They beat us up pretty bad. The check-in, the x-rays, then wandering around in our socks. Now we’re on the runway, waiting to take off. The flight attendants have demonstrated how to buckle and unbuckle a seatbelt. (Now there’s a scary thought: people travel who haven’t mastered this much technology?) I ask the man next to me, “Do you believe in God?”
“Excuse me?” he says.
He’s forty or so, balding, with pinched eyes. He looks like a scared rabbit.
“Just kidding,” I tell him.
He hitches up in his seat, gives a little cough and pulls out his cell phone to confirm that it’s turned off, in keeping with our instructions. He doesn’t speak.
Charles Holdefer is an American writer currently based in Brussels. His work has appeared in the North American Review, Los Angeles Review, Chicago Quarterly Review, and elsewhere. He has also published four novels, most recently Back in the Game (Permanent Press, 2012). His essay “Orwell’s Hippopotamus, or The Writer as Historical Anachronism” appeared in NER 32.3.