Passengers wail and shout and pray all over the cabin. The flight attendant with red hair and blue horn-rimmed glasses is strapped into her rear-facing chair. She is texting and crying. A group wearing orange t-shirts from the First Christian Assembly Tabernacle sings “Amazing Grace” for the second time, and a man in a navy blue suit shouts for them to shut up. He makes a red-faced argument for God’s nonexistence, then makes a lewd gesture to the ceiling, intended for the God he just labeled imaginary.
A couple sit on the last row. The man’s boarding pass is still sticking out of his shirt pocket. They are on their way home from London, where their son has lived for seven years. He rubs his wife’s hand, which she always rests on his right knee. He plays with her wedding ring. Neither has spoken since the announcement.
The wife watches the ocean out the window. It is close enough for her to make out curvy lines. Soon those curvy lines will be identifiable as waves. She gasps, squeezes her husband’s knee as tight as her arthritic hand can manage, and turns her head to face him. There is a tear forming in her eye.
“I’m supposed to eat lunch with Luanne tomorrow. She’s going to think I forgot.”
“She’ll be so angry. You know how she gets.”
“Uh huh. Can’t say I’ll miss her.”
LANDSCAPE OF GAINESVILLE, GA.
There’s a ditch behind the building-
a concrete trench separating shopping centers.
There’s a liquor store nearby-
with small plastic bottles of cheap booze.
There are men who sleep in the ditch-
kept warm with dirty clothes, cardboard,
wine and spirits.
There’s a church down the street-
it has modern architecture and large glass panels.
There’s a car idling near the entrance-
waiting to drive the reverend to his jet.
There are men who live in the pews-
kept warm with parables, commandments,
and holy spirits.
There are plants here too-
where chickens are transformed into nuggets.
There are neighborhoods-
filled with determined Latin laborers.
There are men who toil their hardest-
fueled by the chance of a better future
for their children.
THEFT BY DECEPTION
By lamplight she writes;
Her deliberate strokes
With shaky hand
Generate a smile.
The pen has the words
First Community Bank
Inscribed in green;
So does the check.
On the television
A man puts his hands
On the face of a boy
In a red wheelchair.
Suddenly the chair sits alone
As the boy dances on stage.
At the bottom of the screen
There is an address.
An envelope is stuffed
With trembling fingers
Then sealed by
A walker is pulled closer
To the green recliner
And a small oxygen tank
Gathered for the trip
to the mailbox.
3111 ETHERIDGE CIRCLE
I stand in the soft earth-
a large tilled field
Of dry gray dirt.
An old man
Admires my footprints-
Tracks like the moon landing
Made by deliberate stomps.
An old woman
With red bouffant
And black lab escort
Joins us in the dusty garden.
The dog’s name
Is, of course, Blacky.
He brings a long stick,
Probably hoping to play.
The red haired woman
Stays out for just a few minutes.
The treatments drain her strength
And her smile.
Blacky follows her inside
But leaves the stick with us.
My grandfather mentions
He won’t have time to plant.
He meanders to the house,
Like the straps from his overalls
Are pulling him to the ground.
An hour later
They both come back out.
I run to meet them and show
The garden of sticks in bloom.
Straight lines shaved into the grass look so neat, and some are perfect diagonals.
I struggle to cut with any sort of pattern or real direction.
My lawn ends up with terrible ovals, rectangles, rhombuses, trapezoids, and whatever shape Nevada is.
I begin with the best intentions, traveling along the driveway and street with precision.
By my third lap, I’m thinking about something like the relevance of religion or T.S. Eliot or the shape of the universe.
Soon after, I’m questioning my choice of career, the job that keeps me from my family, writing, and lawn care responsibilities.
Now I’m mowing in cursive.
The back yard is reserved for sentences that will probably never be written and characters who will never be born.
Settings are imagined and forgotten.
There are massacres—fire ant mounds maliciously destroyed by machine and being
they cannot comprehend.
To them, I am the god of the Old Testament.
Matt StanceI writes flash fiction, the occasional poem, and stories both long and short. He has a novel currently available on Amazon. He tells us that the proceeds from the novelare being given to a friend with huge medical bills, so you should buy two copies.