Updated: Apr 27, 2022
Congratulations to author Lisa Dickson and her short story "Trippin' (formerly Flight Plan)". Enjoy an excerpt from her winning entry below.
I had come to think of the large expanse of gray mortar and steel as a kind of home. Its cool tile floors, sleek blue furniture, and high black counters were techno modern marvels that made me feel hip and millennial, despite my mid-age. Usually, I did not mind that I had to share this place with unknowns or battle past cases of personal items, boxes of undelivered goods, traffic snarls, and the hordes of ever strange stuff, that lined its front. But today was different. I was tired. All done-in. Hot August-summer in the city-tired. I just wanted home. It’s been a long day's night, and I've been working like a dog. Pity intoned. Cheer countered with yeah, but every dog has its day before I could give in to the lure of the whine.
Two Gray ones, leaving in a hurry brushed by, jostled me, and glared. The shiny black purse knocked from its position and landed like stone at my feet. I swooped the purse up and over my shoulder, securing it under the wide strap of the computer bag that had found a comfortable home on my hip. Air rushed out of my nose and lips at once. Gripping the overstuffed drag-on, I called up a little aggression (a vital companion when flying econoAir.) The doors slid open and delivered me into the cool, Cinnabon, Sbarro scented air. Familiar. Aggression pushed up Come on Let’s get going!
Inhabitants were everywhere. Grays, browns, reds, and blues, all looking up expectantly, lounging, pacing, lapping iced cokes and coffee. I gritted and ground my way to the econoAir counter. It was long, winding, and unhappy. Inhabitants pushed, pulled, and dragged bags and babies like used cars to sale. The line was tightly ruled by a short, sturdy beige one, monitoring the size of bags, checking passes, anointing some, and casting out others. Bowl her over! Bowl her over. She’s short! We can do it!. Aggression was getting worked up. Not your turn yet, said reason. Smile, smile, come on, yeah that’s it. Beige can put us at the head of the line if she wants.
“Destination hon?”, Beige said in middle-I-don’t-really-give-a-damn-“C “.
Why does she need to know? Opposition must have come up with aggression. “Baltimore”, I said quickly, liltingly even. I was tired.
“You’re in Baltimore, hon” This time in “F”-don’t-mess-with-me-flat.
Nashville, Nashville! You’re going to Nashville.
“I mean, Nashville” My eyes darted toward the ever-growing queue. Why couldn’t they have assigned seats! Annoyance was talking. BOWL HER ASS OVER! Aggression and impatience teamed up. My eyes darted toward the ever-lengthening queue. WE DON’T HAVE MUCH TIME. PUSH HER DOWN. Saltwater was coming from someplace and taking refuge on the back of my thighs. DAMN, NOW WE GONNA LOOK LIKE WE PEED ON OURSELF, shame sucked her angry tooth. Cheer was trying to talk, you got on your best traveler dress. It's black and the sweat won’t show.
“Flight time, hon?” Beige again.
“12:05?!” in A-are-you-stupid-Minor. “Hon, It’s 12:30”
“I mean, uh,1:40” The saltwater had somehow moved up my legs, climbed on my back, and was now scaling my head.
BITE IT! BITE IT OFF! “you need to turn around, go out that door and start all over again”. Beige short and sturdy, rolled her eyes and stepped aside all in one self-satisfied fluid move, opening my way to the back of the line. “it's moving quick, though. We won’t be late”, cheer chirped.
One beige, two blues, and three terminals later, I had made it to seat 30D. I was damp, musty, pressed up against 30E, but triumphant. I wondered for a moment about the elderly couple ahead of me at the ticket counter, the ones I pointed in the wrong direction. Forget about it. They shoulda asked the beige, not you! Aggression had got me a good spot in the load line. I was on first, just behind unescorted minors, anyone traveling with young children, those needing a little extra time in boarding, and numbers 1-60. No, I was going home.
I stowed the shiny black purse underneath the seat in front of me. I saw myself; wild, aged, exhausted. Pity clucked its tongue-girl, you know this shit ain’t right. You working like a dog while everybody else just chillin ’, It ain’t right.
Forget about it! You’ll feel better after a good night’s sleep. Cheer took me home.