“You’re just a glorified waitress.”
The California broker took Robin’s wrist. Bloody Mary spilled up her blue sleeve.
“Sir,” she said, “I’d like to ask kindly that you put your seatbelt on and respect the captain’s rules. He knows best.”
“Are you from Ala-bam-a?”
“I’m from the Carolinas.”
“Weyull, miss Southern belle, I said it once and I said it twice, but ya still didn’t hea’ me. I want a rum. Rum and coke. Rum. Rum and coke”
Turbulence rocked the Coca-Cola like fish cups at a carnival. Passengers gripped their rests.
A pair of black leather pumps walked down the aisle behind Robin. They were attached to a flight attendant with taut, black stockings and a humorless mouth.
Kelly pulled Robin by the elbow.
“‘Sir, let me,” Kelly said. “I do apologize.” She gripped Robin’s hand. “Keep walking.”
Kelly opened a coke can. It bubbled into the plastic cup.
“Is this a rocket or an airplane,” the man said. “I didn’t sign up for first class to get served by a honky space cadet.”
Kelly crouched closer to him.
“I’ll tell you what,” she said. “Robin’s new. This is her first week on the job. But I’ve been here a while. I’ll be your own personal attendant from here on out.”
“Molasses ass,” Dad said.
Robin dangled her feet off the edge of the boat. Waves rustled against her ankles. She felt a dolphin’s back with her toes.
“She’s just full of dreams,” Mom said.
“I saw a manatee,” Robin said.
“She’s a moron,” Dad said. “Honey, you’ll never survive in the real world if you keep acting some kind of crazy. We ain’t even in the ocean. This is Boyd Mill pond.”
A red sun dripped over the surface of the water. Robin looked again. The surface was still and bright like a new quarter. The frogs trilled. Robin reached down to touch the manatee.
Dad pushed her forward into the spill. She gasped. Water filled her mouth.
“Ben,” Mom cried.
“Now get on back in here.”
Robin kicked away from the boat.
Her dress pulled her down beneath the surface of the water. The lake filled with bright light. She saw strange creatures of the deep sea. They lit up turquoise, vermillion and green. When her mother yanked her out again, she could not speak. For a year after that, Robin turned slow and quiet.
Robin stood near the lavatory. She sunk her nails into her wrist.
“You should try harder to focus on the passengers,” Kelly said. “I mean, if you think about it, really, you’re reflecting poorly on the entire airline.”
“Why are you looking out the window?” Kelly asked.
“There’s something out there today.”
“It’s clear skies for miles.”
“Do you ever feel like you’re living in a dream, even when you’re awake?”
“That’s called life,” Kelly said.
“It’s in the B’s,” Kelly said.
“I’ll get it.”
Turbulence rushed up and widened her chest like a gulf. Robin skipped forward into the aisle.
A brown, leather heel struck the aisle.
The woman looked up at Robin. Her magazine crumbled like a rose.
“Is it normal?” the woman asked.
“This kind of turbulence happens all the time, ma’am,” Robin said.
“So I don’t need to worry?”
“This is just a regular Wednesday afternoon for our crew, ma’am.”
“The plane won’t just fall out of the sky?”
“Ma’am, this is a good sign. If this aircraft were completely still, that would be unusual.”
The woman released her magazine.
“Fine. Will you bring me a gin and tonic?”
“I’d like it if you’d stop calling me ma’am.”
“Can you hurry?”
“Your mother was a Jezebel,” Dad said. He held the barrel of his gun to Robin’s forehead.
“It’s alright,” Robin said. “You can do it. I would rather be with her than with you.”
He dropped the pistol, and looked up into the smokey air. His eyes shone sweet and sick. He cried and laughed, and then walked out into the dark wood. Robin edged the path and took black-eyed Susan’s from the brush. She pressed the yellow flowers into the body’s hands.
After a rush of hot air, Robin found her feet at the threshold of the house. The phone was in her hand. She called 9-1-2, 9-1-9, and 911.
“My dad just shot my mom in the woods.”
“Can you tell me your location?”
She hung up.
Upstairs, in a book by Jules Verne, Mom had hidden two thousand dollars. “In case your daddy ever goes wackadoo and kills me,” she said. “You take this, and you go anywhere you want. Maybe to Florida.”
“Why don’t we go together,” Robin asked. “Can we go away today?”
“We have to stay. I made a vow before a whole congregation, and the Lord, and I intend to keep it.”
“Look at the view we have tonight,” John, the pilot, said.
“I don’t know,” Jack, the copilot, replied. “The blonde is good. The other one is kind of a butterface.”
“Robin. The leggy one. I like her face.”
“She has a crooked nose,” Jake, in the jump seat, said.
“This is your captain speaking,” the pilot crooned. “We are currently traveling at thirty-nine thousand feet above Atlantic City. We are about to hit a bit of a bumpy ride and I ask that you remain with your seatbelts on. Due to some surprise stormy weather, our landing into Miami may be a bit delayed. We expect to land around 12:00 am, Eastern Time. If you have any questions or concerns, please direct them towards our wonderful personnel. That’s all folks.”
The plane jolted.
“Is this too much cheetah print, or just enough?”
Jackie stood at the edge of the bus, on platform shoes like blocks of ice. She showed Robin her full body suit. Gold bangles rustled on her wrists.
“Just enough,” Robin said.
They skipped off the transit, and onto the sidewalk.
“Todd is being a bastard again,” Jackie said.
“How do you mean?”
“Can we stop to get ciggies?”
“He just doesn’t understand my rarity. Do you ever meet people like that?”
“I think so. If I get your meaning by rarity.”
“Well, you’re a rare bird – son of a bitch, my lighter’s out – and not just cause you’re shy. It’s that thing in your eyes. And I’m rare because I’m tenacious.”
“I wish you could stay with me a little longer,” Robin said.
“I don’t belong in Florida. It’s not my jam. But I’ve got a parting gift for you.”
Jackie handed her a hot pink book.
“These are all men’s names.”
“You want work, don’t you, chica? What’s going to hurt you about some dinner dates?”
“Yeah. But is it safe?”
“These guys are good for it.”
“And it’s just dinner?”
“If you want a few hundred dollars. But if you want a thousand dollars, you have to eat more than your plate.”
Robin looked over her shoulder at the man in 14A. He pulled a rubber band against his forearm. She turned back and leaned over towards him.
“Sir, are you alright?”
His hair was cropped close to his head. He looked out at the exits, and then back at Robin.
“I finally got this kid to fall asleep,” he whispered.
“Oh. Is she your daughter?”
“She’s my sister.”
Robin took little gold painted wings out of her pocket.
“Give these to her when she wakes up.”
Robin turned and walked down the aisle.
She looked back. It was 14A.
She turned back.
“Sir,” she said. “Was there something else you needed?”
“I’m sorry,” he said. “I needed to see your face again.”
Robin crossed her arms.
“Are you from the army?” she asked.
“How can you tell?”
“The way you look.”
“No, the way you keep looking around at everything.”
“Do you have a man?”
The aircraft jumped. Robin gripped the back of the seat.
He took her sleeve, and then released it. “Turbulence, huh? It feels like being inside a basketball. Look, I know it’s a weird thing to say, cause you’re working and all, but I’d really like to take you out to dinner.”
Robin looked at him.
“Does that mean you’ll think about it?” he asked.
The little girl opened her eyes.
“Gum,” she screamed.
“Maybe wait till the ride is smoother,” the man said.
“Gum,” the girl screamed.
“Look at these nice wings this beautiful lady gave us.”
“Oooo.” She put the wings into her mouth.
“Oh no, sweetheart,” Robin said. “There’s a pin in those. A needle. Please.”
“Out,” the man said. He stretched his hand out. The little girl spit the wings into his hand. He put them in his pocket.
“She’s my favorite kid,” he said.
“I am not a kid,” the girl said. “I am older than Jaxon, and you let Jaxon do whatever he wants.”
“Jaxon is a dog, and you are a human. His years are longer than yours.”
Kelly tugged Robin’s sleeve from behind.
“Robin,” Kelly said. “Would you mind getting to the lavatory and cleaning up a mess? I’ve got my hands full.”
“Yeah,” Robin said. “Of course, I will.”
The man looked over his shoulder at Robin.
Robin took the little cleaning cart and rolled on her gloves.
They met at the Baton Fique Hotel in Reno. He sat at the burgundy bar.
“Are you an airline pilot?”
“That’s right. My name is Neil Morgan.”
“Wow. I’ve never met a pilot before.”
“You don’t need to act that way, you know.”
“What way am I acting?”
“Would you rather me tell you how bored I am?”
“I don’t like it here.”
“Why don’t I take you shopping.”
Her bags burst open with Giuseppe Zanotti. He took her to the top floor and opened up the room. Robin touched him on the white bed. She felt that something had happened to her. She was in love with this man, and his strange, angular face, and the soft way he looked at her.
She got up and scrubbed the bathroom counter.
“You don’t need to clean up after yourself. There’s personnel for that.”
“Yes, Captain Morgan.”
“You don’t need to call me Captain Morgan.”
“Ok, Captain Morgan.”
“Would you stop moving around? You’re making me nervous. Come here. Give me that. Drop that towel.”
For a while they sat on the bed together.
“You know,” he said at last. “The airline is hiring attendants.”
“And you’d be good at it. I could throw in a referral for you if you want.”
“There’s lots of sugar in the sky.”
“Clouds are made of cotton candy.”
“You’re making a joke”
“I was just imagining things. I like to do that. I imagine a little house with wood floors, built right by the sea. I go out there every night and swim in the water while my husband falls asleep.”
“Only in my imagination.”
“You talk about the ocean the way I used to talk about flying.”
“You used to? What about now?”
“Now? I don’t know. I don’t talk about anything like that.”
“Mr. Morgan, the thing is…I want you to marry me and buy me that house by the sea.”
He buttoned his shirt. She turned away from him.
“What do you love about flying?” Robin asked.
“I love the sky.”
“What’s up there?”
“It’s 14A again,” Kelly .
“I’ll go.” Robin said.
“No, I’ll go.” Kelly barred Robin back with her forearm. “You’ve been down there too many times. It’s legal harassment at this point.”
Kelly walked down to 14A and leaned forward.
“Can I help you, sir?”
“We want the other lady,” the little girl said.
“The other one,” the little girl said. “Not you. The mermaid.”
“I’m sorry,” the man said. “Is it alright if you could send over the other girl? My sister likes her hair. Oh, it’s not that you don’t have lovely hair. And that you aren’t a lovely person. We are sure you are. It’s just that the other one is our favorite.”
Kelly went back and stood over Robin.
“They want you,” she said. “If you’re not comfortable, I think you should stay.”
“It’s alright. He’s really not a bad cookie. Just a little irritating.”
“Then hurry up. I want you to go over the other lavatory when you’re done. And Robin? I forgot to mention this to you, but you need to do a better job at taming your hair. You need to look polished.”
Robin flushed. She walked down the aisle. Turbulence shook her the whole way down.
“This might seem strange,” the man said. “I think I’ve seen you before.”
“That’s right, sir. About three times, having me walk back and forth down here all this way.”
“No, I mean I know you. I’ve seen you in the water up in Fort Lauderdale. I recognize that hair.”
“Lots of girls out there with my hair.”
“It was you alright. You wore a blue and white, two-piece suit.”
“The top is coral.”
“You were swimming with the dolphins.”
“Sounds like you did see me.”
“That means maybe, right?”
“No, Mommy, I don’t want to get on.”
“What is it, Robin? What are you so scared of?”
“What if it crashes?”
“It’s very unlikely that this plane will crash, Snap Pea. They say that it’s easier to get hit by lightning.”
“But planes did crash, before?’
“Only a few, in the whole history of aviation.”
“But didn’t those planes also have moms on them to tell their kids that everything would be alright, and that they wouldn’t crash, either?”
“I promise you, you won’t die in a plane crash, Robin.”
“How do you know that?”
“Do you know why I gave you your name?”
“Right before you were born, a little bluebird got trapped in the house. I set it free out the glass door, and that same day, I went into labor. I decided right then and there I was going to call you Bluebird.”
“That’s not my name.”
“No, your daddy didn’t like it. So, we settled on Robin. But a Robin is a bird, all the same. And birds don’t fall out of the sky.”
“I don’t think I’m a bird, I think I’m a fish.” She made fish lips. “Mom, what if the plane crashes?”
“If you’re good, the flight attendant will give you a pair of little gold wings, and maybe a sprite.”
“Let’s get on,” Robin said.
“What’s that smell,” Kelly said. “And that weird light?”
Robin looked towards the cockpit.
“It’s like burnt plastic.”
“Oh.” Kelly’s mouth trembled. Robin took her hand.
In section B , a man’s vodka soda rolled onto the carpet.
“Brace for impact,” rang over the intercom.
The plane shook. First it swayed to the right. People cried out. It swayed to the left.
The plane dropped like a roller-coaster. Passengers screamed.
The lights dimmed.
“Brace for impact.”
“Brace for impact,” Robin cried. “Brace for impact. Heads down. Heads down. Heads down, prop your arms against the seat in front of you or hold them under your legs. Brace for impact. Brace. Brace for impact. Brace.”
Robin strapped herself to her seat.
The light turned black, yellow, and then blue.
She felt hands on her face. The plane fell still.
She looked up. The man from 14A looked down at her.
“Sir, get back in your seat and brace for impact.”
“I am in my seat,” he said.
“Just look. It’s alright.”
She looked down the aisle and it was like she could see the entire plane. He sat there, next to the little girl. They slept.
“What’s happening,” she said.
“Birds. And then there was an aerodynamic stall. We nosedived into the Atlantic.”
“If that were the case, we would already be…”
Robin looked down at the sleeping bodies in the aisle.
“Your sister. We have to help her.”
“You already helped her.”
“You’ve got to get off this plane. It’s going to explode. We have less than 90 seconds.”
“This was just our connecting flight.”
Robin stood up. All was still. She felt as though she was in a submarine. The cobalt water surrounded the boat. She looked out and saw a shark beat its fins against the glass.
“Are you taking me with you?” she asked.
He looked at her.
“You’re not leaving me here alone, are you?”
“It’s going to be alright,” he said.
He leaned forward and kissed her.
Robin opened her eyes.
She went to the drink cart, and poured herself a drink. All around her were the bodies of sleeping passengers.
“Oh,” she cried. “You’re all dead, aren’t you? You’re all dead. Everyone but me.”
Under there, in the cold, blue light, the people disintegrated. A whale’s song ached near the window. She fell asleep in one of the empty first-class seats. When she opened her eyes, darkness shrouded the plane.
A soft white light grew from the cockpit of the plane. She turned from it, and ran.
The windows fissured. Pressure burst through the glass. White water rushed into the aircraft.
“Is anyone here,” Robin cried. “Help me. Get me out of here. Please.”
The water rose above her shoulders now. She could not breathe. First, she beat her arms and legs against the water. Then she held still.
Robin’s feet melded into silver and lilac fins. Scales prismed up her legs and into her hips. She tore off her uniform. Her hair fell around her shoulders in golden gusts. Laughter bubbled out of her mouth. She flipped here and there, and stopped at a round windowsill. Out there in the drink, there were rainbow-colored fish. The glass left sharp pain against her skin. She went to another window and beat the glass with her fists. It fell open.
Robin swam out into the azure sea.
James drove the pickup truck to his mother’s house.
The radio ran.
It’s been a few days since the __ Airlines crash, flight 1317, brought about by birds in the engine, spared most of the passengers, and most of the crew. And we are here to talk to some of the survivors of the crash, including Captain John Dalton…
James turned the radio off.
Delilah yawned in her booster seat.
“Are we almost there?” she asked.
Their mother ran off the porch. “Thank Jesus,” she cried. “Thank Jesus. I saw on the news that almost everyone survived. What a blessing. What a blessing.”
“Yea,” James said.
“Oh, my baby girl,” Mother said. She leaned into the backseat and undid Delilah’s seatbelt. “Are you alright?”
“The mermaid helped me get out of the airplane.”
“Her name was Robin,” James said. “Listen, is it alright with you if I go to sleep?”
“Of course. You can do whatever you want. Anything you want. I am glad you’re here.”
He stood at the threshold of the house.
“Aren’t you happy to be here?” his mother asked.
He looked over his shoulder.
“Yea,” he said. “Yea, I’m happy to be here.”
James walked up the stairs and went to bed. He pulled the gold wings out of his pocket, and held them. He slept through the humid night.
Addy Evenson is an American writer and entertainer. She works out of Atlanta and New York as a print model and actor. Previously, her fiction has appeared in Bourbon Penn, Prime Mincer, The Comix Reader, and other literary magazines.