Flight 2418

Flight 2418 By Paul Bergstraesser

“Sir?”

Was she talking to him? Who knew. He kept his eyes closed.

“Sir.”

Yeah, it was him. He took a deep breath and looked at the flight attendant. Her face was artificial-nice from corporate training but underneath he read sourness and disgust. Wasn’t the first time somebody had been repulsed by him.

“Sir, I hate to tell you this, but you’re going to have to disembark the plane. It’s just . . . we have weight restrictions on flights.” Her eyes moved to his stomach. They darted left and right, up and down, as though the landscape of his body was just too much to take in with a single glance. “We usually suggest that passengers of your stature purchase two seats. And the flight is full.”

Should he fight it? He refused to look down at himself, but he could feel everything: the armrests splayed out, digging into his hips; the seatbelt straining to hold tight his middle; the disgust seeping from the passengers on either side of him who had exaggeratedly pushed themselves against the window and out into the aisle.

Should he fight it? But then one of the pilots silently appeared behind the flight attendant, his cap full of authority.

“Okay,” he said. He rolled sideways a bit to extricate himself and everyone around him cleared out. When leaning to retrieve his bag from the overhead bin, his gut covered the side of the seat. It pushed into him. It hurt. What they didn’t realize was that he felt everything. Always.

Back at the gate, he surveyed the crowd. No one was really looking at him, but everyone was: he was the guy who had gotten kicked off the plane because he was just too fat. Hard to hide in a situation like that, but he tried his best, squeezing through a press of people and out into the open.

The next thing he did seemed too easy. She was distracted, looking down into her carry-on, digging for something, and he picked her phone right off the table and kept walking. He glanced around: no one had seen. He typed in the numbers.

“911, what’s your emergency?”

“There’s a bomb on Flight—” he turned back toward his gate “—Flight 2418. Chicago to Cleveland. There’s a bomb on Flight 2418.”

“Where are you, sir?”

“I’m at O’Hare. The plane is gonna blow. Flight 2418.”

“Sir, could you please—”

He ended the call and dropped the phone into a trash can. And then he made his way over to a moving sidewalk and stepped on, the grooved rubber bowing under his feet. He thought: if I’m not going, they’re not either. He thought: this is what inconvenience is.

Paul Bergstraesser was awarded an NEA Literature Fellowship in 2012.  In addition, he has had his fiction published in Another Chicago Magazine, The Barcelona Review, Other Voices, Paradigm, and The Portland Review.  His nonfiction has been published in Sojourn.

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