Carl sat on the plane and closed his eyes, eager for the flight to end. Just as the doors closed, he felt a jolt. He turned around and saw a young boy, about seven, sitting in the row behind him. The boy kicked Carl’s seat again.

“Stop kicking my seat!” Carl asked the boy to stop. The boy’s mother was reading a magazine. She didn’t look up or say anything. The boy kicked Carl’s seat again.

He was looking forward to a peaceful flight home after a stressful day at work.

“I’m the one who suffers because the flight is oversold?” he asked, his voice tense. “Am I supposed to sit in this small seat for five hours?” He took a deep breath to stay calm as people nearby looked at him.

The agent looked regretful. “Sorry, but there’s no more room in the business cabin.” “I wish there was something I could do.”

He sighed and went to the economy line. 

After a long wait, the gate agent finally called his zone to board. Carl held his ticket as he walked onto the plane. The economy cabin needed to be fixed. Passengers crowded into narrow seats, and flight attendants offered helpless shrugs.

He sat down, and his knees hit the seat in front of him. Carl tried to make himself comfortable, but his knees were against the seat. He twisted and turned to find a comfortable position.

Gazing out the window, Carl accepted his fate. Just a few more hours and he’d be home. He had to stay positive. He closed his eyes, listened to music, and imagined himself on a beach. However, the boy behind him soon disrupted Carl’s peace.

The boy’s mother sat next to him, reading. 

Carl tried to calm his breathing and ignored the boy kicking him. 

The boy kept kicking, making it hard for Carl to relax. He had to deal with it. 

Carl’s smile faltered as he looked at the boy. “Stop kicking my seat.” “It’s uncomfortable,” he said.

But as soon as he turned back, the boy kicked Carl’s seat again.

The kicking didn’t stop. The boy kicked Carl’s seat again in a steady rhythm. 

The woman looked up from her magazine. “Kids will be kids,” she said. “He’s trying to keep himself busy.”

Carl was angry at her response. He spoke sharply and angrily. “Busy?” At the expense of others’ comfort? “Maybe it’s time for some parenting lessons,” he said, annoyed.

The woman was angry at Carl’s suggestion. 

The conversation got louder. 

Their voices got louder as they argued. The boy stopped kicking and watched the adults argue.

The flight attendants tried to calm things down. 

Carl took a deep breath as he felt another kick. He needed to stay calm for himself and the other passengers. He turned and smiled at the boy. “Stop kicking my seat.” “It’s hard for me to relax,” he said.

The boy looked back. Carl said, “It’s hard to sit still on planes.” Let’s find something fun. I have a pencil and notebook for you to draw with. Just as Carl reached for his bag, the boy’s mother leaned over. “Don’t speak to my child without my permission,” she growled.

The boy started playing again. Each kick rattled Carl’s seat. 

After a few minutes, he found a way to talk to them. He waved to a flight attendant. “Excuse me,” Carl said to the stewardess. “Can I get a drink?”

“Yes, sir,” the stewardess replied, heading to the kitchen. Carl waited, his plan taking shape. The stewardess brought him a cup of ice water. Carl thanked her and then held the cup.

Then another kick hit the back of Carl’s seat. It was the last straw. Carl pretended to be startled and jumped. He tipped the cup of water. The water spilled out of the cup and onto the mother.

The boy was silent and wide-eyed. He knew what he’d done, but his smile was gone.

The mother wiped her clothes with a towel, not looking at Carl. She was embarrassed. The boy sat quietly.

The boy’s seat stayed empty for the rest of the flight. The mother and her son sat quietly. Carl smiled as he leaned back.

Carl sighed. He didn’t get the relaxing flight home he wanted. He gathered his things as the plane landed. There was no point in thinking about it. It’s over. He thought, “Next time, I’m getting first class.”