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Tolmachevo

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The crew were enjoying, if that was quite the right word, the legendary facilities at the airport in Tolmachevo. "Legendary", of course, is not quite the same as "excellent", or even "good."

The first course had been rissoles, which probably contained some kind of meat. Vegetables didn't generally go that shade of grey. The pudding, however, looked more promising.

"No, Arthur," said Martin firmly, "you can't eat that."

"But why not?"

"Astonishing though it may seem," said Douglas, bitingly, "strawberry cheesecake does generally have strawberry in it. And this one, in fact, does."

Arthur looked hurt. "But the food in Tolmachevo's always awful!"

"True, but I don't see the connection."

"Well, I thought it couldn't possibly actually have real strawberries in it."

"Not unreasonable, I have to say," Martin put in. "I mean, this raspberry yoghurt mostly tastes of pink."

"Blue," said Arthur, "raspberry tastes blue."

"How on earth- oh, never mind." Douglas reached over and pulled the strawberry cheesecake off Arthur's tray. "The point is, you can't eat this, Arthur, and so as it would be a crying shame to waste it, someone else should. After all, it's possibly the only food item on this God-forsaken aerodrome that contains what it says on the menu."

"That's a bit harsh," said Martin, "It's Russia's sixth busiest airport, actually."

"And the busiest airport in Siberia," said Douglas, "It's still a God-forsaken aerodrome. I bet half the immigration officials used to break arms for the KGB, back in the day. Some of them probably still go in on their days off to keep their hand in. I really didn't care for the way that chap was looking at me."

"He probably suspected you of smuggling vodka."

"Grossly unfair. I don't smuggle any more, I merely exchange gifts with friends. And there's a much better market for caviar. Easier to hide, too."

"Anyway, that's beside the point," said Martin. "The point being, I don't see why you should get the cheesecake. I'm the captain."

"I don't remember any FAA regulation which guarantees captains cheesecake," said Douglas smoothly. "And we're on the ground, so you can't even pretend that this sort of thing is covered by you being in command of the aircraft. But tell you what, I'll toss you for it."

"No. You'll win. You always win coin tosses."

"Are you suggesting I cheat? I'm hurt. I'll let Arthur toss, if you like. With one of your coins."

"No," said Martin irritably, "I'm not suggesting you'll cheat. Although I bet you would if you thought you could get away with it. It's just I'll lose. I always lose coin tosses."

"If that was a plea for sympathy in the hope I'll give you the cheesecake because I feel sorry for you, it won't work."

"Guys," said Arthur, "why are you arguing? You've both got spoons, you could share it."

"No," said Douglas, and "Absolutely not" said Martin.

"Why on earth not?"

"Principle," said Douglas. "I saw it first, therefore it is mine."

"Oh, that's a great principle," said Martin. "What are you, three?"

"Worked all right for the British Empire. It's a fundamental principle of international law."

"All right then," said Martin mulishly, "I will toss you for it."

"Fine. Give Arthur a coin, and call."

"Oh. Um. Tails. Heads? No. Tails. Definitely tails."

Arthur removed his hand. "Bad luck, Skip."

"I knew it," sighed Martin.

"Oh, I've always been lucky." Douglas complacently pulled the film off the top of the cheesecake. "Mm. Delicious. You can tell it's got real fruit in it. Yum yum."

"Oh, lay off," said Martin, and Douglas, uncharacteristically did.

"I do think it's brilliant that we get to try all the different food you get at different airports, even if it is sometimes not very nice, because then you can guess what it was supposed to be, and it's like a little guessing game you can play with yourself."

"Sounds like your cooking."

"Oh, that's not nice, Skip! - Hey, Douglas, are you OK, you look a bit –"

Douglas attempted to say something that was possibly "I'm fine," or perhaps "I don't know," but as he couldn't properly form words with his suddenly swollen lips, it didn't matter.

"Arthur, get your epi-pen," said Martin. "Quick."

*

Much later, when Douglas' lips had returned to normal, and they were in the air again, Arthur stuck his head round the cabin door.

"Right chaps. Tuna pasta for Martin, chicken pasta for Douglas. And two puddings for Martin."

"What?" Douglas protested.

"Sorry, Douglas, but don't you remember? You ordered strawberry yoghurt. You can't have strawberries any more - you're just like me!"

"Arthur, I am in no sense 'just like you.' Give me Martin's, instead!"

"Sorry, Douglas," said Martin, though he didn't sound sorry at all. "No reason for you to remember, but I ordered strawberry cheesecake..."