Landing Pages is a project by Gideon Jacobs and Lexie Smith that delivers stories to air travelers leaving LaGuardia Airport’s Marine Air Terminal (Terminal A). The pieces are completed over the duration of the participant’s flight and are available upon arrival at their destination. See all landing pages to date below. 



6/30/18
Landing Page - 324049
Flight - AS 3325
Estimated Arrival - 6:54 PM
Author - L. Smith

As far as stealing, she’s never. The worst that Vera’s ever really done is flip off people smoking cigarettes at crosswalks from the backseat of her mother’s station wagon. She is not a merciless prosecutor, though -- her middle finger is usually just pressed against her cheek, other fingers tucked below her chin, as if she’s propping her face up for the breeze. She rationalizes the gesture: even if it’s disproportionate to the offense at hand, aren’t smokers the kinds of people who’ve likely done something bad enough that they warrant the bird from a twelve year old?

Vera spends a lot of time thinking about Night Riders and Robin Hoods. She could be one, either, maybe in a few years. She will probably work alone. She doesn’t like to travel with others, because to make conversation is to lose sight of the task at hand. Getting to B from A is about efficiency. Her wits must be about her, she is the night, and so on. Naturally, she’s on horseback. She maneuvers the saddle expertly. She expends very little effort getting up or down, getting anywhere, and speeds fluidly through the blackness on her steed.

She knows it’s not right to romanticize the marauder. Her tendency to concerns her, so she makes lists of why pillaging might sometimes be the right choice. For one, most people are terrible. This is something her mother has told her, but her mother and her mother’s children are immune to it, maybe born under some sort of halo. That’s another item on her list: as one of the few who is not terrible she is one of the few able to discern who should have power, and also joy, so that more and more people may too have power and joy. She’s not yet sure whether or not terrible people can experience joy, should experience joy, or if they can ever be trusted with power even after finding joy, should they be able to. There are a lot of things she’s still not sure about, which is why she won’t take up riding for a couple years.

There will be certain targets and the rest of civilians will be protected by her allies, who don’t even question her choices. These allies are made up of a rhizomatic series of Knights and Good Sirs scattered throughout the countryside. They know better than to ask Why. She already has a few people in mind for the job. Also, she will use a map. She points here and there. These places yes, these places no, she says, and that’s it! Off they go.

There are lots of holes in her vision, for example she’s not yet sure who the enemy is. But she’s an expert in daubery. She will locate the cracks and then caulk, spackle, mend by whatever means necessary, and form a cohesive plan. For many summers she’s done this with her uncle, who entrusts her with covering up the holes he makes in walls to seek out various kinds of pests. But back to the enemy. She’s got some wormy ideas about them. The terrible people in general are not the enemy. A, there are too many of them. B, she has a hunch they only exist because of the real enemies. Basically, she’s not holding the terribles accountable for their terrible. If she eradicates the real enemies, of which the terribles are just another victim, and the terribles are still terrible, she’ll have some thinking to do.

In the meantime she has been working on her spelling. While it seems a humble task, she realizes the precarity of authority (especially when one makes their demands on paper, as she’ll do), if the authority cannot even properly spell ‘authority’. Or ‘discernment’, or ‘harangue’.

This winter she will keep all of her limbs inside the windows of her mother’s station wagon. When the car fills with hot air the windows fog over, and she’ll write words on them with her fingertips, spelling them out loud as she goes. Her mother won’t affirm the ones she gets right, but if Vera missteps -- a c for an s, or an e for an i-- her mother will say ‘Uh!-’ like catching her breath, and Vera will wipe the offending lettering off and try again, and again, until she’s met only with the silence of approval. The quiet brings her such peace, and she will know, once again, that the night will be her time. The silence is the bearer of nothing, as the somethings always amount to a pile, either in need of cleaning or coddling, and she’s no maid, no wet nurse. Not yet not not ever, she says. She will go and go into the night, wiping out the misspelled, the terrible, until it is always, somewhere, quiet.




6/27/18
Flight - Alaska 3325
Estimated Arrival - 6:41 PM
Landing Page - 324049
Author - GJ



See that dot? The one on the right side of the frame, floating a few hundred meters from the boat? I was in love with that dot. It was “love at first sight” with that dot.

When I got off the plane from Greece, I texted her to say that I’d made it home alright, and then went straight to the pharmacy to drop off my plastic bag full of disposable cameras. I ate a sandwich to pass the promised one hour it would take to develop the film, and when I returned to pick up the prints, I ripped open one of the envelopes before I finished paying, the cashier just standing there with his hand extended for cash or card. This was the first photograph in the bunch. The dot stared up at me.

I stared back. It’ll sound dramatic, but through that circle of ink on glossy paper, no more than a millimeter in diameter, I could see everything -- my own life and death and whatever container it is that is capable of holding both those things at once. I could tell that the dot, although tiny, was infinitely heavy, dense enough to disrupt earth’s improbable 4.5 billion year streak of consistent orbital patterns and gravitational tendencies. I could feel that the dot was what I’d been waiting for this whole time, was the thing I’d assumed existed when I was a child and whose absence I mourned as an adult, was definitively the one for me.

The cashier didn’t interrupt my moment with the dot even though there were customers in line behind me. He must have sensed that it was love. Or maybe he simply had peeked at the photographs as they popped out of the developer before handing them to a sunburned twenty-year-old carrying a dirty backpack, who smelled like airplane and beach and body odor. Either way, he allowed me to meet the dot, digest its arrival in my life, and then awaken from my stupor at my own pace. For that, I’m forever grateful.





6/28/18
Landing Page - 324047
Flight - AS 3325
Estimated Arrival - 6:54 PM
Author - L. Smith

We are to assume that the other hears us when we say, ‘Fine.’ We say fine again and again. Intonations flutter or they don’t. In the end it is the same, just one syllable. A syllable, depending on its season, can work itself into jams or out of them. A syllable, depending on its baggage limit, can carry a lot or go light, by choice or rule. Sometimes it takes on or off like a specter, like a vagrant, its intention to evade you unless you’ve got other ideas, in which case maybe it will hear you out. It can be a thump as well though, a smack upside the head or in the dead of the night.
Fine, held on a swivel in the middle with a sharp i, can move unwieldy in winds. A lone syllable is subject to change.
We say ‘Fine’ to each other and assume it is that. Or we say ‘Fine’ to each other and assume that it is it’s opposite. What don’t you get? We make little effort to expose intentions. The syllable is the intention. What you do or don’t glean from it is not my problem.
When Fines build atop themselves they become a spire, and a spire made of identical bits is precarious by nature. Where is the foundation? I say ‘Fine,’ again. You say ‘Okay.’ We assume things are fine, that they’re okay, and that’s fine, that’s okay. We go on.
And all these something’s aren’t something until they’re something, or until they’re everything, like sand. Because the thing about sand is that almost anything can become it. And the thing about sand is that, in all likelihood, it’ll outlive us all. But by the time a thing is sand, it’s a long, long way from living.



6/28/18
Flight - JetBlue 832
Landing Page - 324048
Estimated Arrival - 4:53 PM
Author - G. Jacobs




Everyone in town knew Glenda. It wasn’t that she was friendly, or really all that remarkable in any way, but rather, that she was consistent. She showed up at the diner for breakfast at the same time every morning, and always sat alone at the same booth, and ordered the same thing -- plain cottage cheese. She always wore white, always had a neutral expression on her face, as if she had reached a level of internal peace that left her unphased by pretty much everything. She was just the kind of person who was vaguely but reliably around, someone you run into nearly every time you are at the supermarket or hardware store or simply driving by in your car.

A year before she passed away, I was walking behind the diner hoping to take a shortcut back to my house, and heard someone crying in the woods near the dumpster. I found Glenda was bent over, hands on her knees, sobbing. I watched her for a while, and when I turned to leave, I stepped on a stick and she turned and saw me. She kind of looked the same as she always did, except I could see a few tears rolling down her cheeks. With her eyes, she pleaded with me not to tell anyone about this. With mine, I promised that I wouldn’t, and to this day, I’ve kept that promise. Why would I? If the North Star moved in the night sky, I would keep that one to myself too.






6/26/18
Landing Page - 324050
Flight - JetBlue 1171
Estimated Arrival - 5:59 PM
Author - L. Smith

A woman is carrying a bundle of bottles to a pair of trash cans that stand in front of a small house in a small town. One bottle falls from the top of the stack and rolls across the narrow sidewalk and into the gutter of the road, past the feet of a man who is walking by. His jacket hugs his gut. He stalls, almost imperceptibly, but does not pick up the bottle. The woman’s arms are very full. He’s avoided eye contact with her thus far, but she is looking intently at him now.

‘You could pick that up for me,’ she says. The man comes to a full stop and looks at the bottle, then slowly to her. He is quiet.

‘I didn’t want to be pejorative,’ he says.

Her face twists into an ugly one. ‘What did you call me?’

‘No,’ says the man. ‘I didn’t want you to think that I didn’t think, that you were going to get it. On your own.’ He pauses. ‘I didn’t want you to think that I thought you were, or weren’t, that kind of person.’ He trails off at the end of his sentence.

‘You don’t know what kind of person I am,’ the woman says.

‘No,’ he replies. ‘I don’t.’ The man leans down to pick up the bottle.

‘Don’t touch it,’ she orders. The man picks up the bottle and extends it to her. She looks at his face. She has no free hand with which to take the bottle.

‘Just put it down,’ she says to him. He remains. ‘Put it down.’ Her voice is controlled. The man gently places the bottle on top of the large bundle in the woman’s arms, where it had originally come from. The pile becomes unsteady, and like a shiver that sets in quickly it unravels from her arms in a fluid release. Bottles roll to the road again and cover the ground around their feet. The woman drops her arms, now empty, to her sides.

‘Thank you,’ she says. ‘Thank you so much.’

The man starts to gather the bottles. She lets him for a few moments.

‘Go,’ she says firmly. ‘Go,’ she intones, again. The man stops what he’s doing and straightens. Then, he runs from view.


A girl is walking in a desert town with a dog tied to the end of a piece of leather. The girl’s face is brown from sun. Her dog is dusty. She stops, pulls a paper from her pocket. There are some small houses with chain link fences; small parts of a small town which spreads out thinly around her. She lets the dog’s leash fall from her hand so that she may unfold the paper more easily. The mutt quickly becomes distracted by an unidentifiable something and runs out of view, first barking and then in silence. The girl starts after it. ‘Charles!’ she yells. ‘Charles!’ The dog is out of sight. In her sprint she finds herself in someone’s backyard. It is only dirt and a tired tree, surrounded by a small rectangle of wire fence. A door opens in the back of the house and a man appears. He stands in the doorway.

‘What are you doing in my yard,’ he says to her.

‘My dog,’ she answers. The man looks around.

‘I see no dog,’ he says, and steps out of the doorway, surveying the grounds with feigned interest.

‘That’s what I mean,’ she says. The man looks at the girl. She is worn, dirty. He waits a moment.

‘I’m just not sure I believe you,’ he says. ‘I can’t tell about kindness today.’

‘Which part don’t you believe?’ she asks.

‘Well. The dog, I guess.’

They both remain still where they stand. She looks around again. ‘Charles!’ she yells, her hands cupped around her mouth like parentheses. The man jumps.

‘What?!’ he yells back. He is startled.

‘What what?’ the girl asks. They are both confused.

‘How do you know my name?’ asks the man, moving backwards towards the house again, his hands guiding behind him.

‘I’m not talking to you.’ She says it slowly, like he is dumb.

‘Yes you are,’ says Charles. ‘You are right now.’

‘I’m talking to my dog,’ the girl says. They are looking at each other as if through a storm.

‘I’m not your dog.’ The man moves back further still, until he is through his doorway again. He closes the screen door in front of him. He speaks through it at her. ‘I don’t know who you are, or what you want,’ he says. ‘But get off my property.’ With that he slams the heavy interior wooden door in front of him, disappearing behind it.


The man is back in his kitchen and is making a sandwich. Two pieces of white bread, untoasted, sit on the counter in front of him. He takes a jar of mayonnaise from a cabinet and begins to spread it on both pieces of bread with a butter knife. He puts a scoop of mayo onto his tongue. He swallows, chokes a little bit. He drinks from a glass of water, and coughs again. He clears his throat loudly. ‘Swallow!’ he says aloud, and pounds himself in the chest with his fist, butterknife facing out like a reverse or very poor suicide attempt. He finishes making the sandwich and places it in a small plastic bag. He walks outside, shoving the sandwich into his coat pocket, which hugs his gut. He rifles through the other pocket and retrieves a pack of cigarettes and places one in his mouth. He searches for a light in the same pocket, and the the other, finally locating one below the sandwich. As he pulls the light from the bottom of the pocket he knocks the baggy loose and it falls to the ground. The man stops short, just before crushing it underfoot. Half of the sandwich is caked in dirt, having escaped its plastic tomb. He considers it for a moment before bending down and ripping the filthy half off, leaving it in the dust of the road. The man wraps the rest up and puts it in his pocket. He removes the unlit cigarette from his mouth and licks the mayo residue from his fingertips but quickly spits, finding his hands are also covered in dirt. He spits again, and licks his lips. The man lights his cigarette, then continues walking.

A few moments later, back at the site of the sandwich incident, Charles the dog is eating lunch. He licks the mayonnaise from his lips too, and keeps moving down the road.





6/20/18
Landing Page - 324056
Flight - DL 3503
Estimated Arrival - 7:42 AM
Author - L. Smith





6/20/18
Landing Page - 324056
Estimated Arrival - 5:00
Author - G. Jacobs

George was four and had yet to speak. Everyone told Marlene that she needed to get him “checked out,” but Marlene was sure there was nothing wrong with him. Sometimes when she looked in his eyes she could see amorphous thoughts swirling around his head, then see those thoughts come together and take form as a single expressible thought, then see that single expressible thought arrive at the threshold that separates a person from the world, seemingly with the intention to cross it, only to retreat at the last moment, as if it experienced a sudden change of heart. So, it was clear to Marlene that George knew how to speak but simply did not want to. That is, she knew his “problem” was not deficiency of ability but deficiency of courage. What it was that was spooking him, though, what he was seeing in his mind’s eye everytime he was about to talk that caused him to stay silent, was a mystery.

On the evening of his fifth birthday, George’s father, Jackson, arrived late to the festivities. Marlene did not expect her ex-husband to show up at all, or she never would have invited her new boyfriend, Paolo, to the gathering. Paolo had bought George a large stuffed tiger, knowing that the boy had been watching The Jungle Book nearly every day for months now. Jackson had bought George a baseball glove that was far too big for him.

Eventually, Marlene came out of the kitchen with the cake and all started singing George happy birthday. He smiled wide, his eyes following the cake, as if cast under its spell. When Marlene set it down in front of him, the group yelled for George to make a wish. George closed his eyes for a few seconds, then opened them and blew out the candles. Everyone clapped, but when the clapping died down, Jackson yelled, “Hey George-y boy, what did you wish for?”

George ignored his father and kept his eyes on the cake as his mother began cutting it into slices. But Jackson asked again, “C’mon George, tell everyone what you wished for.”

Marlene said, “Oh, no, no, if he tells, it won’t come true.”

Jackson raised is voice a little, “Nah, that’s bull crap. What’d you wish for, George? Tell us right now.”

Marlene grabbed his arm, “Jackson, stop.”

Jackson was about to ask again, and Paolo was about to step in between his girlfriend and her ex-husband when, George, cake already all over his face, looked his father in the eye and, in a voice that no one, not even the boy himself had heard before, said “No.”




6/20/18
Landing Page - 324057
Flight - AA4760
Estimated Arrival - 8:27 AM
Author - L. Smith 

The side of the road was lined with heads. The man was selling three different hairstyles in varying colors. One was cropped, another long and braided, the other tightly curled and shoulder length. He also had hats. Some of them sat atop bald heads and others atop the wigs -- these heads did double duty. The hats also came in three styles: a striped woven skull cap, one with a structured bill somewhere between newspaper and baseball, and a fedora style straw hat with ribbons of different colors. The road had heavy traffic. The man drank a soda, threw the can in the dirt. He stood there all day doing this. The people outside and in cars did not need wigs or hats. The man put on a fedora, walked up and down the curb. Sat on it, drank a soda. Considered how it felt to now be a man in a fedora drinking a soda on the side of the road, rather than just a man. He made his hair long and it was a different experience altogether. He threw the sodas in the dirt. At the end of the day he’d not sold any hats nor any wigs. His stomach hurt and his teeth felt warm and soft. He gave himself ten minutes to walk the length of his display and pick up all of the soda cans he’d sprinkled across it throughout the day. By the sun’s set he began breaking down his setup. He put all of the hats and wigs in plastic bins which he locked with a chain and covered with a tarp. The heads sat on the side of the road all through the night until morning, at which point they’d again become innumerable immovable, unnamable, people.


6/20/18
Landing Page - 324058
Flight - PAS 22
Estimated Arrival - 12.35 PM
Author - L. Smith

She gripped the edge of the table with her hands and squeezed til they shook. The table didn’t because it was American made, dense and bolted to all kinds of surfaces- walls, floors, another table beside it. These guys really doubled down on their gear, wowee did they. She squeezed it hard and waited for something to happen. It was early in the morning and quiet in there, the only sounds came from a kind of heaving she made in her efforts. She was just tiring herself out and she’d only just gotten in, so she stopped. She flexed her hands open and closed and saw they still worked. They still looked like hands at least. The orangey light that crept up in the room like a kind of silent gas brought to mind the earliest memory she had that wasn’t fully formed in some sort of picture book sense. It was of this orange glow in a bedroom she maybe lived in before her parents moved to the Big House. This one had her crib in it and her sister’s and the only thing she could remember from that memory was the light. Or the whole memory was only the light. A sort of melted sorbet or like a space stuck in amber with light running through it. Sure, it was a fossil.

The pipes in the basement were covered in a foam that was taped around them like a hand warmer, the kind you stick your fingers into from both ends so you can huddle them next to each other and have your own body really do the work of warming itself, with just some insistence from the fleece or fur or whatever. It still hurt when you bashed your head into the pipes but it was less likely to give you a concussion. This is what they were after. Liability! It was unbecoming. One time she’d cut her finger pretty badly and had needed stitches and this had made everyone in the place uneasy, when she’d walked upstairs with a bloody towel around her hand, saluting like gunpoint or drawing a gun like a salute, and said ‘I hurt myself but it’s no big deal,’ and everyone sprang into action like an actual fire was lit. They’d never cared so much about her well being in their lives, what saints, what fathers. Because sure, she wasn’t asking anything of them yet. They didn’t know that a friend of her’s was an ER doc. She didn’t look the type to have friends like that, and after she sent the friend a text she got in a cab to the hospital and the woman came in on her day off, in sandals, with her two little kids trailing behind, girls all covered in plastic stuff and colors that had been bought somewhere, and the friend stitched her up ahead of everyone else who’d spent all day in the waiting room. They’d both taken the rest of the Tuesday off.

Oddly, just the week after the she’d been attacked by a sheltie while jogging and had to go back for a tetanus shot. The animal had used her thigh to propel its body up and latch onto her wrist with its canines. It was a totally uncalled for act. She’d reacted as though offended more than hurt, like, what did I ever do to you? And it was a valid question. She’d literally not ever, never, done anything to that sheltie, but now she had a scar that implied otherwise.

Someone sent her a picture of herself that they’d found in a magazine. The magazine was new but the picture was taken last summer and she looked tawny and like a relative. Like a relative she would resent. She enjoyed the caricature, it was a good time. Let’s perpetuate a myth she said, haha, yea that’s me, and that was the end of it. The amber light in the kitchen made her feel a little nauseous, always had, like the color scheme in Goodnight Moon or when you wake from a nap in the afternoon with the flu, but it was her oldest memory, that first bedroom, so she stuck in it for a while before that slippery awareness of herself faded. She considered Lacan. She got up and wiped her fingerprints from the edge of the table where she’d squeezed it to no avail. She wasn’t supposed to be sitting anyway. She took a microfiber towel, a blue cloth somehow made of plastic, a process she’d never understand, the making of plastic into a super absorbent towel, and wiped all remnants of herself from the table top. She said aloud, ‘Fire me up sonny’ and turned on the oven. It made a swooshing sound like a small rocket ship leaving earth. The barely there window that let in some light displayed a world outside which was giving her nothing. How could there be so few people on the street? Didn’t anyone else have to get from one place to another? Fire me up, fire me up, she said, and set to work.



6/20/18
Landing Page - 124026
Flight - JetBlue 971
Estimated Arrival - 12:32 PM
Author - L. Smith

It was my floors. They were incredibly sensitive. A little too receptive to touch you could say. They marked every trace, scuffed with the ease of a fingertip on suede. They were deeply stained Douglas fir, giving off some hint of rosewood if you didn’t look too close or have any idea what you were talking about. I could take no responsibility for them but people would hand the compliment to me anyhow, upon walking into my apartment. ‘I love your floors,’ they’d say, just like that, and I’d even give them a little curtsey when in the mood. ‘Thank you, I made them myself.’ And we’d have a laugh, kind of, and then go on walking all over them.

I moved into the apartment just after a contractor had coated the planks in some kind of glossy veneer. In no time they were a catalogue of past impressions, their divots reflecting light every which way. I didn’t own the place and who knew how long I’d stay, so I was in the market for cheap and temporary solutions to avoid being held monetarily accountable for someone else’s choice of softwood for apartment flooring. The small felt adhesives widely available for the bottoms of table and chair legs were bypassed for their tendency to trickle off and leave a room scattered with green polka dots. Green felt got me thinking though, and I recalled my nephew’s classroom on the fourth floor of a huge public school floored in stone and too many students, and recalled that all of the chairs and desks had been sheathed with tennis balls at their feet to muffle the sounds and scraping.

I set to counting the perpetrating legs in my space. The kitchen table had four of them, as did each of the three chairs tucked into it. There were two more chairs in the living room. The desk at which one sat had another four legs. The bedroom shelving unit, bedside stool, and bed frame itself amounted to another eleven. I was going to need thirty nine tennis balls.

I went to the sporting goods store, where I felt like a liar regardless of the task, though especially carrying out this one. It smelled so clean that it implied something was wrong, like a noxious fume was trickling out of a hole somewhere or someone was covering up a body. Maybe it was both. Like someone should alert the authorities. I made my way to the ball wall (that’s what it said above the racks: BALL WALL). There was another woman standing there surveying her options, and we exchanged furtive glances. She was grey and slack, long in the tooth. I imagined her as a senior competitor at a local tennis club, spending her mornings under one of those big bubble-topped courts, keeping herself spry. Keeping herself alive. She didn’t look like an athlete, in fact she sort of folded in on the top, but what did I know about the kind of person who played tennis well into their seventies.

Born out of sharing a small, specific space, she spoke to me. I felt uncomfortably seen, and decided quickly that I would not let my true intentions be known. We talked about the Ball Wall options- too many. The prices- too high. They used to be cheaper, she told me. Way cheaper. They were all the same kind of green then, too, now they’ve got these crazy colors. Up-charge them a little bit and bank on the kids making enough noise about the purple and orange ones that their parents give in, she explained. I asked how long she’d been playing- 30 years, I started late - wow!- and she returned the favor - Just picked it up again for the first time since high school - Good for you! - and so on. Those have the best air pressure, she said, they last the longest, and groped at a can that looked identical to the rest but were 20 cents cheaper. Don’t let the price tag fool you, and she turned to leave. Did she wink? Play hard! I yelled, or something similarly ambitious, as she walked with two new cartons towards the registers. What an inspiration, I thought, then waited until she was out of sight before gathering what turned out to be the necessary thirteen cans of tennis balls into a basket. I wasn’t sure what kind of person bought this many tennis balls at once. Was it only coaches? Was I passable as a tennis coach? In actuality I’ve never liked tennis, or at least what it colloquially stands for. I’m not sure I’d registered that as a self truth until the moment when I threw my coat over the bounty as I walked to go pay.

Tennis balls are cheap but not as cheap you’d think for something intended to be smacked around until it bursts, is lost, or simply forgotten. And worse still, I was going to destroy them one by one with a small sharp blade stuck straight into their guts. The vulgarity of barring an object from its intended purpose the moment I bought it was striking, despite having no use for them as built. And something about the volume of the balls made it worse. Why an object bought en masse felt more precious I can’t say. Maybe because I could see its family, or because its family could see me. Maybe they knew what was coming, as I worked my way through the batch with a knife. I thought about how the older woman from the sporting goods store would feel about my act of mass destruction. Back at home I emptied all of the tennis balls into a cardboard box. Once slit, I stuck them onto the feet of every furniture leg in the house and breathed in the quiet. Then I spent thirty minutes rearranging my belongings in reverie.  

It was two weeks later when I saw the woman from the Ball Wall walking on the sidewalk with a man of an even more crumpled stature. The two moved down the block slowly, likely because he made his way with a walker, which was dotted at its feet with tennis balls like four bound and synchronized exclamation points. I heard myself take in a quick gasp, a rare and true utterance of shock. I was walking towards them, and as we neared I caught the woman’s eyes and saw a wave of recognition come over her. Slow going as they were, we stayed locked in this for what felt like a very long time. She was unsmiling, and I was stunned. She said hello first and gave me a slight nod of the head. In an instant I considered the variety of ways I could handle this confrontation. Would I point at the walker’s green feet? Tell her that I too was a ball murderer and not a ball player? Would I mention the floors? The school chairs? What I really wanted to know though, was had she been lying to me about everything? Had she ever even played tennis? When I thought to ask, the pair was already past me, moving silently away on the cement.


6/20/18
Landing Page - 123021
Flight - AF4083
Estimated Arrival - 10:32 AM
Author - L. Smith

A woman with red hair is standing with her elbows to her belly and a clipboard in her hands. Behind her a song is being sung. It withers out of the perforated speakers of an old boombox that was left in the room by the relative of a man who was not then but is now a deadman. The voice is inside of the box but very far away. This is what happens when volume is low in dark room, things that are close become distant. When the woman with the red hair is not speaking the voice from the boombox is the loudest noise in the space. It belongs to a different woman, invisible and maybe now a deadman too. There is or was a guitar close to her somewhere. She comes from a hot place, hotter than this room, some kind of Southern Hemisphere. Her skin sounds warm.

‘I am going to ask you a series of questions. Please take your time in answering. This is not a race. Do you understand?’ The red-haired woman is speaking to a man who sits in front of her.

‘This is the first question,’ he says.

‘Sure, it is.'

‘I understand.’

‘Where are we?’

‘In the Northern Hemisphere.’

There is a pause. The red-haired woman with the clipboard scratches.

‘How do you know yourself?’ she asks, by way of the second question.

‘You pay attention,’ he says.  

The red haired woman keeps her eyes focused on the man, though he’s not looking at her. He is sitting on the edge of a bed. He is almost falling off of it. His torso looks strained in maintaining his posture, like if he loosened his muscles he might slide slowly onto the ground and roll beneath the bed frame, which is made of cheap metal and creaks when he turns in it at night. The red-haired woman wants to tell him to scoot back, to make himself comfortable, but its not her manner.

The warm woman is still singing.  The red-haired one looks down at her clipboard. ‘Is there a place you’d like to go?’ she asks.

The man sits for a very long time without answering. Slowly he begins mouthing the words to the song coming from the boombox, with the smallest perceptible movements of his mouth. The red-haired woman is still standing in front of him with her elbows to her body like a harness. In time the man’s mouth moves with increasing definition and his body straightens. His eyes find a spot on the wall behind the red-haired woman’s face, just to the left of it, where they rest for many minutes. His chest begins to puff and his hands are moving, first in his lap and then rising like some slow brewing crescendo, to a space right in front of his stomach. They’re cupped and his palms are up. He moves them like they’re attached to his lips, which are now miming the song of the warm singing woman in the boombox at what can only be described as full volume. His shoulders begin to move too, like the legs of an insect. In sync but separate, hinged.

After many minutes the red-haired woman leans down and turns off the boombox, which is sitting within her reach on a stool by the doorway. The man looks at her now, seeing her for the first time. ‘Is there somewhere you’d like to go?’ She asks again, with a sharpness that had been previously avoided. The man’s eyes are the color of steel wool.

‘Yes,’ he says. He loosens the muscles in his abdomen and begins to slide slowly, noisily, to the floor.  


6/20/18
Landing Page - 324055
Flight - AA 3323
Estimated Arrival - 2:38 PM
Author - L. Smith

In a dark room a red piece of paper is red. It is red within and outside of this room. It never stops being red. But for reasons that may become clear later, it’s very possible that the paper is considered differently within and outside of the room. How dark is the room? Very dark. Outside of the room is a narrow walkway with cement floors layered in dirt and dust and rubble from years of heavy boots trudging through it in pitch blackness, from the dark room or to it. At the end of the walkway is a door without windows. It opens into a harshly lit and tiled corridor.

On the side of the door visible from the tiled corridor there is a sign. It says: Leave Open Under No Circumstances. Those glancing quickly at this sign while walking past may take it’s meaning as the exact opposite of what’s intended. They prop the door open as best they can, and in looking around for a wedge or heavy object they may catch the second half of the phrase, and so stop everything, close the door again, and continue down the corridor. All of these people are wearing sunglasses, because the light in the hall is almost too much to bear without them.

Back in the dark room at the end of the enclosed, cement-floored walkway, the paper is still red. That room, like the door to the bright corridor, has no windows. The paper sits on a table made of an indeterminate material, a laminate hybrid that is matte and smooth at the same time. It is a dark grey in color though there’s little proof of this. The paper itself feels not so dissimilar from the table top to save a visitor from maybe missing it altogether. The visitor would have to run their hands across the table to find it’s edges, and there’s no telling whether or not they’d consider doing this in the first place. The table legs are made of burnished oak.

Next to the red paper is a white paper with a description of the interior of the room printed on it. The white paper discusses the height of the ceilings and dimensions of the floor and walls. The white paper also discusses the red paper, which lies beside it on the table. The red paper, the white paper says, is 3 inches by 5 inches. It is made of vellum, much like the white paper that the visitor is or is not holding. If there was any light in there they may know it’s vague translucence. The white paper describes how the red paper, if one were to exit the room with it and make their way through the hall and into the light, could deflect the harshness of the fluorescent bulbs when placed over the eyes, without obscuring vision. The light of the corridor, which is already jarring, becomes truly unbearable after time spent in a dark room.

A visitor to the room, allowed no form of light or fire, has zero means of reading the white paper. They are told before entering that they are allowed to take one thing, and only one thing, out of the room with them when they leave. Those who take the white paper will receive a thorough understanding of the space they’ve inhabited, though they will likely not be able to read it once entering the tiled corridor, or else risk temporary blind spots, splotches of vibrant white in their vision and glaring headaches. On occasion, as a means of protecting themselves, the visitor returns to the dark walkway and potentially even to the room. Those who take the red paper, either as their first choice or after retreating from the light, may be disappointed by their blank souvenir and will know nothing about where it is they’ve been. Though, depending on instincts, they might have a better chance of escaping it.


6/20/18
Landing Page - 223021
Flight - Alaska Airlines 1023
Estimated Arrival - 12:39 PM
Author - G. Jacobs

The day we met, she told me about a guy named Dr. Hugh Welch Diamond while we were laying on the dock in the sun, already holding hands like we’d been together for months. She explained that Diamond was a psychiatrist who began photographing his mentally ill patients just after the medium was invented in the first half of the 1800s. He did so because he thought that a photograph “catches in a moment the permanent cloud, or the passing storm or sunshine of the soul, and thus enables the metaphysician to witness and trace out the connection between the visible and the invisible.” She knew the quote by heart.






Diamond thought you could, with enough expertise, a high enough level of psychological and emotional literacy, read a person’s exterior to understand their interior. That you could analyze a patient’s face -- “the visible” -- to comprehend their malady, their experience, their nature -- “the invisible.”






I told her that Diamond’s theory sounded nice, but seemed impossible. I said that I didn’t think any human was sensitive enough to perceive the entirety of someone’s essence just by looking at a two dimensional image of them. Understanding someone requires an enormous sample size of data, of time, and a picture is, by definition, a tiny sample size, a splinter of a moment.  This is why pictures lie. This is why we can’t trust them.





She let go of my hand, rolled over on her side, and put her face just a few inches from mine. She studied me, but did so with cartoonishly squinted eyes, exaggerating the act, signaling to me that although she might have been trying to read me the way Dr. Diamond did, this was also a joke, that we were playing.




I laid still and straight faced, as if submitting to her study, as if trying to prove that she and Diamond were wrong, or maybe, that they were right, but that I had nothing to hide. After a minute, I thought the game of chicken had lasted long enough, and raised my head to kiss her, which we had yet to do. She pulled her face out of reach, shook her head and said, “Oh dear, dear, dear. It seems you’re totally insane.”



Landing Page - 113033
Flight - JetBlue 761
Estimated Arrival - 7:41 PM
Author - L. Smith  

Three eggs sat on the counter. A slightly unhinged and newly departed tenant had abandoned them with a targeted disclaimer:

Sid and Ali, (here an arrow pointed to a plate to the right of the note) One is boiled, one is raw, and one is rotten, but no one can tell the difference from out here.

 


The brother and sister had returned from school and found the eggs in place of the usual kitchen snacks, namely peanut butter and apples, which had evidently been nabbed by the departed guest. Ali and Sid stood in the kitchen assessing the three identical forms. If they had two boiled eggs there would be enough for them both to eat (half a boiled egg was no one’s idea of a snack), but they’d need to find the raw one before they could cook it. The problem showed itself quickly: just a few weeks prior one of the tenants had left a rotten egg smashed on the ground in front of the refrigerator (as an act of spite or negligence, no one was sure). The stench had lasted and lasted. The guests had withheld their weekly rent. This wasn’t a situation they could risk again.The children puzzled long and hard about how to sort the good from the bad without stinking up the house.  

The sister thought to throw rocks at them. This was too risky and was quickly vetoed. The brother considered sniffing and they gave it a go, each putting their noses up to the shells and inhaling furiously, but with every egg they smelled only the air around them. This surprised them both, but they relented. The sister suggested placing them in a bowl of water. They tried this method with enthusiasm, only to find that all three promptly sank. There was another forty-five minutes of unsuccessful pushes and prods, including a spinning test, a blowing test, and a yelling test. Defeated, the brother and sister left the kitchen, commiserating over their empty bellies until evening.

After the sun set their mother came home and the brother and sister recounted the tragedy of their afternoon. She listened patiently and then walked to the kitchen and surveyed the scene. ‘It’s really too bad about the peanut butter,’ she said. Then she picked up the three eggs and put them into a paper bag, one by one, placing them gently on the bottom of the sack so that none of the shells would break.

‘What are you doing?’ asked Sid.

‘Making eggs,’ she replied. The children frowned.

‘That’s not how you make eggs,’ said Ali.

’You’re right about that,’ said their mother, and placed the paper bag in the garbage. The children continued frowning. Their mother walked to the fridge, opened the door and removed a carton of eggs. She set it down on the counter, pulled a bowl from a shelf and began cracking the eggs, two at a time, one in each hand, into the bowl. The children’s frowns turned placid and their cheeks a bit red.

‘This is how you make eggs,’ she said, and began whisking.  


6/13/18
Landing Page - 124032
Estimated Arrival - 12 PM
Author - L. Smith 

All the sand makes a naughty mind of you. The desert has an enlivening dearth of provocation. Takes you to the most glorified, simple places. We drove for many miles in this sand (there noted as kilometers, which feels important in the remembering of them; in the same space kilometers are more plentiful). Mountains of this sand stood on our sides and below us. After seven silent hours we eased into a gravel turn that ended at a Buddhist temple of outsized color. There were five of us in the car and we shook off our respective sins and unfurled our bodies out the doors like a sneeze. We worked to smooth the integrity back into our clothes with our hands.

We walked at our individual paces around the corner of the gompa, which was built into the side of the mountain we’d just driven up. We lost each other quickly because the paths were winding and because it’s always easier than it looks, and swifter, to lose step with others. After a couple minutes I rounded a bend and saw your form come into view a ways up. In my shuffling you turned and stuck a hand towards me, palm out. You were standing with a foot up on a slate step at the elbow of a sharp bend in the path. The ground was obscured by some prickly foliage, just burly enough to block my view of it’s other side.

‘Don’t look down,’ you told me, and I glanced to the ravine that plummeted thousands of meters at my right. I shrugged, and you said ‘At the ground,’ and motioned with your chin in the direction of your foot. A lama in burgundy robes was standing in front of you in the pathway. He was smiling a strange sort. Now he turned his back and walked out of view, and I came up to your side and looked towards your feet. It was all of one thing: a small goat lying in a pool of its own blood. I inhaled, as we’re prone to do when we find a living thing that’s not. You said: ‘They won’t kill it.’ Paused. ‘They say they’re pacifists.’

The goat’s body was broken. It’s neck was likely the spot where something had gripped the animal and thrashed it around, swirling its entrails like a blender. A wolf was your bet, and probable. The blood had made its way from the goat’s body outwards a couple inches through the silt. At least a few hours of bodily leakage. Turns out we don’t need to be familiar with the gradual escape of our insides to have a sense for it. Built into us somewhere is the knowledge of how long it takes to bleed out, based on the approximate size of puncture wounds.

We cursed under our breaths. The lama reappeared and this time when you said ‘You shouldn’t let it suffer like this,’ he gave us an unsmiling head shake, and put his palms towards us in relinquishment of nothing. Then he stood there, moving his hands like brooms, or like a dancer’s, shooing us from the steps. We walked back towards the gompa, where the others were removing their shoes to enter a prayer room. ‘I’m not taking off my goddamn shoes,’ you said, and I nodded, though I unlaced my own. There were bottles of orange and blue liquids and piles of coins and rice on the sill of the window above a group of discarded footwear. I looked outside and saw the sky like a viscous swath and felt us in a small incubator.

The light was thick in the prayer room, which smelled of worship and overripe fruit. Momentarily I registered your absence. The lama stood in front of me with the other three from our group, acting out a sort of revelry. Somewhere you were alone, or with a dying animal.

I turned quickly, unsure if passivity extended to those bludgeoning an exemplar of it. When I found you crouching by the head of the goat you had a large rock in your hands. They strained with the weight of it. I could not quite tell if the rock was clean.


6/12/18
Landing Page - 124027
Flight - 1171
Estimated Arrival - 6:15 PM
Author - L. Smith 

You wanted to be twelve stories high. I wanted it to be twelve stories high. That was the difference between us.

We talked about the future like it wasn’t a product of the present. We talked about it like it was something we might find on the way there.

So we set out looking. The building was going to have a large red door, the book told us. Twelve stories full of rare fruits and pigments and seeds. The roof had some kind of new bar that exploited this, charging guests out the ass for a cocktail made blue by flowers and sour by bugs and spicy, like a chai not a chili, by some kind of tree-dwelling, finger-looking fruit called a secropia. The bar was a new addition. They’d given in. I assumed it was the only reason the library was in the guidebook.

We didn’t drive all the way there just to get to the top of it, I said later. You didn’t drive anywhere, you’d said back, and I wouldn’t be able to argue with you on that one. My least negotiable sin was my lack of a driver’s licence.

On the road towards the future you weren’t keen on lifting rocks in order to find it. You figured no one would put it somewhere so out of the way, so difficult to locate. Such a strain on the back. How could you not believe that getting to the future would be a strain on the back? I was interested in all the potential sideways angles, how looking at something the wrong way might be the right way. I just wanted one time to pull it out from an unlikely spot and poke you in the chest with it and say Aren’t you glad I checked? but it never happened. Though that’s not to say it wouldn’t have if I’d kept up with looking. I would’ve kept up with it, too. I like potential.

We got where we were going. We always do. The building had the big red door. We lost each other right quick upon entering. The stairs wound their way up; there was no elevator. It was part of the sell at the bar on top. How thirsty and tired you were. You deserved a cocktail, no matter the price. Not: You deserve a cheap cocktail, because of all the work you already put in to get to it. You didn’t understand. You thought that their taking was the same as you earning. How easily betrayed you were by the bartender sliding over the menu and saying ‘You deserve it.’ He meant We deserve it, he did not misspeak. It was so easy. These are things I shouldn’t have to teach you.

By the time I met you up there it had been hours since we’d walked through the red door. I’d explored each floor slowly and methodically. Between the bottom and top there had been encyclopedic bookshelves and glass cases with leaves, jars of solvent and preservatives and roots, seeds, desiccated fruits, pressings, prints, drawings of life.

When I got to the top of the building you were asleep at the bar. You looked so comfortable. I let you snooze. I took the time. I sat in the sun. I deserved it. When it began to set I woke you and we wound our way back down the twelve flights without stopping and you threw up when we made it outside. Sure, it’s usually a whirlwind getting back to the ground. Can you drive home? you said when we found the car. Then, Just kidding, and slammed the driver’s side door shut behind you. Your shirt got caught in it and that little triangle of fabric, which jerked slightly as you tugged at it from inside before finally opening the door, retrieving it, and slamming the door closed again, was enough to make my stomach quiver in its little sack. You were so angry at that shirt. I knew then we’d made it to the future, and sealed the entry in time like an ambarella leaf (Spondias dulcis) behind glass. Not forever young and alive but henceforth on display as a dry and dead thing. It just doesn’t crumble because you quit messing with it. And there really was no coming back from it then. You can’t get wishy washy with time travel.

You dropped me off and that was it. The road didn’t even end there, at the end of our road, and it wasn’t as if you kept going on without me, either. You actually turned around, a three point turn (an ugly one, more like five than three), after I shut the door. You turned around and went back to where we came from, just without me this time. Turns out that’s where we were going. Somewhere familiar, just without each other. The only thing a place needs to become something else is the changing of a guard, the loss of a limb, the swap of one letter. Here become there real fast. Taste becomes waste real fast. The whole of a thing doesn’t just drop off and disintegrate at once, you know. It’s a bit at a time. One day you pick your head up and you’re way down the river. Same river, different state. Things break down slower than they used to.

When I went inside I put my bag down same as always, on the back of a chair where it would hit my knees when pulled out later to sit in. It can be argued that most things remain. I had a feeling I’d not see you again but it was for cinematic effect. The idea was comforting. Like maybe getting to the future was just about waking up from a dream, or from yesterday, which never feels like a dream when it’s today. But every night is just a tired day on its very last legs. Such a short lifespan it’s got, The Day. Wipe off the counter, the makeup, the sweat, throw it in the trash. Just something finally expired, or some roots cut from their rhizome and stuck onto felt.





6/11/18
Landing Page - 124028
Flight - DL768
Estimated Arrival - 2:45 PM
Author - L.Smith

The morning they set out the sky had a heavy opaqueness to it. From the passenger seat she ran a finger along the bottom line of a thunderhead that was collapsing across her view through the windshield. Was the sky ever not opaque? Mia Berns considered this. When she looked up at the sky, had she always been seeing through something rather than seeing the something itself? Would that mean the sky was more a place than a thing? She took a worn out pad of paper and a pencil from her back pocket and wrote:

SKY : OPAQUE?

SKY = PLACE?

She surveyed the storm cloud from the back to the front, the front being, of course, the part that laid itself out right before her, bigger and fluffier, and the back being the dense edge that butted up with the horizon line. She couldn’t shake the habit of transferring cardinal directions into highly subjective terms. North became up, south became down, east and west were signaled by her right and left hands, depending on angle. Far from her was back. Close to her was front.

Mia and her mother were heading up. Because of this orientation in her mind she could feel the pull of gravity on her body and her mother’s car, as though climbing a hill with a tired stick shift. She stuck her head out the window and let the wind whip her skin and hair back and nearly smear her features from her face. Her eyes were barely open. Maybe: the wind was just the pushback from gravity. Had they been driving down — south — would the wind be pushing their car from behind, scooting them along? Would her hair rush forward from the sides of her head instead of streaming behind? Maybe the drive would feel different if they were in cahoots with gravity, the most vital, most powerful, of all forces. But at the same time, would that make it too easy? She brought her head back into the car and took her pad and pencil back out of her pocket. She wrote:

GRAVITY = WIND?

VS. GRAVITY : BADASS or JUST MORE DIFFICULT?

She stared at the questions and her forehead folded in on itself in an immaculate display of concern. The skin on her face moved with agility, dancing with ease into new arrangements as if there was a little extra for this express purpose. After a few seconds she recognized her tense furrowing, set squarely in the upper middle register of her face, though originating from the sides of her eyes and brows upwards towards her hairline, gathering her skin along with it like a kind of loose thread that pinches and puckers into a new seam when pulled. In one swift release she loosened her face (a funny concept — like shaking out the wrinkles in a t-shirt, attempting to create a smoothness, an order, through abrupt thrashing). She’d recently trained herself to do this. It was not an act of therapy but of vanity. It made her a little dizzy.

‘I’m thin-skinned,’ she said to her father the evening before, as she walked into the kitchen from the bathroom where she’d been analyzing her forehead. He did nothing to discourage the thought besides make a sarcastically offensive quip, to which she didn’t react, and then said, ‘No you’re not. See?’ She propped up her foot on a nearby chair and pulled up her jeans to expose a scuffed knee, recently bloodied. ‘What about this?’ she said. Her father glanced at the specimen. ’You fell out of a tree. What do you expect?’

This was true, she had fallen out of a tree. Mia had the tendency to take her pad of paper with her as she clambered up the magnolia in the backyard, to record important realizations about the universe as they exposed themselves to her while sitting on the tree’s outer boughs. Last week, as she was trying to wrestle the pad from her back pocket to jot down something about a certain trembling she saw passing through the grass (Did the blades act as individuals? Were they autonomous things looped into methodical behavior, like soldiers in an army? Was it possible for one to move independently of all of the others? GRASS : ALONE? GRASS = BLADE or FIELD? and so on) but she’d lost balance and fell forward to the ground. In this moment she knew the difference between down and south, and realized that gravity being behind you was only helpful when you were not plummeting towards the earth, but sliding along its surface. When she gathered herself and picked the bits of grass from her skinned knee she took out her pad and pencil and wrote:

DOWN TOWARDS ≠ DOWN ALONG

The car lurched up and forward and Mia gripped the handle on the passenger side door. They began bouncing along the asphalt amidst clamorous bangs. ‘Damnit!’ her mother said, hitting the breaks and looking out her window at the back tire. She pulled the car over to the side of the road. ‘Flat.’ The pair got out and walked around the car to look at the damage. ‘How’d that happen?’ Mia asked, to which her mother said, ‘Day is working against us, I guess.’

‘Gravity was too,’ Mia said, shaking her head softly and staring sympathetically at the shredded rubber. Her mother looked at her, hands on hips, then took out her phone and called Triple A. ‘Now we wait,’ she said and leaned her body against the back of the car.

A moment passed, then Mia nudged her in the elbow. ‘Wanna play rummy?’ She revealed a deck of cards from her coat pocket and slapped them down on the trunk. A small smile spread across her mother’s face. ‘Okay,’ she said, ‘But honey, you’re going down.’  

Two hours later Mia Berns had lost many games of rummy and the tire was replaced. When she settled back into the passenger seat she took out her notepad and wrote:

DOWN : CIRCUMSTANTIAL LOSS OR GAIN

The two continued driving up, north, forward towards the back of the sky, pushing against gravity.





6/7/18
Landing Page - 124030
Flight - JetBlue 1232
Estimated Arrival - 5:52 PM 
Author - L. Smith 



6/7/18
Landing Page - 124031
Flight - JetBlue 761
Arrival - 7:54PM
Author - G. Jacobs






6/6/18
Landing Page - 124034
Flight - JetBlue 1171
Estimated Arrival - 5:52 PM
Author - L.S.

A woman has awoken from a night in flight spent mostly angled on the left side of her rear, which now aches in a dull and persistent way.  She can’t believe she was able to sleep through such discomfort, or that the discomfort actually came from her ability to sleep through it. The plane has just landed and she is back after a long time away. The woman is thirty two years old. She does not know where she’ll take herself or her two pieces of luggage after she gathers them at baggage claim. She wonders if one or both will have been lost over the course of her connections. Solving that problem, or the attempt to, would carry her through the next couple hours or maybe even days. Still, she tries not to will their loss into being by thinking about it too much.

Sal is 12 miles away in his bedroom practicing a trumpet which he’ll forfeit in a year’s time. Today may be the last day he truly loves it, and he does love it. He is sixteen years old. This afternoon he will perform for six advisors at a renowned conservatory and he’ll execute his piece perfectly. He’ll leave feeling elated and walk to a park and sit down on a bench and linger there. A month later a letter will come in the mail with word that he’s been accepted to attend.

The traffic coming from the airport is terrible but still it takes her away from there. Both of her bags are in the trunk.

Sal has met somebody he thinks is radical. No one has told him that the person is radical or better yet A Radical, definitely not the radical himself, but Sal thinks this must be what a radical is. He has never known anybody else like the man. They met on a bench in a park in the city.

She told the driver to drop her at a hotel close to her old neighborhood but not in it. She walks to this neighborhood during the day and seeks out residue of things she knew there, but prefers to sleep elsewhere. This way she doesn’t have to live in or outside of a memory, just beside it.

The radical emails Sal a week later and Sal is thrilled.

She stays in the hotel as long as she can afford before taking a room in an apartment building nearby. The room is one of three in a fractal building made of cubes. It’s not new anymore, but it’s not old, either. She likes this hood, close to things she once knew even if those things aren’t there anymore. The street corners remain, and will be until they tear this place down. One day they just might.

Sal and the radical, whose name is Joe, agree to meet at the bench again. He both does and doesn’t want to go to meet him. He wishes that it was six months in the future, at which point Sal would be enlightened to all of the things that would make their conversations balanced and free flowing, and not like he is constantly running. He’s going to get educated in the ways of the radical, it’s just that he didn’t think to do it until now. His parents had not told him about people like Joe. Neither had his teachers. It was always just practice practice, so much time with hands spent on a horn. Sal takes a train into the city to see him. He doesn’t mention to Joe that he lives outside of the technical constraints of the city, that he walks down a steep and tree-lined hill to get to the train station.

Most days she spends in movement. On this particular day she walks to a park and sees a young man, very fresh and soft, and an older man, more rugged, sitting on a bench. She thinks them a funny pair and so sits closeby. The men glance at her only as she enters the scene and then go on. The older gesticulates wildly. He speaks in a series of crescendos. Maybe a drunkard, she thinks. This poor kid, she thinks. Stuck.

She feels compelled to save the young man from the drunkard but doesn’t know how, so she continues to watch. The kid doesn’t say much and laughs weakly, often. He isn’t weary yet, from what she can tell, but it’s only a matter of time. She was young once, too. She makes up her mind to stay as long as it takes. Two hours later the pair departs and she follows close behind. She can’t believe the kid has put up with it for so long. A whole afternoon spent indulging. He must think his life will be very long.

She is close behind them. The younger one seems to sense her presence and glances to his side. She hopes he feels safe. A few blocks later he looks again, and then nudges the elder’s arm. One speaks hushedly into the other’s ear. A few paces on they both glance over their inside shoulders at the same time, their necks swiveling in unison. Their faces almost collide and they rear them back. They say something else to one another, and then stop in their tracks.

The woman doesn’t know what to do. She tries quickly to obscure herself in a doorway, but falters for too long and is spotted entering it. The older man walks up to her, leaving the younger looking at his sneakers.

Can we help you with something, he says.

Oh, no, she says.

It’s seems like you think maybe we can, he says.

No, I’m sorry, I just —. The man raises his brows, waits. It’s nothing.

Is it?

It’s not. It’s nothing.

Two hours later, it’s nothing? he asks.

Correct, nothing.

Well. Okay then. You have a very, very nice day.

The woman gives a quick smile. The man sweeps his hand through the air and steps back, bending his knees a pitch as he goes, as if to say, right this way. With one nod, she exits the doorway and starts walking back to where she came from.




6/6/18
Flight - Alaska Airlines 3327 
Landing Page - 124033
Estimated Arrival - 6:15 PM
Author - G. Jacobs






5/30/18
Landing Page - 113030
Estimated Arrival - 5:52 PM
Author - L. Smith

She picked up a vase and considered not it but the memory of pulling a tick from the back of her thigh during a phone call she’d had with her mother last month. The vase, a translucent blue, undulated upwards from a heavy base and currently held many tall grasses that had been picked at the house she’d rented and visited monthly for years. Compared to where she stood now the house was further into the country and towards the coast, but not in the country or on the coast. It was good enough. The grasses grew around the backside of a small shack beside the main house, which held paints and rusted out tools whose retirement was evident in the ramshackle nature of everything surrounding them. Three weeks ago she’d gone behind the shack first thing in the morning and cut the grass with a pair of heavy scissors that she’d found in a drawer in the kitchen. She assumed the tick had fallen from a blade of grass onto her warm vessel of a body while she was out there with the scissors, trimming and gathering a collection of weeds to carry home with her to the city. The grasses had died in the vase in a matter of days, though she did not find the tick, embedded into her thigh with admirable dedication, until a week and a half later as she laid on her bed on the telephone. Her fingers had made their way around her exposed body parts, as they were prone to do when she was distracted, picking at familiar things like scabs and cuticles and moles, until she’d found the insect with the nail of her pointer finger. She dug it out from her body without breaking conversation, for the most part. Maybe she stalled on a couple words. Maybe she did not hear something her mother said and asked three times for it to be repeated. It was difficult to absorb information while yanking such a small but ruthless violation out from her own skin. In the vase now was a variety of stalks, all brown and dry and crumbling. She dumped the grasses into the trash, unsure why it was she’d wanted them in the first place.


05/30/18
Landing Page - 124040
Scheduled Arrival - 5:00PM
Author - G. Jacobs


(Minute 1) Want to write something in ten minutes? Stalk your mind the way a cat stalks a mousehole.


(Minute 2) By that I mean be hyperattentive and don’t move a goddamn muscle.


(Minute 3) Holding your breath helps, not so the mouse can’t hear you, but so you can hear the mouse.


(Minute 4) This is where the mouse analogy ends, but at least it got you to a state of vigilance.


(Minute 5) Now imagine you’re in an empty room. In this empty room, every so often a rope drops down.


(Minute 6) It’s now your job to grab these ropes as they fall and find out where they lead. Who the heck is dropping ropes?


(Minute 6) How long are these ropes? Why are there ropes in this room?


(Minute 7) You will find that most of these ropes, after a few minutes of vigorous pulling, are attached to nothing. You will find that you were yanking rope for the sake of yanking rope.  


(Minute 8) But eventually, you’ll take hold of a rope that feels somehow different in your hands. Pulling it will begin like all the others that ended up being a big waste of time, but then, all the sudden, you’ll notice that the thing is, inexplicably, pulling back.


(Minute 9) Now you just hold on for dear life.


(Minute 10) Now you don’t look down.





5/29/18
Landing Page #113037
Flight - 3711
Estimated Arrival - 6:34 PM
Author - L. Smith



5/24/18
Landing Page #124041
Flight - Jet Blue 832
Scheduled Arrival - 3:25 PM
Author - L. Smith

The girl still did not have an answer to the question. She’d been asked it while lying on the floor in a small apartment on a main street in a big borough of an even bigger city. The borough was so big that it had many main streets within it, which felt something like a betrayal to the girl. At least only a few of the main streets were called Main Street, and those were pretty far from one another. The rest were just prominent streets, or eminent streets, or big roads, or avenues with many shops on them, but not necessarily claiming by name to be the center of everything around them.

She was perplexed by this idea of the center of anything, because it implied knowing something’s limits, or it’s borders (maybe they’re different?), and this concept had vexed her endlessly. She’d grown up in the city. This meant that her world was categorical and delineated but also sprawling and unknowable, a state that left her feeling both on top of and below it at all times. It was hers and it was everyone else’s even more so, because there were more of them than her. In the city, as she knew it, this area was for this, that for that, but most of it was elsewhere. And somehow, in eighteen years, she’d not found much time for that part.

School was over for good. This end or beginning, whichever, was supposed to feel immense. But if you asked her, life already was. She moved in small increments to stomach this, because she could get her hands around little pieces. Still, summer left her restless. One morning she took the closest train as far as it would get her, and then two more busses, all the way to an outer borough. The trip stunned her, made her blush. The city was vast; she’d underestimated its length and width. But it was so dense that its vastness still escaped her, and that was the part she wanted— the open, the broad, the sweep, so she kept riding until the buildings got shorter and the roads a bit wider.

Once off the bus she walked and walked. A woman in high stilettos stood outside of a realty office with a lanyard around her neck, a photo of herself dangling from its end. The girl wondered how people got into the realty business. A few doors down a man in cargo shorts and a long ponytail unlocked and lifted the rolling gate of a minuscule Metro PCS store, his t-shirt riding up over his round belly as he raised the metal slats. He yanked the hem back over his stomach and unlocked the door. The girl noticed the window display: dusty cardboard boxes bleached by the sun, toppled from their tiers and leaning against the glass sideways. The man shut the door behind him and it jingled like the one at the hardware store a few blocks down from the girl’s home, which both seemed and really was quite far away. As a kid she’d visited for the candy from a jar next to the register, but had long since stopped eating the stuff. She hadn’t been in a few years but was sure it was still there, though couldn’t really remember the last time she’d seen it.

She continued walking. After many blocks she saw a hand painted sign perched in the first floor window of a small apartment building. It read:

LAUGHING WORKSHOP

MONDAY

10-11

She took her phone from her pocket and checked the time. It was 9:55 in the morning on a Monday. A loyal citizen of serendipity, she walked to the front door of the building. She knocked lightly. No answer. She opened the door into an empty carpeted hall and closed it behind her, and heard some muffled noise coming from the first apartment. Did one knock for these kinds of things? She didn’t know, so she compromised by knocking and opening the door at the same time.

Two greying women sat in chairs in the back of a large living room. It was empty aside from a folding card table between them, which held a glass ashtray and two cups of water. There were also three smiling women who laid on the parquet floor with their eyes closed. Sunlight made its way through the sides of two windows facing the street, which were both sheathed with stained and failing curtains.

The women looked surprised to see her. ‘Hello,’ they said at the same time. ‘Hi,’ the girl said back, slinging her bag off of her shoulder and onto the ground by the door. ‘I saw the sign in the window,’ she said. ‘Ah, yes,’ the two women said at once. The others on the floor maintained their poses, eyes still closed. ‘Sit,’ they said, motioning her towards the others. She did, and then unraveled her body flat on the ground. She closed her eyes, then opened one, then closed it again. This seemed to be what the women at the table had in mind. Everything was quiet. She felt the corners of her mouth turn up into a grin. She waited.

There’s no telling how much time passed before the first chuckle, a low breathy beat coming from the woman on the girl’s right side. Soon there was another, this one throatier and a bit more demanding, and then a third, the least controlled of the bunch, which chimed in with higher, wavering octaves. ‘Eyes closed please, you clowns!’ the women at the table said. The laughing grew louder. The edges of the girl’s mouth continued to spread and perk. She felt the laughter bubbling up from her chest.

The women began to speak in sing song, ascending in pitch and speed as they went: ‘You’re not so near to us to hear from us, we only live on beer and crusts, until you come and bear to us your fine, your fancy anise rusks!’

The women began laughing hysterically with this, growing louder and louder with each round of song. The girl, embroiled as she was in it, as much one of them as not now, spewed peels of laughter out her nose and her mouth, eyes still closed. She had no idea what the women were talking about. She did not know what an anise rusk was. She felt her shoulder blades bouncing about on the floor.

After an unknowable time the women at the card table stopped singing. For some moments the laughter continued in booming, raucous waves. The girl felt tears creep out the corners of her eyes and roll down her temples. Her cheeks were sore.

Then the women at the back of the room shouted in unison: ‘What are you laughing about!’

The women on the floor beside the girl choked themselves to a halting hush and the room was filled with a resounding silence. The din of the traffic came in through the window panes. The girl was caught off guard, rushed to quiet herself. It was she who was the last to laugh, but she had no idea why.






5/24/18
Landing Page - 124044
Flight - 007 Army
Scheduled Arrival - 9:00 AM
Author - L. Smith

The European tourists look tired. It is hot today and one could imagine they walked many miles for their treasures, which are draped over every arm in the group. There are two children and two adults which means there are 8 arms on which to string bags full of things they'll have to find room for later.

The man possesses a soft, half-formed sadness. This causes a few nearby empathic passengers to pity him in a way that’s not becoming of anyone. He fills the train car with this exhaustion. He does not fix his gaze anywhere. His shoulders are very round. He says something now to one of his daughters, who is still young in the real, gooey way. He nudges her elbow with his hand and points out the window. She looks briefly at him but not at wherever he’s pointing to. She’ll not give him that, it seems. He smiles this pathetic little line, just a faint smear across his ruddy face, as if that glance was what he’d been after. They go back to just being beside each other.

While he looks kind enough to cull sympathy from strangers, those close to him, namely the three women surrounding him at this very moment, feel none. They are done with him. I am done with you! His wife had said, and then the two daughters in mimicry. Me too! And us! We are done with you! They didn't mean it- they were not- he was still in the jurisdiction of their mercy. It was just not the kind of thing he could ask for.

The family is in town for fun. They’re in town for vacation. The prospect of the trip buoyed the two adults through the last six months. ’Seventy six days,’ one would say and the other would nod, or sigh, and they'd keep counting and keep going.

They consumed a lot that morning. Mostly it was things, which they now carried as evidence, and all of it weighed them down a touch. By the afternoon the adults argued about who had or had not prepared a list of lunch options, though really it had been impossible to know where they’d be around lunchtime, and she’d said ‘Let’s just figure it out, I don’t want to be tied to a schedule, this is vacation,’ and the children were now despondent and none of them had walked so far in years, it seemed, and gone so little distance. So they chose a very American looking diner that hadn’t come up online when they’d searched the surrounding blocks, and the father, the husband, took this as a sign of luck and of authenticity, and everyone felt some relief.

The man's wife, the children's mother, ordered a salad with chicken on it, because she was in America, and because there was a picture of the dish on the laminate menu next to the item’s name. After her first bite she signaled the waitress. ‘Is this supposed to be hot or cold?’ She asked. 'It's hot, ain't it?' And because the wife, mother, didn't know what 'ain't' meant she just said, 'It's cold.' The waitress reached her hand for the plate. 'Want me to heat it up for you?' The wife, the mother, batted it away and said, 'Oh you'll probably put it in the microwave, won't you? It's fine. It was made many hours ago, no?' And the waitress said, 'We fry all the chicken a little in the morning I think, and reheat per order.' And the wife, the children's mother, said, 'What?' and the man, the father, said 'Please, it's okay, it's fine, let's eat,' and told the waitress thank you and she'd left.  

His wife looked at him after that, and she did not eat. ‘Why won’t you eat?’ He asked, and she said, ‘You think I will eat because you said ‘let’s eat’?’ And one of the girls said, ‘I hate chicken but I especially hate cold chicken. You shouldn’t make mom eat cold chicken.’ And the girl’s mother patted her on the top of her hand and said, ‘It’s okay, it’s fine.’

The women left the restaurant and the husband did his best to tip generously, but having no reference point for this he was not sure he’d achieved it. In fact he left a tip of just under 12%, and in quarters. The husband and wife began navigating to the closest subway independently of one another, and in failing to voice their chosen lines spent three entire minutes arguing on a street corner about how to get to their respective ones, not realizing they were both right, and were only talking about completely different things. Eventually they compared cell phone maps and found they were indeed equidistant to two subway lines, both of which brought them relatively close to a museum they’d promised themselves, each other, and the girls, that they would attend.

They walked towards the wife’s chosen subway route, which was not in service, as it turns out, and so then walked up and out of the station, found the alternate, and attempted to explain to the man at the ticket counter that they’d just spent four individual rides by accident. ‘What do you mean ‘by accident’?’ he’d said. ‘How do you make the same accident four times? In a row?’  They’d not seen the signs, it had been out of service. Could they please be let through free of charge? ‘We don’t do free of charge here,’ the man behind the glass had said, and the husband, the father, snapped loudly enough that the wife pulled him away from the window by his arm and said ‘What is wrong with you!’

They paid again and once on the train the man gestured towards the only open seat and said, ‘Take it,’ to his wife, but she shook her head no, and then the two girls did as well, and other leering eyes and bodies were encroaching so he wriggled his own warm, soft body into it himself because goddamnit he was tired.

Now I am sitting across from them. From what I can tell they didn’t make it to the museum. If I had to guess I’d say they are on their way back to the rental that the man, husband, father, booked online many months prior, when the weight of that task didn’t seem so perilous. But the rental is much further out on the extended train lines than they’d been led to believe by the listing. This hasn’t been discussed yet, but it will likely come up this evening when they consider dinner much too late and realize that there is nowhere nearby that will even be open for long enough for them to dine at. I’m considering inviting them to mine for a couple bowls of pasta or some salad, because the options this far out really are dire, but I know that they’ve yet to foresee the mess they’ll come upon in just a few hours and the offer might insult or even frighten them. But. In that case, actually,

‘Excuse me, but you all look as though you might need a place to eat tonight. You’re welcome to come to mine if you’d like.’

The mother and father look at each other, and the girls are looking at me. Both parents quickly demur with niceties laced with an obvious sense of confusion, fear and offense. The woman has turned her back to me, huddling her children with her, and is facing her husband now, and the four of them are doing their absolute best to not look in my direction. They are chattering. The man places a hand on the woman’s elbow, and she allows it to remain.





5/23/18
Landing Page #124045
Flight - JetBlue 1161
Scheduled Arrival - 4:15 PM
Author - LS


We were renting a little house in the desert. The town was split in two, like most, like more than we who live in cities realize at least, divided by a main street right down the middle. Many of the myths are true, it turns out. The courthouse and bungalows on one side, the two lane drive out of town and screen-doored casitas on the other. The first place we lived was not on the side with the courthouse. It had two rooms plus a bathroom, unless I’m forgetting one, which is possible. But I remember the kitchen and the bedroom and the place where we ate baked potatoes on a glass table set atop a cowhide rug left by a previous tenant. 

It was a tiny adobe on a street called something like Dallas or Amarillo, a Texan sort of name, another detail that was too like its surroundings at the time to distinguish itself now. There was a screen door leading from the side of the house straight into the bedroom with no way to lock it, but the only creature in town that would take advantage was a rawboned street hound that I named Burrita, who would open the door at sun up every morning and climb into bed with us. I was always fine with this, though she was filthy, I’ll admit it.

A few streets down they stopped entirely. The streets, that is. So we were almost on the brink in that house. We were always on the brink of the brink, just a few streets from the end of town. In that silent part of the country, the kind without a name other than The Desert, the end of town doesn’t mean the start of another. It just means the start of something that goes on and on in languid profusion; it means you’re surrounding in totality by something that you can’t quite put your finger on.

We went there because we both came from places the other didn’t want to be. This was a perfect meeting ground only in that it was as arbitrary as any other we could’ve chosen. But townspeople in places like this are wary. ‘How long will you stay’ is asked before ‘Where have you come from?’ It creates a hollow within the bubble, a disconnect between old locals and new locals which makes the new locals even less sure they want to become old locals. This is likely the idea. The town is really just a clump in the middle of an expanse, not a bubble at all. Bubble implies some kind of protection— from allergies or pain or the weather— which clumps lack. Clumps just huddle together to protect themselves.

One day she left just when I was waking up. I saw her pull out and drive to the end of Dallas or Amarillo Street, whatever it was, before the bumper disappeared around the corner. Burrita trailed her and then came traipsing back my way through the dustup, ambivalent but coddling. Looking as ever like an animal caught in a storm. I didn’t question whether or not that car would be back by sundown. It wasn’t like that, it wasn’t that kind of story, I knew it would. I’m human, though, so I wondered where she was going at this hour, on this day, and why. I let myself be relieved in solitude for a few hours before setting out in jeans and sneakers down the empty two lane road, the widest in town, which stretched straight through it and then off and on to nowhere.

About half a mile out, long after the streets ended and the wire fencing began, there was a hill. It was gradual enough that when you were walking it you barely noticed the incline, but steep enough to obscure the view to and from town once beyond it. On the other side there was only you and the desert and the fence that ran alongside the road. Some cows, too, which along with their barrier served as a reminder that the desert could, in fact did, belong to somebody. I always found that hard to believe.

I walked on this road for a long time. The sun was incredibly hot. (The weight of the air is not a fiction about the desert, even ones that have small American towns within them.) The precariousness of walking in such heat, so far from home, made it feel even hotter and even further. The walk itself became an act of drama and of substance so I kept going, because these are difficult things to forsake once you’ve got them, action and drama, and because the house was empty anyway.

The temperature and the monotony of the dirt and dust made it difficult to see too far ahead. Shapes took hold only when I was nearly past them already. A fence post could look like a man weighed down by the day, catching his breath. A small bush, of which there were in fact a few in my desert, this desert, was maybe an abandoned car or a utility shack, until it was always just a bush.

There was a vague shadowed patch of fence ahead on the road. I was going to pass it on my left side in what I guessed to be about thirty seconds, and I began to count down, eyeing the splotch. As I neared fifteen seconds out, colors emerged from the background. Browns and whites and grays. My eyes registered some angles and then, with maybe ten seconds left, some limbs. Yes, definitely limbs. When thirty seconds elapsed the image became fully formed. A deer had been caught on the wire fence mid leap. It couldn’t have been there long, though at least long enough that breathing had ceased. Everything was clean and quiet, and the animal now laid strewn across the fence like a towel hung on a line to dry.

I was so close I could have touched it, but instead I stood frozen on the patch of dirt between the road and the animal, fixated on the stillness and narrowness of its ankles. They were the most elegant body parts I’d ever seen. Then I gasped, realizing my breathing had stopped some time ago, and turned back towards town. I ran until I was dizzy, which didn’t take long. I walked the rest of the way home breathless. When I got there I was still alone.

She came in through the front door after 9pm. This was the first time a day had elapsed between us, without us, since we’d moved into the desert and the adobe casita. Hey, she said, and I said Welcome home. I asked Where’d you go off to? with as little intonation as possible. The mountains, she said. Drove up past the Observatory. Did you go to the Mexican restaurant, I asked. She said she did. There was a lady with only one leg there, she said. What do you mean? I asked, and she said What do you mean what do I mean? She only had one leg. I nodded and we were quiet. Soon we slept, until Burrita woke us the next morning, hurling in the dust along with the light.


05/22/18
Landing Page - 113015
Estimated Arrival - 8:30 PM
Author - L. Smith

I’d left a book, Isaac Asimov’s ‘Words of Science’, on the empty side of the bed when I went to sleep. I’d been reading a page that explored the etymology of the word fission just as my eyes were growing heavy and my brain fogged, the exact point when none of the information makes it off the page any longer. The meaning of the word and its history were still unknown to me when my eyelids finally gave way. But as I slept I saw great big suction cups, black ones, joining in some sort of revelry or dance and then releasing with what I imagined to be a loud popping and sucking sound. Each time the suction cups came back together again there were more and more and more.

I was very thirsty when I woke up the next morning and reached over the bed to the opposite side table where I kept my nightly glass of water. I had the habit of setting it out of reach to avoid knocking it when I thrashed my arms around while sleeping. I usually woke up positioned like a sunbather, hands tucked behind my head, one atop the other, elbows pointed up and out, having taken whatever dramatic means necessary to get my arms above the rest of my body. I was propped on my hip at this point, sipping my water, when I noticed that the book was no longer on the bed. It’s fallen over the edge, I thought, of course, and winced at the likelihood of creased pages and strained spine, should it have landed flayed open, cover towards the ceiling like a tent.

I sprawled my body across the bed and peered over the edge. No book. I ruffled through the comforter, waving it up and down and flattening it with my palms, doing away with all hiding places. Still I found no book. It’s fallen under the bed, I thought, definitely, and tossed my body over the edge head first, feet and toes hooked onto the opposite side of the mattress to steady myself. Upside down, I scanned the floor and saw nothing. I released my toes and unfurled my body over the bed, landing in something like a ball on the ground. I oriented my head upright, legs out. I looked around, blinked to clear my vision, and still I saw nothing of note. I got to my feet and readied myself for work.

Throughout the day I was visited by the big suction cups and the sound of their release. To further distract, I caught myself repeating the same sentence in my head as the day went on, born of no particular place and time. It went: ’Fissure, an ablation of the senses, you’ll be no rock in my shoe.’ This was not a sentence or a notion that I was familiar with, or in any case understood. It irked me and ran like a loop, like a skipping record, until that evening when I got into bed. As soon as I let my head fall back on my pillow I was visited by the big black suction cups again, this time shadowed by fractal hills leading out in endless variations, and now I recognized those too from the night before. I was resuming a movie I’d paused just moments prior, and the difference between seeing and remembering became clear; all the background details showed themselves vividly. My mind quieted, the sentence ended it’s rounds. I slept.

When I woke I was on my side with arms and legs outstretched, hands straight like paddles, so that the whole of my body formed, with uncanny sharpness, the shape of the letter V. I was disconcerted and embarrassed, though I had no audience. What a peculiar thing, I thought, and loosened my limbs. My foot brushed against a small pebble on my sheets, and in a great wave the dream from the night before passed through my line of vision. This time the dancing suction cups and fractal hills were accompanied by small hollows dotting the immediate landscape, like empty pools in the dirt floor. Just then my stomach growled, a rough and guttural yearning. I couldn’t remember ever being so hungry. I made myself breakfast and left the house for work.

Again throughout the day a sentence came to me on repeat. ‘’Not all empty ventricles are hollows worth feeding.’ These words, like the previous day’s words, were someone else’s. Over lunch I looked up the word ventricle, and learned that it referred to any number of cavities in the body, particularly organ cavities, like the heart and the brain. Venter, I read, came from the Latin for “belly”. I touched my stomach again, which had been loud and raucous all day, hungering so plaintively that I’d attracted scowls at a mid-morning meeting. I was still starving, my appetite knew no end. But lunch hour came to a close as it did every single day, which was always a marvel and a misery to me, and I went on again until bed.

The scene with the suction cups, still joining and splitting, the multiplying fractal hills and the small empty cavities, which were now filling and emptying with a resinous watery substance, up and down, like a living thing and its own breath, picked up once more when I laid my head on the pillow. I opened my eyes just moments after closing them, testing the elasticity of the dream. How many times could I come out of it? How long would it linger, when would it disperse itself across the room, fading in the open like they all had done before this one? I fluttered my eyelids first fast and then slow.

I realized that the offensive glow of my overhead light was dimming, as I’d always wished it would though had never taken action to achieve. The walls were falling away from me, spreading up and outwards in geometric shards, fractal hills, as it were. I stopped my eyelids closing and instead strained them as far open as possible. ‘I am awake!’ I said, and sat up in my bed to prove it, to force the dream away. I looked down at my hands, which I’d pushed into the mattress for support, and saw them both floating, instead, in the hollow pools I’d seen in my sleep. The resin, now a dark reddish amber, pulsed in and out of them but my palms remained steady.

My body felt light and I noticed my hands were no longer floating just above the pools but above the ground entirely, which I was moving further and further away from. A warm vapor rushed by and I felt thin, like hair or like breath, like air moved through me and not me through it. A new sentence came to mind as I floated up above the dirt and the pools. ‘How to be serious when one is but a cirrus.’ I spread across the hills in a single gust, an instinct that felt somehow natural to me then, and as my body feathered out into space I was left with the only answer to that question: I cannot.

--------

From Isaac Asimov’s Words of Science:

Fission: ‘Until 1939, the only nuclear reactions known were those involving rather minor changes in the nucleus- a rearrangement of particles or the loss of one to four of them…A German physicist, Lise Meitner, suggested that when the neutron hit the uranium nucleus, it split that nucleus into two nearly equal parts. Physicists all over the world began checking and she was right! The uranium nucleus did break in two! This nuclear reaction was called fission from the Latin “fissio”, meaning “split.”’
Ablation: The removal of material from the surface of an object by vaporization, chipping, or other erosive processes.
Ventricle: ‘The Latin word for “belly” is “venter” and since the belly is a hollow place within the body, it came to be applied to other hollows as well. A small hollow would be a “ventricle”.’
Cirrus: ‘Sometimes very high clouds form in the shape of closely spaced feathers or tufts of hair. These are cirrus clouds, “cirrus” meaning “a curl of hair.”’


05/22/18
Landing Page - 113018
Estimated Arrival - 11:50 PM
Flight - JetBlue 1841
Author - G. Jacobs

Morris couldn’t sleep. The truth was he hadn’t slept well since separating from his partner, whose absence from the other side of the bed prevented him from fully relaxing, from loosening his grip on reality enough to accidentally leave it behind for six to eight hours. And tonight was worse than usual. Tonight, trying to fall asleep felt like trying to fall asleep with the nagging feeling that you forgot to lock the front door or turn off the oven.

Morris gave up. He turned on the television. A late night talk show was wrapping up, and the host was discussing fatherhood with a famous celebrity who had just had his first child. The celebrity spoke sincerely about how much his life had changed the moment his baby entered the world, and said that when he held his child for the first time just a few days before, he experienced exactly the sort of spiritual fireworks -- “an overwhelming rush of love and a clarity of meaning” -- that he secretly had been hoping for. He revealed that his greatest fear was that the nurse would hand him his new baby and he would look into the little thing’s eyes and feel...nothing. Or worse, he feared that, smack in the middle of this wonderful, epic moment in his life, his mind would end up drifting toward something else entirely, like how much the hospital parking fees would end up costing them, and then he’d have to act the part of new father, to manufacture happy tears, for his wife’s sake, for his own sake too.  

At this point, the celebrity got choked up. A little embarrassed, he turned to the studio audience and apologized, saying that he was so emotional because he was just “so happy to be a father.” Everyone whimpered with delight at this vulnerable proclamation coming from a celebrity whose history of bachelorhood was well-documented by the hollywood tabloids. The camera flashed to a close up of a woman blowing her nose into a tissue. There was an awkward beat, as the celebrity adjusted his tie and dried his yes, until the show’s host did his job and said, “You clearly haven’t changed any diapers yet,” and cut to a commercial break amid a cacophony of post-cry laughter.

A commercial popped on screen for one of those ancestry services, where you can track your family tree back to the Mayflower if you’re lucky. Morris never had any interest in this kind of thing, but flashing on the screen was an offer of a “FREE TRIAL FOR THE NEXT 24 HOURS!” Morris liked deals, and was bored, so he opened his laptop and went to the website. Unsurprisingly, the free trial turned out to not be all that free -- you had to remember to cancel your subscription after a month to avoid charges -- but Morris signed up anyway, which was he knew was very out of character.

Getting started was easy enough: He filled out his basic information, and immediately found all kinds of records of his existence, from his birth certificate to the lease on his home to his marriage certificate to his ex wife. Using that info, the website was able to guess who his parents were. He confirmed the correct data points, and corrected the system’s mistakes -- for some reason it thought that his father was still alive. At some point, the site led Morris to a scan of a page from his grandfather’s high school yearbook -- he’d been voted “most studious” of the class of 1930.

Morris kept digging, moving backward in time and sideways in time, finding distant relatives from long ago that he never knew existed, exhausting every digital paper trail he could find hoping to flesh out each person’s profile to its limit. His eyes burned as he approached hour three of staring at a bright computer in a dark room, but he opened another thread of his family tree anyway, this one sprouting from his maternal grandmother. The whole process was beginning to feel strangely urgent. Or at least, Morris’ fast typing fingers seemed to sense some urgency, that something lost in history needed to be found, and found soon.

He clicked a link that was next to the profile of a distant relative named Moses and it took him to an ancient looking immigration record. Nothing on the form was legible except for Moses’ first name, printed in capital letters at the bottom of the page where the form asked for his signature. Morris stared at the childishly scribbled, oversized “M” with which Moses used to begin his “signature,” and in some sense, used to begin his life in the United States. Then, much to his own surprise, Morris reached out and began touching the “M” on the screen with his fingertips. This action struck him as a little melodramatic, something a character would do in a movie that would cause him to whisper to his partner “no one would do that,” but Morris kept his fingertips on the “M” and held them there until he started to feel tears coming. He hadn’t cried since the fight that led to the separation.

The next thing Morris knew, birds were chirping and the morning news was silently humming on the TV. With his left hand, he rubbed the sleep from his eyes. His right hand seemed to be jammed into the crevice of his half closed laptop. He opened the computer and found that the battery had died at some point in the night. He’d forgotten to save his progress.





5/22/18
Landing Page #113016
Jet Blue Flight 3325
Scheduled Arrival - 3:54 PM
Author - L. Smith

The two girls looked very much alike. It was easier in fact to count their differences than it was their similarities. For example, Rosa’s nose went slightly upwards at its end, where Sari’s tapered to a downward spout. Their faces were otherwise remarkably indistinguishable from one another, soft as they were in their ascent out of pubescent purgatory. Sari’s hands were larger and more rugged. She walked with a slightly forward-leaning tilt, maybe always on the brink of toppling. But when they were together the girls walked arm in arm, holding one another close and upright.

Their teachers had adopted the two girls’ chosen title, Sarosa, to avoid embarrassment for either side, or else referred to them in the plural: ‘girls’, as in ‘Girls, please pay attention.’ Other kids their age chanted their nickname as they moved down the hallways at school, meaning it as something like a slur but landing it instead as an affirmation. The two would smile at each other and walk through the noise, not seeing any of the others, just each other and so themselves.

Their external personality traits had been formed in reference and reflection of each other’s, so it was more difficult to pinpoint internal differences. Though, to be certain, they shared nothing biological. Sari’s hair was coarse where Rosa’s laid flat on her scalp. Sari’s mother did not get out of bed for six weeks after giving birth to her, due to no physical ailment but because she just couldn’t.

Rosa’s mind stayed buoyant and free of daily residue. She did not always understand her friend, who moved through the world with that off-kilter malaise which sprung up in her steps, something nearing grief, but it didn’t matter yet because her friend was a part of her, and she’d been told her whole life that: knowing yourself is a journey, her mother said, that we get older and figure out who we are supposed to be, we become ourselves, we welcome ourselves, her mother told her, and so not understanding parts of her friend was fine, it was okay, it was a matter of time.

So it went on just like this. They’d eat dinner at each other’s houses but make sure to switch back and forth with some regularity, to keep the grocery bills even. They were nice girls. They understood things like this at a young age. That a mother might be hurt that her daughter was always gone for dinnertime, and also that a mother might crumple under the weight of just one more at dinnertime. So they worked on balance, which was always easier with two, after all.

The girls had chosen to eat at Sari’s house this evening. A day in the sun had left them with browned shoulders and cheeks and glinting eyes and rapacious appetites, and they looked very much like the dirty little animals that young teenage girls are but do their best to shine off. Both had their hair pulled back and tied at the nape of their necks. They ate pasta or something like it. Carbs helped them through the day into the night; they could eat so many of them; they could eat just about as much as they could find. “Where does it go!” Rosa’s mother would say and smile goofily with chin hanging over plate, head shaking just a bit like she’d never seen such a damn good show in her life, like all of it was just a little hard to believe.

‘Sari,’ Rosa’s father said, still eyeing his plate, ‘How’s it going over there with that construction next door to your place?’ He glanced up and looked directly at his daughter as he spoke. ‘Have your parents just about had it or what? Do those guys look any closer to done?’ He had started speaking mid-chew and his food was now lodged in the annals of his cheek.

The girls shifted in their seats. ‘Why are you asking me, Dad?’ Rosa said, and laughed a little but also something in her kind of shuddered.

Sari’s face was placid but the outside of her eyes seized for a moment and trembled. Rosa’s father coughed, a genuine small choke on his pasta. ‘Well damn! That’s never happened before has it! Sorry Ro, Sari, that was weird. You guys just look so much alike these days. With your hair pulled back like that.’

‘If you can’t get it right then god help that English teacher,’ Rosa’s mother said, laughing too, moving things around on her plate, then finally looking up at her husband.

Sari was quiet. After a moment she said, very quietly, ‘They say they’ll get the scaffolding off in two weeks.’

Pause. ‘Very good,’ Rosa’s dad said.

Dinner passed quietly and quickly after that and Sari went home without hugging her friend or saying goodbye to her friend’s parents, though she made sure to thank them for the meal after the dishes were clean.

It began with the way they walked. Sari removed her arm from the link it made with Rosa’s in order to brush a hair from her face or redundantly pull the lip of her shirt down over her waistband, and then let her hand fall to her side instead of looping it once more through her friend’s. They were quiet when sitting next to each other on stoops, which they found less and less time for. Rosa sat with two boys and ate tacos at lunch, Sari did not look for her. Rosa did not call her friend for two days straight, which was at first the longest ever and then carried on and on into normalcy with surprising swiftness.

Sari’s mother asked after Rosa, ‘What’s going on with you guys?’

And Sari only said, of course, ‘Nothing.’



5/22/18
Landing Page - 113016
Estimated Arrival - 6:15 PM
Author - G. Jacobs

Adam feigned a look of horror, while the woman he'd just met at the bar, Eve, pretended to pick an apple off the tree, and her tagalong friend, Gina, took the picture. They'd spotted the irresistible photo op just sitting there, waiting for them, in a gated yard just off Main Street. They clumsily hopped the fence and took their positions, trying not to wake the neighborhood. On the first attempt, Adam's eyes were closed. Gina whispered, "Adam, you blinked!" On the second attempt, Eve's hand was obscuring the apple. Gina whispered, "Eve, move your hand back or no one will get the joke." On the third attempt, the flash didn't go off. Gina tried to turn the flash back on, but her phone died. Adam and Eve were still holding their respective poses.



5/16/18
Landing Page #113019
Flight - Delta Airlines 1161
Estimated Arrival - 4:23 PM
Author - L. Smith

I hadn’t seen your uncle in six years when I ran into him last. We were on the street in downtown Brooklyn, an area of no particular importance to either of us. I think that if one of us had eyed the other from across the street we’d likely have just averted our gaze and kept moving. Wouldn’t have told a soul about it. But we were walking in the same direction on the same block and I came up to his right side without even noticing my own brother’s gait — he picks his heels up before every step, shifts the whole weight of his body up and down with every movement forward, always has, an exhausting act to even witness — and we both looked right at each other at the same time. My stomach dropped out. We let the split second of fear and panic pass in silence, as they’re likely to do, and then we hugged and laughed incredulously and the air between us was so thick I could’ve eaten it with a spoon.

He’d already moved to Chicago so I’d written off knowing him at that point. There was no way back or forward for us. But there was never an ounce of contention either — let me make that clear. We’d always been more than civil. Raised in a civil family. But civility has its shortcomings. Civility can make you awfully polite.

Age was settling in on us both. I think my eyes were fixed solely on the crease between his brows for the first five minutes. It had become so deep you’d think a quarter slipped in would earn you some snacks.

We asked after each other’s people first. How is your this and that? Our lives had both changed in big, important ways in the six years past, but still I asked about his wife and his cats, both of them, by name, one was dead. Not the wife but a cat. He behaved similarly. We spent maybe fifteen minutes talking about other people before admitting we had nowhere we needed to be in the near future. I had to walk the dog that evening but there were at least five hours before that situation became dire, and we both knew it. The immensity of this unfurled before us. I promise you, some afternoons in your life will feel enormous.

We walked to a park nearby. I imagine we gave the impression of exes, packing our emotional things away for good. It wasn’t pleasant. It was hard work. Picking these things up is a heavy, heavy job and the weight of them grows exponentially over time. Pull your weeds when you see them coming up, is all I’m saying.  

We were sitting on a bench. We sat right next to each other so for the most part I just looked at the left side of his face, a cheek that I’d never seen so up close, for so long, in all my life. The crevice between his nostril and the rest of his face was red and inflamed like mine has been since I was young. Like our sister’s, too. Genetics won’t let you forget them in the end. We talked about our parents, sleep apnea, our common denominators mostly. These are the second strata of human conversation after niceties, though could really be considered a subset of it.

We wandered briefly towards talks of the desert, I think, and the lengthening of time in a space without light, bless us, and when I put my hand up to block out the sun, to demonstrate a certain point I can no longer recall — no conversation has ever been fully remembered — I saw a squirrel walking towards the outer brinks of a very thin branch. It was clearly looking to make a leap to what seemed an impossibly distant limb of a nearby tree but what do I know about squirrel aerodynamics. I pointed to it and your uncle looked up, and at just that moment the animal, who was moving so quickly you’d think he was trying to disperse the molecules of his body across space, took a misstep. This was something I didn’t think squirrels entirely capable of. A misstep. He plummeted to the ground from about 3 stories up and landed squarely in front of us. No joints or innards or anything unseemly showed themselves. It was just a perfectly still animal lying on the ground in the middle of day.

The air went out of us both and we jumped from our seats and hovered over it in silence. The squirrel was dead, without question. We squatted beside it and I’d be lying if I told you I remember a thing about what was said or not said between us.

A minute passed before we heard some clamoring in the branches above and we looked up to see three other squirrels staring down at the one who’d fallen, moving their heads about. Clicking, squeaking. They were distraught. Then I think they were mourning.

We moved the thing out of the way of foot traffic with some sticks, dug a little ditch with our boots and nudged it in there. The hole had to be bigger than I would’ve thought. I wouldn’t have accounted for the tail. It’s nearly as long as the body itself, at least. We put it at the base of the tree it had fallen from and covered it with leaves. I don’t think we spoke at all during this time.

I don’t remember what we did after that but whatever it was didn’t last long. I left to walk the dog. He left to do whatever he’d been on his way towards before I’d found him.

I wrote him one letter after that. It read: Prelapsarian bliss seems mighty subjective these days.

He responded: All I know is, a thing sounds loudest when it crashes right in front of you, when you’re required to bury it.

He always had a sense of humor, your uncle. We haven’t spoken since. His birthday’s on Thursday though, and it would be great if you could give him a call. Let me know if you need his number. Okay, text me so I know you got this message. Love you.



5/16/18
Landing Page - 113010
Flight - Delta Airlines 1161
Estimated Arrival - 4:23 PM
Author - G. Jacobs


When Patrick and Mai got on their flight to Greece, they were in love. When they got off it, they were not.

No one sitting sitting near them on the nonstop to Athens would have guessed anything went wrong in those nine hours. Not even the man sharing a row with them sensed conflict or tension. It was more that, under the small but powerful lights perfectly angled to illuminate seat 32A and 32B, they simply saw things they had not seen in their first three months together, things they could not quite unsee.

Example 1) Just after takeoff, Mai asked the flight attendant for a selzer even though surely the beverage cart would be moving through the aisles, serving the whole plane beverages, any minute now. The flight attendant was nice enough to offer Mai a rare case of preferential coach class treatment, and went to fetch the drink. When the attendant came back with a blue can of Schweppes, Mai said, “Thank you,” but when she did so, she didn’t even look up from her book. Her eyes never left the paragraph she was on, as if the words on the page might spontaneously disappear.

Example 2) A bit later, Patrick asked Mai if he could lean his head on her shoulder to take a quick rest. Mai happily consented, but once Patrick fell asleep, his mouth opened and he began breathing long, heavy breaths that smelled like aged cheese and polluted ocean. She had never thought of Patrick as bad breath guy, but now she wondered if he had yet to begin keeping a toothbrush at her house not because he was afraid of commitment, but because he had poor habits when it comes to oral hygiene.

Example 3) When Patrick woke, he did the crossword. Mai asked if she could help, and Patrick said sure. One clue had them both stumped until Patrick, on a whim, checked to see if the words “Nelson Mandela” would work, and was thrilled to see that they fit the puzzle. He went to give Mai a triumphant high five, but instead of raising her hand, she furrowed her brow and asked, “Who is Nelson Mandela?”

Months later, after the break up, if you would have asked Patrick or Mai why their relationship ended, they likely would have blamed Patrick’s lingering feelings for an ex girlfriend, or Mai being overworked by her demanding new job. And if you would have asked them about their vacation in Greece, they likely would have smiled and said it was “nice,” that they’ll remember their adventure fondly. We are, after all, creatures who only know we’ve caught a cold once we begin sneezing. We don’t live much in the realm of what’s happening. No -- our home is the realm of what has already happened.





5/15/18
Landing Page #113028
Scheduled Arrival - 4:00 PM
Author - L. Smith



5/15/18
Landing Page  #113024
Scheduled Arrival - 3:00 PM
Author - G. Jacobs


Ladies and Gentleman,


First off all, I just want to say thank you. It’s an absolute honor to be named employee of the year for Globecom Enterprises. I’d like to share this award with my team at the Tallahassee office, some of whom are here today! (Pause for cheers.) I was told to prepare a very short speech for this occasion, so I’m going to use my limited time to talk about what my job means to me.

Fifteen years ago I was fresh out of high school, and like so many youths in America, undeniably lost. I wandered around my small town in Florida with the feeling in my stomach that one gets when they slip going down a flight of stairs, as if time froze the moment I missed a step, allowing me to explore the world in this state of limbo.

Then, just as I was getting to the point of accepting that this just might be how it feels to be alive, how everyone else had been feeling this whole time, I met a Globecom employee at the local mall. I remember it like it was yesterday: We were both buying a hot pretzel, and when the cashier told her to “have a nice day,” she responded, “Already having one,” before ripping a big bite off her pretzel with a smile. There was something about the way she bit that pretzel, chomping down without hesitation, unselfconsciously, with unbridled optimism and tenacity, with love. I had to know how she got to be the way she was.

I tapped her on the shoulder and introduced myself. She responded not by telling me her name, but by telling me what she does, and more germane to this here speech, who she worked for. She was a project manager at Globecom Enterprises -- her name is Linda by the way, and she too is sitting somewhere this audience today! (Pause for cheers.) Linda and I ended up talking a bit more, and I ended up telling her about the feeling in my stomach, the vague seasickness I often felt here on dry land. We finished our pretzels and she ended up giving me a card of the Tallahassee offices HR manager. She said to call first thing in the morning, and tell them that Linda sent me.

Well, just a few weeks later I was interviewed for my first job, and a few weeks after that I joined the company, and a few weeks after I began to feel like myself again. I guess you could say, it wasn’t until I became a Globecom employee that I got my sealegs.

It’s a pleasure to be on this ship with all of you fine people. Thank you.



5/15/18
Landing Page #113023
Flight - AA 368
Scheduled Arrival - 1:22 PM
Author - L. Smith

Just as often as ever I catch myself hardening at the sight of a stranger doing something I disapprove of, though these things have little or nothing to do with morals. It’s not someone opening their driver’s side window for the sole purpose of throwing a plastic drinking cup onto the asphalt before speeding away, or someone walking through a held door without a thank you. It is the woman with the hand sanitizer keychain hanging from her tote that lies on the floor of the train when her bag is clenched between her feet after a full day’s work. Or the fumbling man in suit and tie, no doubt beat down by surviving or sustaining bureaucracy for however many decades, who asks me easy questions at a small dinner party. It’s the attempts to be good that I deem as failures. Those are the things that really irk me. I haven’t been able to figure out if this makes me a bad person, or at least worse than those that I’m judging.

I like to believe I’m now aware of that creeping terseness, which rises up in me like some kind of mild bile. I still harden, though I try to picture the hardness like a boiled egg. A boiled egg is hard by nature, I figure, but it has some give to it. A little bit of rubbery toughness. At least a hard boiled egg invites company if you know how to get through the door. At least it does not explode furiously, irrationally, all over a shoe, or a floor, when knocked.

So it figures that getting older is about both hardening and softening at once, and it’s no wonder that we find this process confusing. It’s no wonder that being close to each other is embarrassing when the best we can be is a different version of an egg.


A man wants me to talk to him about the whole wheat croissant. Four of them sit stacked behind the glass on the countertop beside the regular croissants, which are nearly identical save their more pekid hue. I guess that he’s around forty, a hazy liminal age that’s only ever pinned because someone looks indeterminately older or younger than it. No one has ever, in my opinion, looked exactly forty years old. So he stands across from me, a staunchly median age. He is in fact a huge swath of rounded values, some up, some down. A bag of averages meant as a sum. He points to the glass, hits it repeatedly with his finger. He’s telling me You should never mess with a croissant, and I consider that he means me, the person standing in front of him, to listen: do not even dare screwing with a perfect thing. Would I ever?

Croissants are holy he says.

I try to deduce if this is a joke. If he were flashing me some wit I’d offer a smile but I’d still not respect him, because he is trying to loosen me up. To prod with a pun is a cheap trick.

He asks Is it actually good? Though I’ve already confirmed this when he asked me a minute prior, the same question without the ‘actually’. He is playing incredulous.

I tell him it is, because it is. I don’t have the energy to get caught in a lie with this man. The whole wheat croissant is good because the bran gives it flavor, because the ‘whole wheat’ in the title implies only a minimal addition of it, does not imply the total lack of white flour which gives a croissant its characteristic lightness, which is what he expects in a croissant, which is what he means by ‘good’, which is what he fears losing. I don’t say any of this because he didn’t ask and because I’ve deemed he doesn’t deserve my efforts to speak out loud what I already know.

But he says Really? and his eyebrows raise and it’s like he’s poking me in the ribs with a stick. Some of his neck skin blooms slightly over his collar, which is buttoned high and tight. I look into his eyes, whose color escape me anyhow.

Yes. Really.

I don’t know…. he says.

You don’t have to buy it !

He lets out a short breath from his nose, like a sad chuckle from under a comforter.

I feel remorse. I remember the egg and I take a deep breath and just as quickly I remember the futility of metaphor.

Traffic has slowed like it does every weekday at this time. It’s just past noon on a Wednesday, which is not the golden hour for pastries. This is partly how I know that the man isn’t really concerned about the croissant. There is little that hangs in the balance for him. At noon on a Wednesday people are still making due with remnants of breakfast or hopes for late afternoon. He is likely killing time and I do not get paid enough to be his time to kill. But for now I still stand behind glass, necessarily appeasing him just by being there.

I can no longer catch his eye. I’ll just take the coffee, he says, and hands me two dollars. 
 



05/14/18
Landing Page - 113026
Flight - Delta Airlines 1943
Scheduled Arrival - 1:27 PM
Author - G. Jacobs

I turned off the car and sat in the driveway. I could see my wife doing dishes in the kitchen window.

I thought about something my uncle once told me, a trustworthy rule of thumb: It takes time to build a thing, but no more than a moment to destroy it.

This ratio has always struck me as unfair, or simply poorly weighted -- why should the undoing be so much easier than the doing? But I guess in an inherently chaotic universe, the odds are inherently stacked against us, against the building of anything, against any something’s survival.

My uncle’s rule of thumb, this unfair golden ratio, is most obviously observable in the physical world, where dramatic examples are often preceded by a countdown and marked by an explosion. But the general principle applies to everything, to stuff like life and liberty, and trust and love.

Uttering a word or two, for example, can end a marriage that has grown, brick by brick, kiss by kiss, child by child, over the course of a decade. Uttering a word of that sort of consequence is surely “difficult.” But is it really that difficult? Uttering a word requires the vocal cords and mouth and tongue to do pretty minimal work, so little work, in fact, that sometimes things like marriages -- and even trees and companies and bridges -- can be destroyed on impulse, or even by accident.

Maybe people are too clumsy and emotional to be trusted with the such power, the ability to undo so quickly and effortlessly. Maybe we’d all be way better off if the act of ripping off a bandaid wasn’t as easy as ripping off a bandaid.

I watched as my wife took off those yellow rubber gloves she uses to protect her skin from the harshness of our dish soap, and walk toward the living room.

I took the key out of the ignition and made my way on into the house.






5/14/18
Landing Page #113027
Scheduled Arrival - 4:05 PM
Author - L. Smith

I was walking down the block around the time that many people would still be in all or most of their sleep clothes and drinking their first cups of coffee. That morning I’d gotten up before the sun and started moving with an itchiness that had pulled me from bed without reason. I’d fed the fish and gone outside.

The weight of the day hadn’t started in on me yet and I looked around as I moved. My neck felt springy, my ears astute or at least clean. I walked with the kind of pace reserved for the rare moments when walking is taking you nowhere in particular, which is something between fast and slow.

My neighborhood is full of aging men and women. I call it the ‘Old Country’. Everything feels both sturdier and more fragile because of it. Rarely am I not the youngest person on the street, aside from grandchildren.

On this particular day I passed endless vinyl-sided two story homes before coming upon the one whose buzzer was ringing. The sound was unmistakable- it was the dull intermittent singing of a door unlocking from the inside. I faltered in walking past and then movement failed me altogether. I stood still and looked up at the four windows on the facade of the house and envisioned their contents. I saw an array of greying and childish adults in a perpetual state of waiting. Mid step into slipper, hands under faucet, awaiting warmth. Maybe the tenant of the top right apartment had been watching steam rise from a mug for as long as the vapor would last, her eyes glazing over.

The buzzing didn’t stop but for brief moments. I pictured the tip of a woman’s translucent skinned finger turning white with extended pressure on the button. Maybe every minute or so the woman switched to a new fingertip, allowing the previous one to regain circulation.

As long as the buzz was buzzing, the door was open to me. Of course I considered going inside. In fact, the weight of the choice filled me, made my feet solid. I couldn’t continue walking  but neither could I bring myself to move up the stairs, open the door, and seek out the waiting.

A snake had been delivered to my house once. The box had said ‘LIVE ANIMAL’ on it and I’d stood at the door all day awaiting its arrival. My buzzer was broken and all door knocks got hopelessly muffled so when the mail carrier walked up the stairs I flung open the door for him. He delivered the package to me with no particular color, despite the way it shook and knocked as a body flung itself around inside. He’d turned around and walked down the stairs before I could tell him which kind of live animal this LIVE ANIMAL was, though he had not asked. The snake had been in a terrible mood all day after arriving.  

The buzzing had been going on for many minutes now. The woman who was coaxing in company had not run out of able fingertips, nor out of time or patience, which are sometimes the same and sometimes opposing things. The neighborhood was beginning to wake and someone walked towards me on the sidewalk, but they passed without so much as a glance in the direction of the ringing door.

How would I know which apartment was the right apartment? Would I call out ‘I am here!’ and listen for a door down any hall, up any stairs, to open? Would she be disappointed that it was me who’d shown up? I’m sure she’d indulge me some, considering I’d come all this way to see her. It would be the right thing to do. At least offer me a cup of tea before sending me on my way. It’s sometimes hard to converse with a stranger and even harder still to leave them gracefully. I’d tell her about the snake-- people loved the idea of a woman loving a reptile-- and hopefully she’d let me know when I’d overstayed, that really I could be on my way now, she’d have to start getting ready, must wash her face, clean up the living room, etc. She was expecting company.





05/10/18
Landing Page #113027
Flight - JetBlue 1161
Scheduled Arrival - 4:48 PM
Author - G. Jacobs


Below is an excerpt pulled from the diaries of George A. Fox (1912-1988), the renown furrier and philanthropist of New York City’s borough of Queens, the son of George D. Fox and Marcia Plank, who spent much of his final years, after the death of his wife, Laura Bellows, writing lists similar to those found in Sei Shōnagon’s, “The Pillow Book,” which is believed to have been completed in the year 1002.  


WAYS TO MANUFACTURE FEELINGS OF HEARTACHE

-Lay in the middle of the road at night in a very rural area where you can be certain no cars will come. Try to slow your breathing until your chest is as quiet as the stars.

-Find a spot to sit and observe a major city’s evening rush hour commute. Imagine where every commuter you see is on his/her way to.

-Live out a cliché. For example: If you are visiting Paris with a lover, share a kiss under the Eiffel Tower. During this kiss you, think about the fact that this moment is, in its essence, no different than other moments.

-Eat icecream alone in a dark room in the middle of the day.


EVERYDAY SIGNS OF STRENGTH

-Remaining calm when someone says, “Remain calm.”

-Recognizing the inherent equality of every being on the planet so as to not want more from some than others, or favor some over others, or value some over others, including yourself.

-Saying what you mean to say when public speaking or simply nervous.

-Exhibiting the ability to invalidate your own thoughts (when necessary), to recognize that they are just thoughts, that, even if they feel weighty, they are real but not true.





05/08/18
Landing Page #113029
Scheduled Arrival - 6:10 PM
Author - L. Smith

The time was passing the way she was accustomed to, without a finger hold. The day had handed her off to the night and she hadn’t had a say in it. She was beginning to understand that she was too amenable to this.

She shone a light down her hallway through her home. She watched the beam cut the space but the space did not split or crumble. The dust continued its slow motion and she marveled at its steady pace, it’s utter lack of rhythm for not relying on a beat to keep it living. She wondered how it might change her, to not have a ceaseless thumping inside.

It’s difficult to be comfortable in the wind. A gust blew through her and the dust dispersed, the outlines of her day washed off. It’s not so much the vulnerability she feared as the weight of space, which could be nakedness’ opposite. Wind only rolls through when there’s something trying to get from one place to another.




05/03/18
Landing Page  #113031
Scheduled Arrival - 2:30 PM
Author - L. Smith


First thing every morning he’d clench a fist as hard as he could, before he even opened his eyes. He never managed to get it firm and tight, the joints and tendons still groggy, a couple paces behind. A few minutes later he’d squeeze again, his hand curled between his sheets and his chest. He’d get up when his fist felt back to full capacity, when his nails dug into his palm and his forearm vibrated from the effort.

After this he laid on his floor and breathed quickly in and out of his mouth. He excused his nose from the task— all air had to pass through his lips. He was convinced this made him a bit loopy, a little buzzed, and cleared out the dead air that had been held in him during sleep. He’d stand and look at himself in the mirror. ‘You are quick witted and strong,’ he said. ‘You are not without flaws but in your flaws you are human. You are a man, a single point in a great lineage of billions who came before you, almost all of whom are gone from the earth. You are one of the men who is here now. Today you are alive.’

He’d close his eyes and squeeze his fists again. He would maybe growl or do a husky sort of grunt, but not always. There were days when he felt more like a guy than a man but he kept up with the mantra because, he thought, it could only help.

He lived alone. He was certain that he took great pride in this. Today, though, he couldn’t help but long for a hand in holding down the garbage can while he pulled the bag out from inside it. He’d packed it so full that the can rose from the ground with the bag like an armored sleeve. He tried to use his knees as an anchor on the can though couldn’t get leverage or height enough to free the bag entirely. He tried shaking the can off of the bag by holding the entire mass in front of him and wiggling it vigorously. Eventually a combination of these tactics worked and the can slid off and crashed onto the hardwood floor. His prize was the sack of unadorned garbage, which he held in his hand like a big fish just freed from a line.

The can laid on its side and rolled across the slanted floor like a drunk. He put the garbage bag down and retrieved the can from the other side of the room. The bag had, of course, slumped sideways in his absence, and coffee grounds were heaped in a pile below it, quickly burrowing into the quarter inch gap between his floorboards. He gathered the top of the plastic into a knot, surveying the waste on the ground. “You are one of the men who is here now,” he whispered as he tied, and carried the bag to his front door. “You are not without flaws but in your flaws you are human.” He swept the coffee grounds with one hand into the other and dumped them in the sink.

His hands were strong. The veins had always shown themselves in a way that was almost vulgar. Once awake, his hands got jobs done. Here they were again, working, improving upon tools. Making tools redundant. Behold his hands, more adept than a broom at scraping detritus from a narrow space. More ready and willing than a vacuum cleaner, whose stench and cumbersome chords and body made the whole thing barely worth it. His hands would do. They always did.

He washed them off and held them in front of his face, twisting his wrists, swiveling his palms back and forth. He wiggled his fingers. “Thank you,” he said, and dried them on a filthy towel that lived eternally beside the sink basin.

He was without obligation on this day. He walked around his home, moving things and looking into corners, appreciated his body in surfaces, thought about food and about money, spoke only to his limbs. He exercised in the middle of his living room, made noises for just himself. He considered the prospect of future and past in vague terms.

He expected to live a long life, like the men of his family that came before. His life, in being long, would be full. He thought his fullness of the highest accord because he was not a consumer, not a man of tastes, and so avoided the traps of videos, photos, and most of the internet. He prided himself on this. Often he chimed into conversations: “Oh, what are you talking about? I haven’t seen it. I never watch television.”

His day sprawled out in front of him and he felt not the enormity of it but it’s easy segmenting into hours, which he punctuated at their cusps with more mouth-breathing and heavy bouts of hydration. He drank water with skill. “I drink more water than anyone I know,” he would say to people who rarely, if ever, were looking for this information.

By the evening his house often smelled of boiled eggs. On this night in particular the sun’s setting surprised him. What a way time has of leaving, he thought, while peeling his dinner. He removed the shell in large swaths using the sides of his thumbs, which were wide and flat, as thumbs are. What perfect implements I have for this task, he marveled, and popped the whole egg into his mouth, which was both the ideal shape and size for so doing.


05/03/18
 #113031
Flight - Delta Airlines 2149
Scheduled Arrival - 1:31 PM
Author - G. Jacobs


She walked out onto her front porch, and flicked her lighter a few times so that her husband would hear the mechanism and assume she went out there to smoke a cigarette.

The sound of an airplane echoed off the mountains, and she looked up to find a large commercial aircraft flying directly above, which was unusual, as most planes that flew over the county were either coming or going from the private airfield about half hour drive south.

When she saw a plane as a child, she would often hold her hand to the sky and squint her eyes, trying to perfectly fit the plane, wingtip to wingtip, in between her nearly pinched fingers.

These days, when she sees a plane, her mind tends to wonder about the passengers on board. Where are they going? Why are they traveling? What are they eating and drinking? How does it smell up there?

She’s not sure which instinct is better: to think of the plane as something simple, whole, and about the size of the penny, or to conceive of it as a big complex ecosystem, like a town of people temporarily cohabiting roughly 30,000 feet above the ground.

Both instincts are surely correct, though. She paid enough attention in high school physics to know that the airplane has no inherent size, but that its size is a matter of perspective and relativity.

This made her curious as to why airplanes are generally talked about as enormous machines, as awe inspiring objects, even if 99% of our interactions with them occur from far away, when they’re tiny, when they look kind of like finely carved crucifix-shaped stones.

Her brain sent a signal to her hand, telling it to to raise itself up to sky and frame the airplane in between her pointer and thumb, but her arm never left her side, and the signal manifested as a tightness in her forearm that she relieved by slightly flexing her wrist.

She let out a cough, as if she had pulled too large a drag of a cigarette, before turning to go back inside.

When she sat back down on the couch next to her husband, she didn’t smell of tobacco, and he didn’t say a thing.



05/03/18
 #113040
Scheduled Arrival - 4:00 PM

Author - L. Smith

Six miles east there stand four golden trees. They shine like nothing you’ve ever seen before. Glow and almost explode in the light, if you get the hour right. No kidding, I wouldn’t lie to you about something like this. Let me be clear though- no kind of god made those trees. They’re like no other tree on this earth. And if you didn’t know what you were looking for you could miss them entirely. And if you think I’m screwing around here— I wouldn’t screw with you about something like this. But listen, to get over there you’ve got to know where you’re going, if you know what I mean. To get east you’ve got to know west, if you know what I mean.

When’s the last time you looked at a horizon? That line out there in the sky— sort of below the sky? You kids looked at the horizon recently? You ever wondered where it started? Its top and bottom, where those lie? I used to walk all morning into the afternoon to try and get there. I used to think I could, think I’d find some edges. I figured there had to be something really special there, at one of those edges. I figured there’d have to be at least four, if not more. Everything I ever saw before had a top and a bottom and at least a couple sides. Even a thing like a house— you can’t see the bottom but you sure as hell know where its buried. I used to head down whatever road laid itself out in front of me and just move on towards that skyline. Maybe you know this— because the space amidst information is smaller now— because the air is more dense with it—you kids are smarter than we were— but there is no edge. I never got anywhere.

I got wherever I went but that wasn’t where I’d meant to go. One time though, I knew I was heading east, because these things used to matter a lot to us— the directions, the way we were physically oriented in the world— I walked out along this road and to my right, across the lanes and just past the shoulder and into the brush, I saw something. Stopped me dead in my tracks. Shoved me back in my shoes. Four golden trees, shining so bright I could barely look at them straight. Traffic was heading back into town from the city and I couldn’t make it across but I stood there squinting through the cars until my head ached and my eyes burned. It got me so dizzy I could barely keep my knees up. It was near a hundred degrees too, no question. If I’d just stopped looking over that way I might’ve lasted on down the road but I couldn’t get my eyes off those trees. I don’t even remember what happened afterwards, they just filled up my head with their glow and left me that way.

Not even sure how I know there were four, to be honest. Funny how when you say something out loud you’re suddenly not sure you’ve heard it before? And maybe you need to hear something to really know it? When I think back on those trees I can only see that huge fiery glare they let off that knocked me down. But you’ll just have to go yourself. You’ll see.

It was ages ago but I can still remember, am sure of it, that it was just a few hours later than it is now, the afternoon I passed those trees. I’ve been waiting this whole time to let someone else in on it. I make no promises, but I dare say today could be your day to see ‘em if you get skipping. Just keep going the way you’re going. Head out east along this road, like you’re looking for the horizon. The trees will be on your right, like I said, and you know it’s them cause they’ll be the most beautiful things you’ve ever laid your eyes on. But try not to look too long or you’ll get bowled over just like I did. Once you get your gaze fixed they can really hook you. That’s their magic and their wickedness.

I never made it back at the right time to see those trees again, but I’m sure they were there. Never saw much of anything again at all, if I tell you the truth. That gold was the last of it, the last thing I ever did see. I never mourned nothing, though. It wasn’t going to get any better than that.




05/03/18
#113036
Scheduled Arrival - 7:00 PM
Author - G. Jacobs


The universe began when,

Once upon a time,

A fifteen year old named Tina posted a creation story on the internet.

Within minutes,

Tina's post was being featured on blogs all over the globe.

Not much later,

Most major networks were interrupting their regular programming to broadcast a live stream of Tina's profile.

At sundown,

Tina's story had accrued 7.5 billion likes.

And by the time the world woke up the next morning,

All the old explanations for the birth of everything were understood to be fictions,

And Tina's story was understood to be history.

There was an unprecedented level of consensus.

As one talking head put it,

"There is no longer any doubt:

Time and space began with Tina.

Or,

I should say,

It all began the moment Tina's thumb tapped 'share.'"






05/02/18
#113035
Scheduled Arrival - 9:00 PM
Author - L. Smith

A boy walks onto a stage, which has been dark. A light shines on his face, and it is round and tight, like a pale cherry.

“‘In no time’ implies right this instant, but between just those three words, in - no - time, there lies exponentially more time than none.”

His hands have been clasped in front of him but open to his sides now, measuring a space between them like parentheses. They come back together again. He has on a small black suit that fits his small body.

“We don’t like to wait. Namely, we are impatient. There are a number of reasons for this.”

He paces a bit to the left, to the right, as he speaks.

“We think we are wasting our time. We become bored. We feel stagnant and want to move forward.”

He is still again. The light has been following him and remains on his face. He is not squinting but his eyes are narrowed.

“Necessary waits come with unnecessary promises. ‘In no time,’ a promise not of haste but of impossibility, is meant to deaden a blow, to insure efficiency, to soothe. In naming nothing it promises everything. What we want is not an alleviation of boredom, it is the promise of its alleviation. ‘Just you wait’ implies pay off, does it not? Not necessarily a welcome one, but a smirk nonetheless. We are passing the time. We are killing the time. But still, we want it gone-- not the time-- but the wait-- because waiting time feels emptier than the time we wait for-- because our time is precious. Our days are numbered. Yours, theirs, ours. Hours.”

The last word is emphatic. He wants to impress its meaning.

“Now, whatever you think is yours, what belongs to you-- might you relinquish or at least reassess it? ‘Your time’ or even better ‘you time’, the time amongst your time that you specifically rope off as your time, is a swath in the midst. It is the middle of an edgeless thing.

“‘A little further down the line’ really depends on where you’re starting from.

“If you start here then ‘a little further down the line’ could refer to

Here


                                    Or here


                                                                                           
                                                                                    Or down here.

He moves his body about the stage.

“But where do I get on line?”

“What?”

“Where do I get online?”

The computer screen in front of him blinks into focus. He is behind the desk at the library where he works in the deep evenings of the winter. It’s been dark for ages. There is a woman in front of him with big rimmed eyes and heavy lips. He looks at her face, whose parts slowly expose themselves to him as a big, well-worn muscle. He points to a row of computers behind her along the far wall. The woman turns from him and walks away.




05/02/18
#213045

Scheduled Arrival - 7:00 PM

Author - L. Smith

The girl was maybe twelve, though it was hard to say for sure. Her parents forgot how old she was often, having had four others already pass through puberty and into the thunderstorm of late adolescence. They no longer had the energy for specificity, for benchmarks, nor saw the use in them. Twelve-ish was enough, it was fine. It would soon pass.

“You are stunning,” she said. A caterpillar was swimming fluidly over the heel of the girl’s palm and she twisted her wrist so that what had been the bottom of her hand was now the top. The caterpillar moved itself over her veins and towards her fingers.

She usually had a fondness for birds and spent many hours staring up into the branches of the trees that lined her property. She’d found the caterpillar while underneath one, during a rare downward glance. Her breath had caught in her chest and she’d exclaimed. “Stunning!” The caterpillar was all green, and was not actually particularly stunning, as far as caterpillars go. The girl had never seen the vibrant striped ones that live in more tropical climates, impossibly patterned and hued, and so this one took first prize in her mind.

She’d recently taken to the word ‘stunning’. She told her mother “Mother, your earrings are stunning,” at dinner the evening before. And to her father, “Beneath the lights of our kitchen island, let me just say, the radiance bouncing off the top of that egg-shaped dome of yours we call a head is just, well, stunning.” The news that her father had no hair was not actually news to anyone, so she was unsure why her mother hushed her after she said this or why her father swallowed his food with difficulty and offered not even a feeble thank you.

Before ‘stunning’ her favorite word had been ‘levity’, which she misunderstood to mean an object’s ability to float or remain airborne. She continued to overuse it, but the new word fit into conversation much more easily. Caterpillars, according the girl, had very little levity but even the most drab could be called stunning as long as there wasn’t a direct reference to disprove it.

As the caterpillar inched its way toward the tips of her fingers she said, “Careful little one, you have not an ounce of levity in that stunning, chubby body of yours.” She turned her palm face-up again as the insect wriggled over the threshold of her fingertips, and she cradled it in her hand and stroked it with her index finger. “Birds have thin little bones and big wings. They are built for levity. They get everywhere so quickly. But you, you’ve got this funny body- stunning, really- but you are mostly like a big, pretty worm. Which birds eat for dinner, to be honest.” She looked at the caterpillar as she spoke. After some time she coaxed it off her hand onto the ground and watched it’s round, undulating form inch its way through the grass. What a slob, thought the girl, That plump, stunning worm. She cupped her hands around her mouth. “Try and lighten up!” she yelled after it. “You might go far.”


05/02/18
#113041
Scheduled Arrival - 5:00 PM
Author - G. Jacobs


Everyone at the office knew Brian had been putting away a bit of his paycheck for the last decade so he could climb Mount Kilimanjaro. At his retirement party, most gifts were gear, most cards ended with, "Good luck climbing!" or “Don’t fall! (Kidding)” But when Brian’s flight touched down in Tanzania, he turned his phone off airplane mode to find that he had no encouraging emails, texts or voicemails. And the next day, climb day, the day his colleagues had spent the last 10 years referring to as "Brian’s Big Day," he kept checking his phone and seeing only his home screen: the local time with an image of Mount Kilimanjaro behind it. His guide arrived at the hotel, knocked on his door and yelled, "Time to go!" Brian didn't answer. The guide knocked louder. Brian remained perfectly still, holding his breath until he eventually heard the elevator doors open and then close.




04/26/18
#113042
Scheduled Arrival - 6:00 PM
Author - L. Smith

He’d burned his palm and fingertips on the cast iron pan earlier and they were all useless nubs now, dull to the subtleties of the world around them. Their skins were smooth and taught and lacked all sensitivity. They’d become little brutes just fumbling about; none of the information was getting through. He rubbed the tips of them against each other in small concentric circles, each one only knowing that the other was there, but not really feeling it.

His anxiety was high, which was not unusual but was never ideal.

Ritual kept him steady and so he rubbed his fingers together while he walked to the corner and ordered a tea, which he had done daily since moving to the block four months ago. He was disconcerted by his new inability to know surfaces, and when the time came to pay he groped his hand about his pocket in a blind attempt at finding $1.75. Was a quarter so much heavier than a dime that it could make itself known in comparison? Turns out no, not really, and he placed many pennies and nickels on the counter before dumping all that remained from his pocket into a pile in front of him. He used one of his deadened fingers to push seven quarters towards the man at the cash register. He considered telling him about the cast iron pan and his hand but instead he apologized and left.

The tea had one of those paper sleeves on it that he always felt wasteful until forced to go without, by negligence or circumstance, and then he knew it’s worth. Today he debated it doubly: would the callous quickly forming on his palm serve as a built-in coffee sleeve? Or would the skin be especially sensitive to heat, as was sometimes the case with abrasions and scalds? He kept the sleeve on, but he wasn’t happy about it.

The air outside was not crisp. People were always talking about crisp fall air, crisp winter or spring air, and even in those seasons he could only attribute the word to apples or to the kosher hot dogs he used to get at the pool in August when he was a kid, which would snap- literally snap- between his teeth when he bit into them. But it was summer and the air was especially un-crispy now. It was sodden and so was he, but he’d ordered his hot drink anyway because this point was a necessary one on the bridge that crossed his day.

In mid step he took a sip of the tea, which he drank with no milk to temper it, and immediately his mouth was sieged and spasming. The liquid was still near boiling and his throat, locked and unyielding, refused to swallow it. He half-gargled the scalding water before spewing it onto the sidewalk in a dramatic burst. He panted and choked just a little bit, nothing serious, but fever filled him. He cleared his throat and rubbed the roof of his mouth with what remained of his tongue, both surfaces burnt and feeling unlike what he’d known them as before.

He put his tea in a garbage can beside him, angry with it and it’s sleeve and the man who gave them to him; angry with the cafe that allowed their employees to serve tea which could cause their customers harm. A cafe which encouraged the use of paper sleeves on teacups to conceal the actual temperature of the liquid inside of them, which in some cases, like this one, was not only pertinent but necessary information.

A woman sidestepped his puddle. He looked down at it. The stain on the cement took the shape of an ice cream cone with remarkable clarity. It had some edges that made it too jarring to call cloud-like, but it had to it an inarguable softness too. The splash had hit en masse in one spot and spewed up and outward, culminating in a nimbus mess.

He moved slowly around the stain and walked further down the block, deadened fist clenched and teeth gritting in a numbed tomb. He considered the ice cream cone stain and paid attention to his breath exiting his nose, which someone had once suggested doing when rage boiled up in his chest. He counted his exhalations, getting to six before he quit. His top lip was covered in sweat and the breaths had pushed a drop of it over the edge. He tasted it on his tongue and the saltiness made him think of something.

Soon he was standing inside a 7-Eleven, marveling at the air conditioning. The digital clock behind the counter said 8:54 am. He asked the cashier for a cone of soft-serve, a swirl combo of chocolate and vanilla, and appreciated the man’s indifference when he handed it over.  

Back outside the ice cream began to melt very quickly and so he ate it even quicker, his palate too burnt to suffer the brain freeze it would normally induce. He walked with his dwindling prize, his palm numb to the sticky slop that was coating it. The day ahead of him felt far away but he kept stepping, because this seemed at the moment the only way to get closer to it.





04/26/18
#113043
Flight - Alaska #3325

Scheduled Arrival - 6:41 PM

Author - G. Jacobs


In 2019, the official first day of spring lined up with the unofficial first day of spring in a way that felt almost cartoonish, as if, this year, the sun and the clouds and the animals and the trees and the flowers and the breeze and the bugs and all the rest were warned of the date of the season change with enough lead time to really prepare, to put on a good show, to perform in the way some families do, wearing their best clothes and exhibiting impeccable behavior, when an important houseguest arrives.

Raul was walking through the city with his friends, enjoying the perfect weather, as was seemingly everyone else in the world. It wasn’t just the parks that were full. Every cafe with outdoor seating had a two hour wait for a table. Every stoop was occupied by the residents who lived in the buildings above. Even the sidewalks were difficult to navigate, and Raul kept bumping into people walking the opposite direction as he tried to keep up with his friends, all of whom were older, taller, and had longer strides.

Eventually, they ended up in a part of the city that was so crowded that Raul and his friends got seperated. His phone was dead. He thought about asking to borrow a strangers phone to call them, but then realized he didn’t know any of their numbers by heart. He thought about trying to charge his phone in one of the busy cafes, but the staff would probably be so overwhelmed by the crowds that helping a non-paying customer would be out of the question.

So, Raul, out of desperation, and maybe a little boredom--what was he going to do with the afternoon now that he’d been left behind--started climbing a telephone pole in hopes that, from the birds eye view, he might be able to spot his friends. He had always been good at climbing trees, and this proved to not be much different. Pretty soon, Raul was about a third of the way up the pole. When he turned to look down and scan the crowd, he didn’t see his friends, but noticed that a small group of tourists were taking pictures of him.

He kept climbing, and as he climbed could feel a tingling sensation spreading down his neck, the sort he sometimes got when he was getting a haircut, or talking to a girl he liked. When he was about two thirds of the way up the pole, he turned around again to see if he could spot his friends. Now there were many people gathered below, their phones in front of their faces, snapping pictures of Raul climbing the pole. Raul could see others walking and running toward him, as they had seen, from a distance, that a crowd was forming, that something was happening.

Raul’s arms and legs grew tired from the task of pushing and pulling his body up the pole but he kept going anyway. He didn’t find what was happening funny but he could feel a smile on his face. His cheeks were beginning to ache as much as his arms and legs. He reached the very top of the pole and turned around to find that there was now nearly an entire city block of people watching, taking pictures of the boy climbing the telephone pole, and some also taking pictures of the huge crowd taking pictures of the boy climbing the telephone pole.

Then, way in the back of the crowd, nearly on the next corner, Raul spotted his friends. He felt incredible relief. He screamed out to them, but they couldn’t hear him. He waved his arms and yelled their names, but they didn’t wave back. It seemed his friends were too far away to tell that is was he who had climbed the pole. Raul saw them hold up their phones, take a picture, and begin walking in the direction of the neighborhood they lived. They must have thought he was just some boy.





4/25/18
Flight - Jet Blue #1171

Scheduled Arrival - 6:34 PM

Author - L. Smith

Nothing else had changed except that the birds were only coming from the west, going east. It was altogether without cause, from what the people could tell. There was no saying how long it had been going on, only how long it had been since the first person noticed, which was three weeks.

It was Johnson who’d remarked upon the eastern flying flocks, which was surprising because he was not normally prone to observation. He didn’t recognize himself when mocked by his two sons, who flapped their hands about like fish on a line and pitched their voices up in exaggerated mimicry if he asked something of them. He didn’t notice the deposed weathervane, which had been toppled in a storm weeks before, slowly make its way down the gradual pitch of his roof until it reached the gutter, jamming it up until eventually an overflow near his front door attracted his attention. But he noticed the birds.

‘What’s the story, you think, with all the birds going out towards the island but none coming in from the island?’ He was sitting on the front stoop of his house with Len, his younger son, who looked up at the sky for a moment before returning his attention to his shoes, which he was re-lacing with thick red yarn he’d found in a downstairs closet. ‘Hadn’t noticed,’ he said. ‘I think this yarn’s no good for laces.’

Johnson glanced at his son’s feet, which had become very large, relatively, as of late. “No, I guess not.” A quiet rush above them signaled a group of pigeons making their way across the sky, heading out towards the highway and over the bridge to the island. ‘Wonder if we’ll run out of them,’ Johnson said. Len shrugged and yanked on a knot, then got up and walked inside.


At first it was mostly spectacle and not concern, but one never lasts long without the other. After Johnson mentioned it to the neighbors, prophecies and theories took root in town, bolstered by word from the island that it had in fact seen no increase in birds at all. For once, every beak in New York was facing the same direction but no one could tell where they were going. The birders were concerned, the car salesmen pleased, and many were remarkably uninterested. But still crowds trekked and gathered at the eastern edge of the island and waited for the flocks to pass overhead, though no one ever gleaned anything new from witnessing this part of the journey.

Johnson, feeling some kind of ownership over the phenomenon, coaxed his boys out to the coast one Saturday morning. The kids were bored but always able to pull sport from their abiding fraternal reserves, and chased and tossed each other at the edge of the water while Johnson made sure to talk to each of the other spectators, asking, “So how did you hear about the birds?”

Len, being both younger and smaller, lay splayed on his back with his feet angled out in a matter of minutes, defeated. He raised his sneakers up against the blue sky, and watched as a pigeon disappeared for a moment behind them, before letting his legs fall back to the ground. He closed his eyes. After a minute a coolness came over him and he looked up at his brother, who stood above him, blocking the sun with his head. Len swatted his hand back and forth. ’Move your head. The sun feels good.’

‘You move your head,’ his brother said. Then, having accomplished his task, he walked towards the water.

Len propped himself up on his elbows and watched his brother’s back move away from him. ‘Maybe I could lasso one or something. They’re not all flying too high around here,’ he called at him. ‘We could ask it where they’re going.’

His brother turned around and looked up. ’Fifty bucks,’ he said.

‘Fine!’ Len snapped forward and began untying a shoe. ‘Fifty bucks.’  He unthreaded the red yarn, now dank and matted with filth, from his right sneaker. He clambered to his feet and began rooting around in the sand with his fingers. Before long he pulled out a rock, about 3 inches across and 2 inches wide, and flat, like a well-worn bone. He wiped the sand from it with care, rubbing it thoroughly on his t-shirt, and, once clean, began tying the yarn around its middle. He knotted it two, three, four times, pulled it tight. He held the other end in his fingers and swung it around in front of him, turning in circles.

‘Okay,’ Len said. ‘Ready.’ His brother eyed him and then looked for their father, spotting him many feet away, gesticulating loudly at two strangers. Len walked towards a small dock, swinging the weighted length of yarn in circles in front of him, its speed growing with each revolution. It emitted a rhythmic whipping sound. He found his way to the edge of the dock and tilted his chin up, eyes squinting. His arm extended out, capped by a tight fist tracing small circles against the sky. A swath of red and black spread above him like a halo, and he waited for the birds.




4/25/18
Flight - Alaska Airlines #3325

Scheduled Arrival - 8:34PM

Author - G. Jacobs



She used to like the image of a man, maybe, like, an older-ish man, holding a lighter to an iceberg. She doesn’t like that image much anymore, but back then she thought it was profound. A man holding a lighter to an iceberg, after all, can only be one of two things:

First, the man can be stupid. Doesn’t he realize that he’s got the wrong tool for the job? Doesn’t he realize that he’s gonna melt no more than an inch of ice before he has to run back to the gas station and refill the thing with lighter fluid? Doesn’t he realize that he’ll likely freeze to death out there? Doesn’t he realize that, even if he doesn’t freeze to death, and he lives a full amount of years, he’ll have barely made a dent in the thing when all is said and done? Doesn’t he realize that we actually need those icebergs, as they’re busy melting as is? Doesn’t he realize how silly he probably looks to onlookers who are walking by assuming that he doesn’t realize all of the above?

Second, the man can be smart. Maybe he realizes that he’s got no chance at melting the whole iceberg, no matter how long he lives. Maybe he realizes that he’ll get cold, and his thumb will start to hurt from flicking the lighter on everytime the wind blows out the flame. Maybe he realizes that this whole quest to melt the iceberg is ridiculous, something he’s thought of doing as a symbol of the inherent inefficacy of human being, is an act as pretentious as it is unnecessary. Maybe he realizes that onlookers think he’s nuts, and that he might well be a little nuts.

What she realized long ago is that, if the man is out there everyday, melting the iceberg, it doesn’t matter much whether he’s smart or stupid, as the result is the same: The man is out there everyday, melting the iceberg. She felt that this conclusion would be important in the course of her life, but as life unfolded for her, it didn’t turn out to contain much meaning. That’s why she stopped bringing the metaphor up in conversation with others, and eventually ended up forgetting about it entirely. 


This project is part of the 2018 ArtPort Residency, a program of the Queens Council on the Arts, Queens Arts Fund, and supported in part by the NYC DCLA, Greater NY ArtsDevelopment Fund and in partnership with the NYC Council and PANYNJ.

Queens
- New York - 2018