Short Story Sunday: The Stowaway

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A long time ago (maybe two years, ha) I was obsessed with short stories. I shared dozens of them right here on Words for Everything. Most were science fiction, you might recall, as I was on a bit of a kick at the time. I thought it might be fun to start sharing short stories again in a new weekend series, mostly because I miss doing regular weekend posts but also because I’ve come across some really great ones in the last few months. You might notice a trend in that my tastes have evolved from science fiction and fantasy to mysteries and thrillers. Hope you enjoy!

The Stowaway by Mary Higgins Clark

This is Clark’s first ever published short story, and it is most definitely a thriller. Flight attendant Carol, who is stewarding a flight from out of the country, is awaiting the all-clear from local police to allow her plane to take off. The authorities are searching for a runaway from “the underground” whom they suspect may have secretly boarded their plane in hopes of escaping the America.

Carol accidentally discovers him, and is surprised to see that he is so young. He begs her to help him hide on the plane and to not reveal him to the police. Instantly, the reader is put in Carol’s shoes. Would you call the police right away to alert them to the escapees whereabouts? Or would you help him, since he is so young and vulnerable? Carol has to make a quick decision. She has a romantic past with the pilot of the plane, Tom, whom she is still in love with despite their falling out. She knows it will only anger him if she hides the boy on the plane without telling him. But with the police still actively searching, she makes a split second decision to hide him now and figure out what to do later.

Not surprisingly (to the reader at least) the Commissioner of Police happens to be boarding this particular flight. When they are given the all-clear for takeoff, Carol begins the delicate dance of taking care of her stewardess duties while keeping the stowaway hidden and pretending like nothing is out of the ordinary. The entire flight passes before he is discovered, but by then they have arrived in a new country and he is legally given asylum. And of course, Tom is more than ready to forgive Carol, make amends and ask her to marry him, because how else would a story like this end?

I know a lot of readers don’t care for those types of endings that are tied up neatly with a bow. For a lot of readers, it can be what stops them from reading from that author ever again. I personally I enjoy them, especially when it’s a short story which end to have a lot of tension and drama built up in such a short period of time.

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