C. C. Parker
“This is always the way it works,” she said, shifting in her seat. “The plane goes up, and then it smashes to the ground.
Ralphy wanted to know why she was saying these things. “Your positively evil,” he said. “And I don’t believe a word of it.”
Still, whenever the plane rocked, shook, or tilted queerly, Ralphy felt like he was being turned upside down . . . like he was being morbidly violated.
“When we hit,” she explained. “You won’t feel a thing.”
“How do you know?” He asked.
“It’s seems obvious,” she said. “From this high up you . . .”
“I had a dream once,” she went on, “where I was in a plane that went down . . . so I guess I kinda know. I remember hearing people scream that it was really happening. It was so real, Ralphy. But you know what? I didn’t mind. Not really. Actually, it was kinda exciting.”
“How is that exciting?”
- - - - - - -
Ralphy stuck his tongue out at her. The plane had landed fine. His sister had been wrong. “You see,” he said, shoving a rolled up comic in his coat pocket.
Julie grinned at him with all teeth. “You see,” she mimicked.
Ralphy could see his mom and dad. They were two rows ahead. Dad was grabbing something out of the overhead compartment. Mom looked back at them and smiled. Everything was okay.
People were packed tightly when they passed, like a thin, torrential stream. Julie and Ralphy stood above there seats and waited for an opening. Dad craned an arm over the row between them and pulled them around. “It’s okay,” he said, glaring at those who passed. “Make a hole,” he said to them. Dad had never been afraid of people.
Obediently, the people parted, and dad, like Moses, waited for his children. “Damn people,” he said, under his breath.
“Yeah. Damn people,” said Julie.
Dad scowled down at her. “Come on,” he said.
Ralphy and Julie followed their parents of the plane and into the lobby, where Granny and Aunt Martha were waiting. “Oh my God,” said Granny, cradling mom in here withered arms.
“What’s the matter, mom?” Mom asked.
“Someone . . .” Granny’d been crying.
“It was terrible” said Aunt Martha.
“What?” Asked Dad.
“Someone said that the plane had gone down,” explained Aunt Martha.
“Why in the hell would someone say that?”
“I don’t know.”
“Someone in the lobby,” explained Martha, looking over dad’s shoulder. “A big man like you. He was crazy. He said the plane out of Atlanta had gone down and everyone had burned up.”
Ralphy looked over at Julie, who was clutching tightly to mom’s hand.
“I don’t see him,” she said. “I guess he’s gone.”
“Well, we’re here,” said dad. “We’re all here . . . and we’re fine. You see?”
Granny’s voice crackled to life. “I thought I was going to have a heart attack,” she said. “I thought . . .”
“We’re fine, Granny,” said Julie. She was not the same eleven year old she’d been an hour ago.
- - - - - - -
Ralphy pressed his face against the car window. The sky scrapers of New York City hulked past. Ralphy had been here once or twice before, but it seemed bigger then he remembered; and more distant, as if it weren’t a real city at all.
“Where are we going?” Asked Julie.
The car was cramped; Julie was practically on Ralphy’s lap.
“Granny’s house,” said mom.
“I hope you brought your appetites,” said Martha.
“I’m starved,” said dad.
“Your always starved,” said mom.
- - - - - - -
Granny live on the outskirts of the city.
They all piled out of the car and climbed the steps up to Granny’s house. Dad held a bag in each fist, while mom, Ralphy, and Julie carried one of their own. They’d finally made it, but Ralphy knew that they’d have to get on the plane in order to go home. Certainly, Julie would tease him about plane crashes and screaming people and death without pain. It hurt his stomach a little just thinking about it.
They went inside and prepared a large meal. Martha made her famous Chicken Parmesan, while Granny boiled noodles for pasta and sliced bread. Mom helped toss a colorful salad. And then they all sat down, drank wine, ate, and prepared their bodies and minds for a week in the Big Apple.
“Granny,” said dad. “I’m sorry you had to go through that.”
“We asked immediately after,” said Martha. “Moments before you arrived. And they assured us that they hadn’t heard any such thing.”
“It’s was probably some sicko,” said mom. “Just trying to get a rise out of people.”
“Horrible,” Granny hissed, and grew silent.
“I’m tired,” said Ralphy. It had been pretty big day for the eight year old.
“I’ve got the beds all made up,” said Granny
- - - - - - -
When Ralphy awoke on the plane next to his Julie he sensed something was wrong. The plane hadn’t gone down, but it was going to.
Then Julie bolted upright, and things started to happen so fast that Ralphy got sick. A lot of people got sick, and the night outside was bright with flame. An old man with a head of white hair unfastened his seat belt and crawled down the aisle, toward the back. His eyes went crazy.
Granny was on the other side of Ralphy, looking down at him. She looked like an ancient angel; jutting angles and sorrowful eyes. “It’s gonna be all right Ralph,” she explained. “We’re gonna go to Heaven now.”
Julie was screaming, and Ralphy didn’t think she looked excited at all.
Dad stood up and turned around to face his family. Mom was somewhere behind him. Tears were streaming down his cheeks, but his eyes suggested only the most terrible kind of fear.
“This is the way it always works,” Ralphy thought he heard someone say.
And somewhere, someone was waking up.
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