On a bus headed for the Appalachian Mountains, I found my life in danger due to the man seated next to me. He was wearing one of those illegal Explosion Suits, and by the look in his eyes, I knew it was due to go off at any moment.
I cleared my throat and turned toward him. “That’s a mighty fine suit you have on there.”
“Thanks,” he was sincere but obviously nervous. “It’s made by Bigsby, Kruthers, Smith and Wesson. Cost me a bundle.”
“I can imagine,” I replied.
He was a stocky man, tanned and worn. Black wavy hair dissipating on the top of his head, fading to a bleak shade of silver. His eyes were kind, but the lines surrounding them scrunched and muddled into a map of one man’s broken life. Somehow it had come to this, traveling through the the country by bus, wearing an Explosion Suit.
“I bet when it goes off, though, it’s quite a blast! Must be some sight to see!” I limply attempted conversation, as enthusiastic as I was terrified.
His eyes dropped to stare at his shoes, and he mumbled a few syllables of acknowledgment and agreement.
An uneasy silence sat between us for a few moments before I gathered to courage to ask, “How often does it go off?”
BLAM!!! I must have uttered the trigger phrase; my dumb luck, always saying the wrong thing.
The whole bus explodes and I find myself hurling through the air, high above the Earth. My arms and legs flailing and grasping frantically for something, anything to hang on to.
I was reminded then of my third grade classroom, where I was asked once what I wanted to do when I grew up, and I said, “Fly.”
My teacher, Mrs. Williams, was the first woman I ever had a crush on– the way her cheeks would blush up a rose color and her full lips curl when I came to class late and without my homework, or the tricky gaze of admonishment and silent approval when she caught me out on the playground burning down the monkey bars.
“People cannot fly,” she said. The rest of the class laughing wildly around me. Her eyes burning right into my skin, intimidating. My hands were bloated with sticky sweat, my forehead quickly overheating body. “People cannot fly!”
Oh, Mrs. Williams, if you could only see me now, a couple thousand feet above the east coast, swirling around, twisting in the clouds and probably about to die.
I hope there’s something soft down there to land on…
© Robert Emmett McWhorter