In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

  • Felix Not Arriving
  • Thomas Pierce (bio)

Click for larger view
View full resolution

In his aisle seat near the front of the plane, Felix concentrates unsuccessfully on a crossword in the airline magazine, half-finished by a previous flyer. All the easy clues have already been answered and now he needs a six-letter word for a muzzle-loading tool. The third letter is M. He stares at that M, a bit dazed, doing his best not to think about what happens when they land in Atlanta. Rattling the ice in her cup, Laura leans over his magazine and peers down at the puzzle. “Ergo,” she says and points at twenty-seven down. “Ramrod,” she says and points at his M, and then, pointing somewhere else, “Pandora.”

He looks at that particular clue. First woman. “You think it’s Pandora? I was thinking it might be Evelynn. Eve was just a nickname, right?”

“Adam and Evelynn, a lovely couple, we really need to have them over for dinner some night soon. I hear Adam’s a terrific gardener. I hear Evelynn likes apple pie.”

Felix closes the in-flight magazine and tucks it into the seat pocket. He looks around for a new distraction. On the television show Felix works for, Pets!, Gonuts the CGI Hamster has this thing he is always saying before climbing onto his metal wheel and running mindlessly. “Don’t get so stressed. You got to wheel it out.” Felix provides the voice for Gonuts. He doesn’t love recording different iterations of the same phrase week after week, but he has to admit the little furball is onto something in this case: Life is not easy and without distractions you can make yourself crazy.

He munches on some dried apricots and asks Laura to close the blinds since the sun is [End Page 156] so bright and hot across their laps. Her jean shorts are wedged high and her pale knees glow like two beautiful snowy peaks, the crease of her legs a tight valley. If he wanted, with the aid and cover of a blanket, he could walk his hand right up that valley. Would she resist? Probably. Not that she always insists on decency. There was the time in the changing room at Nordstrom. There was the night in the chair on the roof of their apartment building. But he won’t slide his hand between her legs—a neanderthalic impulse, his mother would have called it. The fasten-your-seatbelt light blinks. The overhead bins rattle.

“I’m not going to finish this drink,” he announces, his whiskey and soda hovering near his lips. He has Laura’s attention. That’s all he wanted anyway. She watches him, amused, as he tips back the cup, the ice crashing into his teeth, the liquid draining out. “I’m not going to push this,” he says and pushes the overhead button for the stewardess. “I’m not going to order another drink and fall down drunk on the tarmac like an idiot.”

“Tell me more about these red tights,” she says and crosses her arms. “Does Hank wear them to bed too? I don’t get it. When does Bet wash them?”

Felix shrugs. “I don’t think he lets her wash them. That’s part of the problem. They’re stinky, I’m sure.” Hank, Felix’s four-year-old son, is obsessed with a pair of red tights from last year’s Halloween costume when he dressed up as a strawberry. In a few weeks he will start kindergarten, and Bet, his mother, is concerned about what the other kids might say. “Did you ever do weird stuff like this when you were a kid?” Bet has asked Felix on the phone. “I’ll bet you did. Hank is funny—just like you. The other day I found gravel in his juice cup. I asked him why and he said he likes his juice on the rocks. Can you believe that? Where do you think he got that from? When you get here, be sure to ask him about the sprinkler and the frog. It’s his best bit. You won’t...