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.

An Interview with Nina de Gramont

By Christine Davis

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Tell us a little bit about The Boy I Love, which came out Sep. 2nd.

It’s a novel for teens about prejudice, secrets, and friendship. I structured it around a situation that feels familiar at first – a love triangle – but tried to take it in new and different directions than the reader would expect.

How is this book different from what you’ve written in the past?

I have lived in the South for eleven years, but this is the first time I’ve set a book in the South. There are loblolly pines and Spanish moss and even an alligator.

What inspired you to write this latest book?

Oh, the state of the world, its divisiveness, and the ridiculous reasons people come up with to hate each other.

How would you describe your writing process? Where do you write? When do you write?

I try to write every morning, and my process is pretty straightforward. If I’m not under a deadline, I make myself write until I’ve produced 1,000 words. But if I’m writing under a deadline, or if I get inspired, I’ll write much more than that.

As to where I write, it varies. I have an office corner set up in our guestroom but I never use it. Usually I’m in the living room or at the dining room table. I tend to write first drafts in bed. It makes the process a little like convalescing, you can’t get up until the book is done.

What are you reading right now?

I’m teaching a graduate class in Young Adult fiction, so I’ve been rereading a lot of great YA. This week it’s Monster by Walter Dean Myers. So far we’ve read If I Love You Am I Trapped Forever? by M.E. Kerr, Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson, and The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie. Up next, The Giver by Lois Lowry.

Do you have any advice for writers hoping to publish their first book?

Work on the draft until you absolutely can’t work on it anymore, make sure it’s as strong as you can make it on your own. Read extensively, and research the authors whose work you think is similar to yours – the editors and agents who like their writing might like yours, too.

Are there any upcoming events or plans we should know about?

Mostly just writing and teaching and being a mom. I have a novel coming out next fall with Algonquin, the title is still a work in progress.

Nina de Gramont’s newest novel, The Boy I Love, is in stores now. Her previous titles include Meet Me At The River, Rogue Touch, Every Little Thing in the World, Gossip of the Starlings, Of Cats and Men: Stories, and Choice, which is an anthology she co-edited. Her accolades include the Booksense 76 New England Bookseller’s Association Discovery Award, a Booksense selection, A Pushcart Prize nomination and special mention, and recognition from the ALA for Best Fiction for Young Adults. Her work has appeared in Redbook, Harvard Review, Nerve, post road, and Seventeen. Nina de Gramont teaches at the University of North Carolina Wilmington. More information can be found at: http://ninadegramont.com.

BIRD BY DESERT-LIGHT

BY CHELSEA BIONDOLILLO

 

…It can’t store enough fuel to last the night

and hoist it from its well of dreams

to first light trembling on wet fuchsia,

nor break the hard promise life always keeps.

A lot of hummingbirds die in their sleep.

 

Diane Ackerman, Dark Night of the Hummingbird

 

 

Creeping home after midnight requires equal amounts of attention to detail and skill. After years of late nights, I know to take my shoes off before walking up to the door, so no heel sound will clatter on the steps. I secure my purse over my shoulder and tuck it under my arm to prevent it from jangling or bumping into door jambs. If I’ve been drinking, I take a couple of cleansing breaths to focus on the task at hand: getting the key into the lock with a minimum of fumbling. Stabbing blindly at the key plate is the sure sign of an amateur.

Tonight, however, I’m sober as a judge. My stealth is out of habit and courtesy rather than propriety: I don’t want to wake my parents. I’m every bit a guest in this house, and want to act it. Already I have figuratively slunk to their house in Phoenix after failing to beat the recession. Back in Texas, someone else is living in my house and someone else is doing the administrative tasks that I used to do, before my position was eliminated.

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MY LOVE AFFAIR WITH TRAINS

BY HSIEN CHONG TAN

When I was a little girl in New York, I loved to ride the subway. Back then, I didn’t care about the grime or the roaches. And the weirdoes on board didn’t scare me. I liked how a bunch of buskers would just pop on the train, play a song, and pop off at the next stop. I was too young to analyze this, to say that dirt was culture, to weigh comfort against surprise. Sometimes I would watch a passenger force open the doors between carriages and squeeze his way out. I imagined him disappearing, like magic. I know now that he was only squeezing his way through a second set of doors and into the carriage beyond, walking further and further away.

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PRESENCE

BY BILL VERNON

 

I’m not even fishing, just standing on the bank of the Little Miami River, and the flowing seems to pour through me. It’s as if the future lies downstream and all I have to do is look there to see it. My eyes are like spools from which the lines of my being arc out, unwinding to catch on the surface, then slowly sink, gleaming like lasers cutting through the murk, spreading a light net over the deep. I’m so close the smell of the water seems to rise up from inside the earth.

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HOLES

BY EMILY KOON

 
 

Loretta, the cleaning woman, went at the picture window in the living room with a bottle of Windex, wiping in hard slashes. She always makes faces while she cleans, as if we live like animals on the days she doesn’t come. When she was finished, she dusted her hands off and said, “I don’t think I can get this house no cleaner, Mrs. T.,” like that’s my fault.

I asked her once how she liked her work. She looked at me like I was asking how many men she’d been with. All I wanted to know was how she got into the cleaning business, whether she chose it or life chose for her, because I think Sherry could do work like that when she gets out.

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A publication by Northern Arizona University's MFA Program