Writing Exercise 14, Late For Work

The plume of smoke reminded me of Mount Etna on a windless day when the volcano belched smoke and cinders into the atmosphere. This plume, too, had stood out black against a clear sky. I remember staring as I hailed a cab at the airport, unable to look away; I felt a premonition of doom descend over me like a shroud, but shook it off, attributing it to the close call my aircraft had had on the way in when the ailerons jammed. I had thought we were going to die, but the flight engineer managed to fix the jam with barely two minutes left before certain death.

The mishap meant I arrived two hours late for a writer’s conference and award ceremony. Had I arrived on time I would have received a million dollars as one of the first fifty writers to sign in. The cab had turned onto Armenia Avenue when I saw the smoke billowing from my office building. I yelled at the cabbie to punch it. We drove another block with two to go when the building exploded. The explosion emanated upward from the lower floors and the building crumbled into a pile of debris. All my closest friends died, crushed to death.

That day, I discovered money meant nothing to me. I realized it when my life passed before my eyes while I struggled to keep control of the aircraft, and I learned it a second time hours later. Life is precious, not money.

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