Fiction: Bombs Away Pilgrims (SHE excerpt)

“Bombs away Pilgrims”

Your flight attendant says, as you find yourself scrambling wildly for the complimentary seasoned nut pouch.  The plane falters momentarily, and you are reminded of your mother’s firm grip on your childhood: shaky, stifling.

Engines cough, sputter, and choke, and the scent of burning ozone drifts through the corridors of your nasal passages.  You begin to suspect that this is not the smoking section, despite the stewardess’ flaming attitude to match her shouldering beehive.

“Excuse me miss?”

The words claw their way from your throat that is suddenly too dry.  She pays you no mind.  You see her eyes through.  She heard you. You can tell.  The flames rise up for a moment, her eyes burning.  For an instant, she reminds you of your ex-wife.  Why is there no end to the domineering, angry, controlling women in your life?

“Miss?”

The flames settle to smoldering embers.  She exposes hard white teeth in something that is a cross between a smile and a grimace, with no effort to hide the scaly contempt that lies just beneath the surface.  She approaches slowly, slinking down the aisle like a stalking lioness.  There is something insanely primal and sensual about the whole experience, you think; at least, there would be if you weren’t so directly involved.  She crouches down to the side of your seat, and you feel the heat of her fire.  Your head is swimming.

“Yes?  How may I help you, sir?”

You smell the sulfur and brimstone in her breath, and can see the sharpness of her teeth that are suddenly closer to your neck than necessary.  The words fumble.

“Could I possibly have another package of peanuts?”

No.  This is not what you wanted to say.  But it is too late.  She hands you the slick, silvery package and moves down the aisle.  Feeling dizzy, you rip open the package and are overwhelmed by the wafting smell of salt and nuts and plastic as they begin to serve the continental breakfast.  You watch the cities below through your tiny window, and marvel at the idea of roasted peanuts and almonds, specially packaged for your convenience.

***

SHE is a collection of essays and short fiction about women and the feminine.  The above short was previously released in a mildly different form in MIU’s Act 1 college news magazine, Spring 1994 – which explains the dated reference to the possibility of smoking on a commercial airplane.

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