Friday, May 31, 2013



            We reach cruising altitude of 28,000 feet, according to the pilot’s intercom voice which sounds both relaxed and like it’s being strained through an iron sieve, like he’s speaking from inside a metal container.  Which he is, I guess.

            I press my armrest button, lay my weight into the seatback, hoping the person behind me is not long-legged.  I wait for a cry of pain but none comes, so I relax (fly often enough and you will batter kneecaps, maybe have your own battered in turn).  Occupying my usual aisle seat, I’m thankful the woman to my left is mercifully slight and there are no small children nearby.  My hope of tranquility for the nearly six hours that hover between our present position, just above New York, and touchdown in Los Angeles may not be entirely preposterous.

            I read a paperback while the woman beside me dozes and the young guy across the aisle constructs a modern city on his laptop.  A flight attendant jars my concentration now and then with reminders that the captain has turned on, then off, the fasten seat belt sign.  I struggle to remain absorbed in my book, but finally surrender to drowsiness and doze.  The beverage trolley comes trundling along to awaken me.  I take a Diet Coke, the woman next to me a cup of ice and water.  She’s quiet and self-contained, gifted at invisibility, which I appreciate.   I reward her by graciously getting up to let her out to visit the restroom.  As opposed to ungraciously, of which I’m equally capable.

            But my graciousness has limits.  After eating badly at the airport, I feel bloated and the waistband of my pants is chafing my blubber.  I’m heading to a conference with people I despise, the ghosts of a recent domestic argument haunt my brain, my teenagers are doing drugs, failing classes, and all of the above have whipped up a batch of self-loathing that can all too easily convert into loathing for those who test my patience.  My neighbor hasn’t returned from the restroom.  When she returns, I’ll have to get up to let her back in.  Thus, I remain in a state of suspense, unable to relax.  Her knack for invisibility, so benign until now, has gone malignant.

            Repeatedly, I look down the aisle toward the rear lavatory, but to no avail.  I know about the watched pot, so I grab my book and try to read, but it’s no use.  It’s like not being able to relax until your teenager is in bed for the night.  So I sit and wait, book in hand, one foot wagging at my knee like a dog’s tail.  But my mind wanders.  I think of my wife and this morning’s nastiness:  “I wish you could try being me putting up with you for just one day!”  So uncalled for.  Even one day of living with me, evidently, is more than anyone should have to bear.  She’s no pleasure cruise herself much of the time, but I don’t tell her she’s unbearable, I don’t put her down or call names or raise my voice and what in God’s name is this woman doing in the restroom?

            How long has it been?  At least fifteen minutes.  I try to recall what she looked like.  Straight shoulder-length blonde hair, I think.  Age is less clear, somewhere in that increasingly curt and judgmental zone between forty and mid-fifties.  A dry, desolate season with frequent cold spells.  I check my watch.  Check the aisle.  What was she wearing?  No idea.  Something blue?  A skirt.  A blazer on top, beige?  Was I as invisible to her?  Probably.  But I’ve had it, this is enough.  I get up and head to the rear.

            Maybe she decided to change her seat, found an empty one closer to the restroom.  I’m sure that’s it.  I scan left to right while moving down the aisle, but reach the plane’s rear and no sign of her.  Every seat is occupied and none of the occupants resemble her even slightly.  Standing between the two lavatories, I nudge the door of one, which folds in upon a vacant compartment.  I’m tempted to relieve myself, but don’t want to miss her exit.  Gently, I press the door of the other lavatory and it doesn’t budge.  Aha.

            I stand and wait.  A flight attendant squeezes past to fetch refreshment items and I feel in the way.  Other passengers come, use the vacant lavatory and return to their seats.  I feel like a dope.  It’s definitely been thirty minutes, maybe forty.  I decide to return to my seat.  Lifting my foot, something sticky tugs at my shoe.  I look down and see blood pooling from under the lavatory door, a lot of it.  And I’m standing in it.
D.E. Sievers



Thursday, May 23, 2013


A Bluer Sky

             The sky was blue and large and filled with promise on the day William woke amidst the ticklish crabgrass of Anderson’s field, half a mile between the Lutheran church and the small farmhouse where he lived with his parents.  He rubbed his face and eyes and felt the damp in the seat of his pants from the dewy morning earth and then turned and saw Brenda Sue’s still and shapely body not two feet away, where she lay on her side, facing away from him.  He heard the harsh laugh of a crow and felt an insect circling his ankle.

            “Hey Bren,” he said, softly.

            Instead of simply rolling off her side toward him, she raised her upper body and peered back at him beneath her armpit. 

            “Come here,” he said.

            She withdraw her eye from the self-made peephole and then did roll over until her body came right up against his.  He slid his hand up the back of her loose blouse and the feel of her bare back drove away any coherent or intelligent thoughts he may have had.

            The sun rose.

            Later, in William’s truck, they held hands until they reached Duck’s Diner on Main, where they shared a breakfast of eggs, bacon and grits.  Each had a small plastic cup of orange juice and each used the diner’s restroom before they got back in the truck.

            Brenda Sue’s world had opened up that summer in a way she’d hoped it would but had never really expected.  The sky was bluer, the clouds whiter, the blacktop blacker, and her parents and their prohibitions harsher than ever before.  A voice spoke out of the heavens directly to her and it was more imperative than any voice that issued from the pulpit on Sunday.  This was the voice she would obey because it came not only from the heavens but from inside her as well.

            William had expected nothing much from his summer.  He’d been working on the farm with his father for as long as he could remember and now that he made it through high school, he’d expected more of the same but without the social opportunities that came along with attending school.  There would be no more school and he was happy for that.  But there was a sadness too that bit at the edge of a longing he spoke of to no one and rarely acknowledged even to himself.  He met Brenda Sue at the Fourth of July celebration at Jefferson Park and his entire life began changing after that.  He was more quiet and thoughtful over breakfast than before, but no one noticed.  He walked taller and stood prouder than ever before, but no one noticed that either.  He smiled more often, and at times when in the past he would have merely maintained the same old grave and stoic expression.  No one really noticed.

            William’s mother and father, like their parents before them, were farm people.  They said it themselves fairly often by way of explanation or extenuation.  Simple folk, modest and unassuming.  When a crop matured, they harvested it.  When a cow came to term, they calved it.  When a child misbehaved, they slapped it.  And if a horse broke its legs, they shot it. 

            William’s father was named William, and he called his son Junior.  William had been called Junior by his father for so long that he had never thought to question it, and in fact, scarcely even noticed.  William’s mother called her son Will.  He was their only child and they loved him quite as much as most only children are loved by their parents.  He had worked on the farm alongside his father ever since he could walk.  There had always been a dog on the farm, and the dog’s name was always Fido.  When one dog died or disappeared, another always showed up soon after, and they would feed it and call it Fido.

            When William’s truck rolled up late that Sunday afternoon right around mealtime and William brought Brenda Sue inside the house and introduced her to his parents, they smiled and shook her hand and insisted she join them for dinner.  This, in spite of the fact—or maybe because of it—that William had not come home all night.  They sat down at the table across from William’s parents and ate together with little conversation beyond compliments on the meal.  With Brenda Sue beside him, William sat at table and ate in a way that was different, and what’s more, different in a way his parents noticed.  And when William’s father told William to “Please pass the gravy, Junior,” Brenda Sue looked up, all sweet and innocent, and asked,  “Why do you call him that?”

            And that was the moment when everything changed.

D.E. Sievers



Saturday, May 4, 2013

Friday, May 3, 2013