First Class Seat [short story]


Story by Craig Boehman


*


I am among the dearly departed.


Seven miles high, free and clear. They say when your life flashes before your eyes, Mr. Time slows down. What they don’t tell you is that Miss Death may pay you a little visit and wipe any notion of a complex and satisfying ending from your screaming narrative. And then, in one hot jalapeno moment, you in your new role accelerate to 120 miles per hour straight down into the loving arms of one fatal ménage à trois.


An explosion of such magnitude is like a giant box of Crayola crayons going supernova.


The air is cold, industrial freezer cold. I cannot breathe. It’s like a tornado pried open my jaw and climbed inside my throat. I shut my gaping mouthful of frozen teeth, and notice I’m still strapped into my first-class seat. There’s one thing I did right today — the seat belt. I manage a fake smile for my absentee director.


And wonder if the guy across the airy debris field spinning out of control saw it. Yes. He smiles back and flips onto his tummy, all four limbs spread evenly across the horizon; he looks like a leaden hawk. Says something. He screams, waves his hands around wildly. I can’t hear him for all the rapacious wind in my ears. He didn’t wear his seat belt. He’s improvising in free fall. Did he come from coach?


The Pacific Ocean has made me a promise I know she’ll keep.


My sunflower dress is torn to shreds. I spilled a very fine glass of Cabernet down the front of it when the engine blew. I must look like a bloody butterfly that flew too close to the sun. Wishful thinking. Nothing flies this high but fame.


The guy is still screaming at me. He doesn’t look scared.


Whoaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!


Just passed through my first cloud. No time to reflect because the guy has floated his way over to me. He’s not unattractive, just not my type. He could have easily been an extra in the film. It was one of those artful and existential, cinematic messes that would end up winning awards in a few small festivals and then vanish like a rapist.


“Take off your seat belt!” the guy screams in my face.


Why? I want to ask. But then I see the bright marshmallow world of cloud rising fast to greet us. I’m scared. I don’t want to go through it alone.


“Help me!” I scream to him. I’m such a damsel in distress. Pathetic. Somebody give me a roll in the next King Kong movie.


He unlatches my belt. The click is inaudible. I can’t accept I’m going to die. My brain holds out for a miracle. Maybe if I hit the water feet-first, as straight as a ballerina on my tip, tip, tippy toes?


We crash the cloudy lowlands together like a frat party. Straight in, no greeting. Eyes shut, water, water. Super-chilled. Splash! Like a microbe piercing a cotton ball full of suspended shoreline breakers. I count.


One.


Two.


Three.


How many seconds do I have left?


Four.


Five.


And the entire world, crass and terrifyingly beautiful, opens up before us. Apart from the few scattered clouds below, the Pacific Ocean is our everything and our everywhere, our here and now. It could be we’re falling from the ocean into the sky.


We look into one another’s eyes. Clutching one another’s hands. We’re looking like expert skydivers who simply forgot their parachutes. We’re that good. Keep the cameras rolling!

Every good existential film ends badly. Either the director was never really good at telling a cohesive story, or he was just so goddamned brilliant that any abrupt ending would serve as his unknowable portent.


Save the film critique for hell should I resurface with soul intact.


My partner in death releases me, and we part like dropped onions. He wants to die alone, I’m sure. He wears a ring. He wants to remember her face with what little time. . .


The peach tree.


The orchard.


A litter of golden puppies.


A million other things and a first-class seat.

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© 2019-2020 By Craig Boehman

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