Not seen Flight of the Phoenix? An oil rig in Mongolia is closed down, and as the rig workers, an oil company executive (Ian) and two pilots are flying back to civilization, the plane goes down in a sandstorm. They're stranded in the middle of the Gobi desert with limited supplies. The situation is grim. And I don't own any of it.


Comfort Food

Ian isn't taking part in the campfire conversation between Sammi and Patch; he still feels awkward with most of his fellow travelers. They're talking about what they plan to eat and drink when they're rescued. Bacardi and coke and a cheeseburger? Since it's all purely academic, why select something as banal as a cheeseburger? Well, no doubt they're taking comfort in the familiar.

Really, he has so little in common with them except this accident of fate. Ian's knuckles are skinned from manual labor he's not used to, and he's sore from lifting, sawing and anchoring the heavy pipes. No one else seems to be having as tough a time of it, perhaps because he's never engaged in more strenuous activity than a round of golf or a game of racquetball. Why should he? Ian works best with his mind, not his body, and his carefully polished c.v. shows that. He's ventured to more outposts of the globe than the lot of them put together.

In the world beyond the sands, Ian remembers fondly the foie gras in Paris, ceviche in Lima and Alaskan salmon, yet in the present, thoughts of these dishes do nothing to tempt his appetite. He's eaten in four-star restaurants on five continents. Ian knows his way around a wine list, can tell Kobe beef from Omaha steaks and how to choose the most succulent lobster in any given tankful. Nothing, from smorgasbord in Oslo to trattoria in Italy, offers anything that strikes him as satisfying. In fact, the very idea of strolling into a fine restaurant in a dinner jacket is laughable. He feels whole-hearted longing for a shower and a shave in his own modest apartment in Atlanta, and a good night's sleep on his own firm mattress between his own Egyptian cotton sheets, with the central air-conditioning set for frostbite.

"---Cheese? I'm trying to watch my figure!" They're laughing, and Ian smiles absently. He's tried cheeses from all over the globe, from Norwegian Nökkelost to Australian Cheddam; he's had choice vintages, but even the classic pairing of wine and cheese doesn't appeal to him at the moment.

When he's at home, he's a creature of routine. He's had a favorite bedtime snack since he was a schoolboy...absurd, really, to be thinking of that. Sweetmeal biscuits and a tall glass of milk...he swallows involuntarily, imagining the silken texture flowing down his parched throat in long draughts...like a soothing lotion. Cold, creamy milk...that would be the most wonderful thing right now...and biscuits. Although he's pragmatically accepted American graham crackers as a substitute for sweetmeal biscuits, the taste of his childhood beckons. Could anything possibly be more wholesome?

There's a sudden thunderous explosion as drifting sparks ignite a cache of fuel, and in the fiery aftermath, Ian has other things to think about.