I remember the house, my house, its bright cherry doors, the long lawn made for children, the barn, the plum tree with its plums strewn on the lawn in season, the banty hens by the barn, little feathered soldiers on their beat, pecking at the plums. I remember how(more) it all could have been filmed. And all of us, my parents, and my three siblings.
"Your family is so perfect," my friend Sandy said once. "So happy. Your family is so happy." I remember I turned to her without words. How could I explain to her how lonely we were, how we drifted through that house like Jesus ghosts, ephemereal and uncomplaining, lean from our yearning for contact with each other, just another day waiting for the Second Coming which had promised us joy. How could I explain how lonely we were--how our conversations, while always polite, were devoid of life because we could not or were not supposed to be angry, sad, or upset, and were, therefore, on mute. We lived in expectation like strangers waiting for a train, each of us packed and ready, our satchels and baggage neat, our names pinned to our collars. When Jesus came, we would be neatly sorted out, our misery explained we hoped in a glance from him or one of his subordinates. How to explain that kind of waiting, an entire childhood suspended above ground in a pure kind of holiness, a cult-like holiness, in that kind of waiting?
The plum tree grew its spindly branches and profferred its plums and was more real than us. The grass in the lawn grew and was mowed and was more real than us. The banty hens who ate the plums waited for nothing but another plum and were more real than us.(less)
He was still out there.
A hundred miles and he was still out there, sitting calmly, the cup of coffee next to him.
Inside the plane, she couldn't help staring at him.
A man. Maybe.
(more) Brown, hooded robe. Cup of coffee.
She thought about nudging the guy next to her and saying something like, "Do you see him too?"
But she'd read enough to know that the other people never see them, it's a personal thing, a personal hell maybe.
He was still sitting there, sitting as she stared, cloak ruffling in the wind, kicking its legs off the edge of the wing like a five-year old.
The plane was going a hundred miles per hour but the thing looked like it was sitting in a light breeze. As she watched an arm emerged from the folds of the robe, lifted the cup of coffee, drank, set it down.
She had just about decided to bite the bullet, had turned to the man next to her, raised her hand to tap his shoulder and draw him out of his rapture of earbuds and spreadsheets when she heard it.
It was such a tiny noise. A light, musical tapping, a 'tink tink tink' of what might have been iron or granite on glass.
She froze, naturally.
And turned slowly to see the thing had moved. Oh, it had moved.
With its face pressed right up against the window, its proboscidean nose squished up a little, its needlelike teeth stretched in a grin wide enough to cover from one misshapen ear to the other.
"Hide the secrets," it mouthed, and grinned.
She jolted back into the man next to her, and when he looked up in annoyance he saw it too.
They never figured out why the plane crashed.