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We had been circling on the runway of the airport terminal like a
car on the beltway around a major city. After an eternity (actually, it
was just half an hour) the pilot finally announced that we were cleared
for take-off. He explained that our delay had been due to a problem
with one of the engines. But, he said, it had fixed itself. That’s just
what I wanted to hear. Mercifully, the engine(s) carried us into the
skies without further mishap.

On board the plane were the two Hide sisters — Leather and Calf.
One had skin tougher than the other. Neither wore make-up; their
short, sun-bleached blond hair looked as if it had been shorn with
sharp rocks. Plain tee-shirts, khaki shorts, white socks, and
Timberland boots announced they were hiking through life, scaling
obstacles but never stopping to smell the sweetness of pleasure.
Mountains, rocks, streams — in fact, all of nature — were
acknowledged only when they were defeated in battles of supremacy.
Enjoyment was found in perseverance. Their backpacks, safely
stowed above, contained enough trail mix to traverse the Cascade
Mountain Range. They immediately fell asleep, heads resting on each
other, reinforcing their bond, replenishing their strength for the next
course of impediments.

Copyright 2002
Timshel Literature

Also on board was the health-food nut seated next to me, who had ordered a special meal for the flight. He was downing a concoction of Gelfling essence and fruit. His body, purged of fat and toxins, was in stark contrast to the sweet taffy that bloated his mind. He had purged his body of bad medical test result numbers but had filled his head with the useless numbers of baseball statistics. His body had the look of a marathon runner, sleek and thin. Indeed, he had participated in a couple of Boston marathons, but more importantly — to him — he had run the 100 or so races in his head. Replayed his non-participation and the triumph of others over and over. He tried to infect me with the dribble that he called thought about baseball heroes and their numbers. Fortunately, the flight was soon over, saving me from the purgatory of the banal.

Unfortunately, he showed up on my connecting flight! Not wanting to be subjected to his particular confections, I started coughing uncontrollably in the direction of the empty seat next to me, not covering my mouth, just as he approached. It worked. Rather than occupying the now infected chair, he turned his head from me, an invisible surgeon’s mask covering his face to ward off any germs, and continued walking down the aisle.

Just after he passed by me, an older, obese man, wheezing heavily, the audible sound of phlegm in his lungs, collapsed into the space next to me. He completely filled his seat and was inching into mine as he strained to fit his bulk in the confined space. Once berthed in his/my seat, he turned his attention to me. A smile revealed a row of missing teeth (the others yellow from tobacco stain), ready to bore me with the details of his maladies. He immediately coughed a great round of sputum, making loud noises of dismissal.

“Are you alright?” I signed to him, in my own made-up pantomime.

He looked puzzled. I raised the palms of my hands to my ears and garbled a barely decipherable “Can’t hear.”

He frowned then turned to the person on the other side of the aisle and inflicted the conversation that I would have suffered.

I was left in peace to gaze out the window toward a view of Middle America’s nature, cut up and squared off by squares who fight over possession rights. Occasionally, a diagonal cut across the grid, causing anxiety over the boundaries that should have been clearly delineated.

When these battles are won, the reward of personal gratification induces the contentment of inner calm. I could now go to sleep and relax in the thought of my fate, dependent on manís machines and their reliability to lift me to new destinations.