enya ‘s grin betrayed her own excitement. They hadn’t had a bust like this one in weeks. In fact, things here at the airport had become increasingly dull, inversely proportional to the amount of poetic diversionary material making its way back into the popular culture. The number of trashy self-help books, sci-fi novels and conspiracy theory expositions had steadily declined, leaving the airport retailers no choice but to go along with the Air Poet revolution. Now these formerly trade outlets stocked only the latest releases by both local and international poets, in attractive and harmonious displays. Passengers barely dared to board their flights without purchasing one or two of these immaculately presented and reasonably priced books, for fear of an immediate cavity search or ñ worse ñ an Air Poet raid, like this one.
This subservience made Clint and Enya’s jobs boring for the most part, though they of course did not complain, being busy writing their own debut collections in their spare time, and having exchanged chapbooks only just last week. Their relationship, if one could call it that, showed signs of moving beyond the end of the line, and into that hazy space known to poets as enjambment, where anything can happen.
But wow, a Dan Brown! Most Air Poets only dreamed of such a score! Mixed in with Bo Dean’s excitement, however, was a feeling of slight revulsion. There was something about the kind of paper these publishers used that set off an allergic reaction in his palms and he didn’t like touching the damned things one bit. Hence Enya’s role in this particular bust.
“Okay ma’am, we’ll just have to open this one up. If you don’t mind.”
Bo Dean motioned for Enya to begin taking the so-called poetry books from the woman’s vast and cavernous bag. To her credit, the first two were indeed debut collections ñ a couple of young Queenslanders whose poetry, even he could see from the over-sized testimonials, “sizzled” with tropical heat, “redolent of peanuts and bananas Ö”, making at least one of them “amongst the five or seven best poets of her still-emerging generation Ö” ñ but as for Porter’s best-of and Murray’s so-called first book, well, you know the drill.
“Ma’am, I’m saddened to inform you that your possession of not one but four Dan Brown novels leaves me with no choice but to detain you under the provisions of the Air Safety (Poetry Reclamation) Act 2016. Would you please remove your overcoat? I have reason to suspect that you may be hiding more embargoed items there.”
“Oh all right,” the woman muttered, digging out a thick book that claimed to explain, even better than Brown could, the perverse sexual habits of Jesus and his disciples.
“And the ñ”
Clint Bo Dean snickered with glee as the woman pulled out first a Harry Potter omnibus and then a battered Michael Crichton.
“This way, ma’am.”
Before Bo Dean could caution the woman further, however, she kicked him in his left leg and then somehow managed to pull a large hard-cover book from under her blouse. The book, a barely disguised copy of The Thorn Birds, suddenly exploded in her hands, ripping her torso from the rest of her body, and turning what was left of her once-proud face into mincemeat.