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Paul Perilli

LAYOVER

Kahvila by Santero Salokivi

A white knuckler.

Relieved to be on the ground in bad weather, he rolled his suitcase down the jetway and entered a terminal packed with people. A commotion at the desk he passed where a group was gathered in the angst of not knowing.

A voice wondered, “Is there an update?”

“We should have more information soon,” was the answer.

Heavy rain and strong winds. Air traffic was backed up. That was the known known of the situation.

He joined the procession of bodies heading toward the concessions, baggage carousels, and ground transportation. At a screen, his eyes scrolled down the list until he located his connector to Logan. It was delayed, as he expected.

From there he went past the people who sat in wait, their packs and luggage strewn on the floor. How long had they been there? In the air four hours, the last two a ride in the sky like he never had before, a hair-raising passage full of sudden jolts and breathtaking plunges the pilot referred to as a “bit of a chop,” the cabin lights blinking off and on, the runway not seen until the final moments of the descent.

Bit of a chop. He had an inner laugh. More like a head on with a tornado.

Moving on, his eyes went in search of… There it was. Up and to the left, past a sandwich shop and a bookstore with a revolving paperback display. Sweetwater Tap. In the circumstance, a light refreshment wouldn’t do. When he came to it, he took a stool near the wide screen showing a baseball game. Once he was settled, he shot off a text to Lucy.

  • GOING TO BE HERE A WHILE.
  • FLIGHT IN WAS A ROLLERCOASTER.

In the next moment his phone lit up.

  • SIT TIGHT
  • AT A BAR, STILL COMING DOWN HARD
  • KEEP ME POSTED
  • WILL DO

He slipped a plastic card out of his wallet. Off in the distance, thunder boomed. A crack of lightening flashed in the windows. A sudden dread of being back in the belly of the plane in volatile weather rushed through him. Sealed into it like a coffin. The rumbling rush of takeoff building as the giant flying machine picked up speed on the wet tarmac, rain and wind hammering the fuselage as it lifted off the ground. The irrational fear of a catastrophic event occurring during the ascent. A microburst that would send the aircraft into a stall the pilots wouldn’t be able to recover from.

The bartender, a woman with short hair, took his order. Back with his draft beer, he handed his card to her.

“Keep it open?”

“Better close it, thanks.”

He took a sip. Then another. He relaxed for the moment. He liked airports more than he liked flying. The dissociation of the setting appealed to him. The being neither here nor there among strangers. The life at the other end seeming to belong to someone else.

He swallowed some more beer. He watched the game for a while. Cubs versus Diamondbacks. Playing in Phoenix, the sky was clear as the one he left in L.A.

He went from that to his phone. Back and forth. Checking the news and weather. The reports confirmed the storm system would go on past midnight.

The bartender stopped by and nodded at his glass, a couple of sips from empty.

“Thinking about another?”

“I’m fine, thanks.”

She set his card and bill on the bar. “No rush.”

He scrolled through his Instagram feed without taking much of it in. He finished the draft, signed the check, and walked to the end of the concourse, a hundred yards of souvenir establishments, eateries, and gates with flights heading to Miami, Seattle, and Mexico City. In a newsstand he browsed the magazines. After that he stared into a few shops with no urge to buy something to take back.

At a Departure screen he was surprised to see his flight would begin boarding in twenty minutes. Yet, out the windows rain poured down. A wind-whipped burst pounded the glass. Were the air traffic controllers unaware of the history of air travel and its disappointments?

He arrived at his gate in time to hear the announcement.

Those with tickets for flight 632, check your zone and be ready to board when called.

No matter the weather, the organizational rush to get the planes back on schedule prevailed.

He stared out at the twin-engine jetliner he was about to board. He visualized it bouncing and shuddering as it climbed into the thick gray clouds. A loss of breath was inevitable as it dipped and rose like a circus ride.

The agents began scanning tickets and passengers entered the jetway. Once they started that way there was no turning back.

Then the call for his zone sounded out. It was time to get to his window seat. Instead of that, a minute later he was on a stool at Sweetwater Tap.

The bartender stepped up. “We like repeat customers.”

“I may never get out of this place,” he said.

“You had the IPA?”

“I did. And I’d like another.”

“Coming up.”

He got his phone out, entered the passcode and fired off a text to Lucy.

  • STILL HERE
  • ANY IDEA HOW LONG?
  • NOT SURE. WILL CALL LATER

He looked up from that and into the thin, unshaven face of the man next to him.

“How you doing?” the man said.

“Doing fine. Better here than in the air.”

“Oh yeah, solid ground’s a personal favorite of mine. Where you heading to?”

He was about to respond when he heard the announcement.

David Ferro please report to gate 31Your flight leaves in five minutesDavid Ferro report to…”

Without letting on it was his name being called, he said, “Boston. How about you?”

About the writer:
Paul Perilli’s fiction and non-fiction have been published in dozens of magazines in the US and internationally, including The European, Poets & Writers Magazine, New Observations Magazine, and Baltimore Magazine. Recent fiction appears in Fairlight Books, The Write Launch, The Fictional Café, The Writing Disorder, and others. Recent essays appear in Rabble Review, OPEN: Journal of Arts & Letters (O:JA&L), Adelaide Literary Magazine, Otoliths, and is forthcoming in The Blotter. Paul Perilli has also published chapbooks and long stories.

Image: Kahvila by Santero Salokivi (1886-1940). Oil on canvas. 12.5 x 16.1 inches. 1918. Public domain.
OJAL Art Incorporated, publishing since 2017 as OPEN: Journal of Arts & Letters (O:JA&L) and its imprints Buttonhook Press, HOT BUTTON PRESS Contemporary Issues, and HIGH BUTTON PRESS Contemporary Art, supports writers and artists worldwide.

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