Norman Rockwell, Girl Running with Wet Canvas, 1930
by Jeffrey Ellis
Travel is a tiresome chore; the lack of stillness, the illness fluttering in your stomach. Will I make the gate in time? Is everything going to be okay at home? How are the kids doing in school? Is today the day that my plane crashes in the Atlantic, halfway to a meeting with disgruntled Korean businessmen who don’t care if I live or die, so long as their profit margin increases? It wears on you. Now, though, there are no homes, or Koreas, or kids. Only the road. Now I have to appreciate all the intricacies of travel if I want to survive.
When you are in and out of airports all day, worrying about whether or not your suit will make it to the meeting unsullied, you forget about the important things - like food. I never used to travel with food. There was no room in my suitcase for unnecessaries. A bite here or there, room service in the hotel room after an exhausting exchange of PowerPoint presentations and fists pounded on polished Mahogany table tops; there was never any time to chew my food. Now, though, there too much time. The infinite seconds, the unending road, and the bare necessities.
I watched a lot of movies before the power lines all gave up the ghost. Cartoons, mostly. Something about the simplicity of children’s entertainment always calmed me. Their days never bled into their nights. Every episode had a beginning, a middle, and an end; the conflict discovered and resolved in thirty minutes or less. There was never any question about whether or not the good guys would win out in the end. Now, though, all I ever watch is the crackling fire. The fire, and the horizon - from which never comes riding any cavalry. Only brigands and bastards.
If I ever hit anyone before the fall, I don’t remember when or why or who. I once watched an Air Marshal grapple and zip-tie a man for threatening a flight attendant. That was pretty scary. Violence used to be a spectacle. Distant and unreal, like nuclear bombs and ticking clocks. I used to kill spiders for Max when he would run into my office, screaming my name. Well, screaming “Dad,” rather. Now, though, I kill prey, and predators, and people. It’s unlike anything I ever experienced before. It’s nothing at all like killing spiders.
Travel used to be bothersome. A bore. I used to lament getting in the car on Monday mornings to drive to the airport, knowing that I wasn’t going to see my kids again for another week at the least. It was a burden that I was willing to bare if it meant my family having a lucrative future. Back and forth. Back and forth. In truth, it only ever felt as if I were going back. Back to the airport. Back to work. Back home. Now I am always moving forward and it hasn’t made traveling any easier. Now, I desperately wish I could go back. Back home. Back to work. Back to the airport.
I wish we could all go back.
This flash-fiction story was written by me, Jeffrey Ellis, Pretendscious. I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. Follow for more speculative flash-fiction every Wednesday!