"Man your battle stations! Get away from the windows! Extinguish all lights! Put out cigarettes! When I yell 'Fire!' let 'er rip!"
[quoteright'/>We saw bright flashes of light as the exploding plane plunged into the ocean. It had been a close call. The enemy aircraft had fired at us repeatedly, knocking out one engine and damaging a wing. From now on, we would fly without any lights, praying that radar would show us the location of any attacking plane. The pitch-black night swallowed us into its belly.
"Mommy, I want to go home."
"Shut up, dear. We're almost there."
"But I'm afraid of the loud noises and the dark."
"Look, kid, you were the one who wanted to go on this vacation. You begged me to take you to Switzerland so you could see the cute little chalets and pig out on chocolate. So now we're going."
"But why did why have to go this way?"
"I've told you over and over. This is the cheapest transatlantic flight in existence. It's not called the Tightwad Express for nothing! Now make your mother happy by practicing firing your gun."
"Mommy, I'm scared!"
"Attention, all passengers and flight attendants. An enemy aircraft is approaching from starboard. Take your positions."
"Mommy, who's out there?"
"Don't ask silly questions. Just fire when the stewardess tells you to."
This time, instead of being hit by bullets, the plane was flooded with leaflets proclaiming lowest fares to Europe.
"Aha! A propaganda war! Two can play at that game! Passengers and crew, here are our leaflets. Commence throwing," the captain ordered.
The stewardess handed out reams of Fly Tightwad Express leaflets, which were folded into airplanes and heaved toward the plane attacking with its own leaflets.
"A direct hit! The leaflets have penetrated the aircraft! Passengers are reading them and haranguing their stewardess! Prepare to receive defectors from the enemy aircraft," the captain jubilantly announced.
The passengers of the attacking plane excitedly boarded the Tightwad Express flight and were shown to their battle stations. They knew very well there would be other enemy planes to repulse, more blood shed. Was it worth it? each traveler wondered.
"Mommy, if I'm very good, can we stay home next year?"
"No. We all have to do our part. We have to be patriotic. In time of war, we must make sacrifices."
The airline fare war had left the ticket counters and taken to the skies. Long live Tightwad Express and the $99 transatlantic fare!
Susan Packie teaches anthropology at Malcolm-King College, which is located in America's premier anthroplogical site, New York City. She has had her work published in more than 80 magazines.
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