Chapter 5: Finn Drops a Bomb


Snow and I played around all morning on February 23. The leadership conference was due to start at three in the afternoon, so we had to get our recreation in early. Around one we went back to the apartment so Snow could shower and change into his whites.

At two, we drove over to our zone leader's apartment, where all the district leaders were meeting to drop off their companions and then ride together to the conference. Snow toddled off with Runaway McKay and the other district leaders in the zone leader's car, and Elder Finn and I were left together.

Finn said he had a couple of errands he needed to run that afternoon, and besides having to go back to his apartment and take a shower, as he had been playing basketball all morning. We headed outside to the parking lot, where I made for the '86 Chevy Cavalier that Snow and I drove.

I was automatically assuming, you see, that Finn would want to go in the Cavalier, rather than in the grungy old Dodge Aries K that he and McKay drove. (The Aries Ks were the most unpopular cars in the mission. Everyone wanted one of the new Cavaliers that were slowly replacing them.) But Finn headed for the Aries, insisting that we take it instead. I shrugged, not terribly bothered, thinking, "Okay, whatever."

Once we were on the road, Finn asked if I had any errands I needed to run that afternoon. I said that I needed to grab some cash at the bank, and that I needed to do laundry for myself and for Snow.

Finn blew up at that. He was already acting weird (though I wasn't consciously registering the fact yet), but this was weirder still. "What do you mean you've got to do Snow's laundry? What a jerk! Why the hell are you letting him make you do his laundry? That asshole! Don't do his laundry!"

Well, I was somewhat taken aback by this sudden burst of anger and profanity, and irrationally I somehow felt shamed by it. I tried to defend myself by saying that Snow and I got along fine, and I didn't mind doing his laundry because he was going to be in a conference the rest of this day and the next, and I had to do my own anyway, and he had given me a bunch of his quarters, so what was the big deal anyway?

Finn settled down some, still grumbling, then pulled in and parked at the nearest branch of the Royal Bank of Canada. We got out, and I went straight to the teller machines, where I obtained a couple of nice colorful Canadian twenties. (We called it Monopoly money, since every denomination was a different color.) Finn got in line for one of the live tellers, and I had to wait for a few minutes while he conducted his transaction. I was some distance away from him, loitering in the lobby, but I saw the teller hand him not just a big wad of Monopoly money, but a whole lot of nice, proper, green American cash. This was odd, but again it didn't really register with me at the time. Finn was withdrawing a whole gruntload of U.S. currency. So what? He must have a good reason.

Back in the car, Finn asked me if I had any appointments lined up for the evening. (Officially, p-day ends at six p.m., and proselytizing must be done after that. In practice, things don't always work that way.) I told him I'd lined up a d.a. for seven with the Bray family. I thought that would please Finn, since the Brays were one of the "cool" families (members who like to have the missionaries over often) in the local ward, and since they had a very stunning daughter named Heidi who was a senior in high school. (Hey, even if nothing can happen, it's nice for missionaries just to associate with pretty girls on occasion. And Finn and I were both nineteen. 'Nuff said.)

But Finn seemed to greet this information with neutrality. He really didn't seem to care about dinner with the Brays.

Well, we arrived at Finn and McKay's apartment building before too long and went upstairs. The building was a tall ugly cinder-block construction, set in a wide-open paved space with several other identical buildings nearby. A housing project, actually. The apartment was on the fifth floor.

(It's probably worth mentioning at this point that, while I was taller than Finn by a couple of inches, he was much heavier. He was built like a football tackle. I was thin to the point of scrawniness, about forty pounds lighter than I am now.)

Finn went to take a shower, and I tried to find some way to entertain myself. Elder McKay had a full set of the thirty-six Dramatized Church History tapes (with scripts by none other than Orson Scott Card) lying around, so I put "The Martyrdom of Joseph Smith" on McKay's Walkman and made myself comfortable.

After about fifteen minutes, Finn came out of the bathroom and went into the back bedroom without saying anything. Through the drama unfolding in the headphones, I could vaguely hear him puttering around back there. I didn't want to disturb him, though, whatever it was he was doing, and besides, I was enjoying the tape. So, trying my best to accommodate his strange mood, I left him alone.

After about another forty minutes, Finn came out of the back room. We was wearing jeans and a purple pullover sweater—good respectable p-day clothes. His hair was neatly combed and he looked well-scrubbed. He said something. I took off the headphones. "What?" I asked.

"Elder Shunn," he said again. "I'm going to freak you out."

(He really did use those words, "freak you out.")

"Oh, no," I said, half to myself. "How?"

Elder Finn, out on his mission for only five months and having what seemed to me at the time to be tremendous success in terms of conversions, said to me, "I'm going home. I have a plane ticket. My bags are all packed. And you're going to take me to the airport."

“Terror on Flight 789” is a very early, much shorter preliminary draft of what would eventually become my full-length memoir The Accidental Terrorist: Confessions of a Reluctant Missionary. If you enjoy this story, you'll like that thoroughly revised and expanded version even more. Available now!

About This Story

“Terror on Flight 789” is a very early, much shorter preliminary draft of what would eventually become my full-length memoir The Accidental Terrorist: Confessions of a Reluctant Missionary. If you enjoy this story, you'll like that thoroughly revised and expanded version even more. Available now!

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