This Show Case features three pieces submitted in response to our sixteenth Writing Prompt: Plane. You can see responses to each prompt in the drop down menu for this page. Try an item. They are all delicious. We hope they stimulate your mind, spirit, and urge to write. Maybe they will motivate you to submit a piece for our next prompt, which you can find on the Show Case home page.
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What I Did on My American Vacation
by Boris Glikman
America is a big country far away. I went there on a fast plane which flew so fast that when I arrived in America it was still the previous day. And so the plane must have flown faster than the speed of light because when you travel faster than light you go back into the past.
I visited New York City first. It is a big town with many people in it. Lots of people walked past me on the streets there. They probably didn’t know who I was because when I said “G’day” to them they didn’t say anything back. I visited the Atlantic Ocean when I was in New York City. An ocean is like a lake but a bit bigger.
I also went on a long choo-choo train to other places there. I looked out of the window when I was on the train and saw trees and houses, but because they were rushing past me so quickly I couldn’t see them properly. I don’t know why they were in such a hurry. In our country trees and houses usually stay in the same one place.
People in America are not Australian people, but they speak English like us. But because they haven’t learned how to speak the language properly, they speak with an accent. The words are the same but they don’t pronounce the words the right way.
When I was in America I finally met my friends, whom I’d previously met on the computer. Their voices sounded the same, but they looked different. It was a big shock to me because I was expecting them to look like their photos: flatand standing or sitting in the same one pose, with the same smile or other expression on their faces. But instead they were like three-dimensional walking, talking cardboard cut-outs, moving about and changing their face expressions all the time. They must have used that new movie technology to make themselves look 3-D, except that I didn’t have to wear those special glasses I wore when I went to see that new 3-D movie.
I heard all kinds of things about America before going there and so I really wanted to find out what America was hiding from me. So I tried grabbing America by its legs, turning it upside down and giving it a good shake so thatall the secrets America had stashed in its hidden pockets would come tumbling down at my feet. But unfortunately America wouldn’t budge.
Then I took my chances on a big jet plane, never let them tell you that all airlines are the same. Some airlines are better than others, and so I flew home on another plane that was different from the plane I flew on to America.
I met many nice people in America and I want to go back there soon.
On a Wing and a Prayer
by Mimi Speike
Maisie’s problem with Hollywood can be summed up in these few words: she was seen as a gimmick.
Paramount was determined to make money off her. And they did. First it was the dancing on tabletops. Then, the series of sheik flicks, tussling with Rudolph Rodentino on sand dunes in Malibu. Schulberg worked that giggle hard. King Tut’s tomb had just been found. Egyptian was hot.
Then someone had the idea to put her into a biplane.
Amelia Earhart was flying high. She was all over the papers. Maisie the barnstormer was a big hit with the kiddie audience, and with the mamas as well.
Maisie took the broad-brush scripts and pushed them in many directions, injecting cardboard characterizations with real life. (She did this with any role she was given.) Text frames interspersed with the action (the method of the silents), said one thing. Her eyes, her attitude, often said something else entirely. She was given to breaking that fourth wall, to looking directly into the camera, smirking in the midst of a clinch.
In her fly-girl films, she played Olivia Wilde, a society girl-aviatrix, wearing gorgeous clothes when she was not in her flight suit. Maisie attracted a following of adult females who wanted to see what she would wear this time. Natacha Rambova, her costume designer, went all out for her.
By the time I met her, she’d gone through the money she’d once pulled in, and was next to on-the-street. I never had money. It was par-for-the-course for me. We managed to enjoy ourselves nonetheless. We both loved to be surrounded by beautiful things. We decorated our walls with our own art. And we hit the thrift stores. All the entertainment you could wish for, for next to nada. One time we spotted a crochet-airplane in a thrift on Second Avenue. Maisie’s eyes lit up the moment she spied it. I snapped it up. It cost me all of $1.99.
It was filled with fuzz. I slit the top, scooped out some of the innards, made a space for her to nestle into, overstitched the raw edge. I hung it above my bed, with felt clouds and moon and a few stars. Maisie had the sweetest little bed you ever saw. She loved it! I could reach up and rock her, lulling her to sleep.
I sang lullabies to her: Hush-a-bye, don’t you cry, go to sleep my little Maisie.
She’d lean over the side of her plane and squeal: Screw that shit, lady. I can do better than that. And she’d sing to me. All kinds of ditties, but most often, variations on a Cole Porter tune:
My sorrowful story, it needs to be told.
There’s not much these days doesn’t leave me damn cold . . .
except for . . . I’ll say it again, just in case
you forgot it . . . except for your fabulous face.
I get a kick every time I see you standing there before me.
For I can see you certainly do very much adore me.
(She was right about that, and she knew it)
Hey, I get no kick from champagne.
Mere alcohol doesn’t thrill me at all.
So tell me why should it be true
that I get a kick out of you?
She made up new verses all the time. I never knew what she was going to come out with. But she always ended with this one:
Oh, I get no kick in a plane.
Flying too high with some guy in the sky
is my idea of nothing to do.
But I get a kick out of you.
No one has ever told me I have a fabulous face. It wasn’t just a phrase to her. She meant it. I could see it in her eyes.
/ / /
I’m always prowling the flea markets, hunting Mulot items. (I’m the foremost collector of Mulot memorabilia in the country, have I told you that? Got something to sell? Contact me.)
One Sunday morning I found a set of Bliss dollhouse furniture, box and all! It was a stretch financially, but I had to have it. In the box was a teeny teddy-bear, just the size to sit in the cockpit of the plane that floats over my bed to this day.
Without my glasses on, Bear looks like my long-gone friend up there. (Maisie departed this vale of tears in 1988.) I was alone in my dinky apartment until Bear came along.
He doesn’t sing to me, of course. I sing to him:
I get a kick every time I see
your face right there before me.
That’s my bedtime ritual, the closest I come to a prayer. I sing it to Bear every blessed night. He’s not talkative like Maisie was, but he hears me. He gives me a wink every once in a while, I swear to God.
It’s nice to have a housemate again. I’ve been alone for too long.
Somewhere and Back
by S.T. Ranscht
Danian put his fingers in front of his eyes and blinked to brush his lashes against them. Yes, his eyes were open. But he saw nothing. It was the same nothing he saw with them closed. Total, endless, nothing — as black and unseeing as unconsciousness.
Spreading his arms, he reached for the steel chrysalis he knew curved around him, but was just far enough away that his fingers would never find it as long as he lay suspended in the fluid he couldn’t feel because it was the same temperature as his naked skin. He couldn’t feel the frictionless cords that anchored him in the center of the tank, either. There was nothing to hear, nothing to taste, nothing to smell. Sensory deprivation was the point, after all.
Above the underground complex Danian and his colleagues called home, life struggled against the planetary degradation it had amplified and accelerated. Famine-infested children with crusted, sunken eyes, spindly appendages, and distended bellies lay motionless against their mother’s arid breasts, their cracked lips unable to close. On the other side of the world, wildfires and storms unknown to history swelled in deadly waves to wipe out cities, farms, and wealth, leaving destitution and disease. The strongest adults raced death to escape their deteriorating civilizations, inciting violent unrest in neighboring areas richer in clean water or fertile soil or temperate clime.
Their only hope for salvation lay in the complex buried beneath their desperation.
Danian gave himself to his training. Relaxing his brain to the altered state of mind, not wandering, but freed to travel with intention, his awareness expanded beyond the confines of his body, his container, his physical bonds to this world, into the unbound universe.
His deliberate path sheared across the psychic plane in an astral arc aimed at one particular rock among many orbiting a small star still young enough to enable life on the rock for many thousands of generations. Danian’s task was to observe, record, and report its suitability for colonization. Everyone in the complex had ventured out in this manner many times before only to report disappointment. He had learned to carry no expectation except to fulfill his duty to his fellow beings.
The yellow star he sought was insignificant compared to many, but burned warm and steadily. The planets orbiting closest to it were too close to serve Danian’s purpose, and several were too far. A few offered promise, but he focused on his target, a spinning ball within a tattered wrap of clouds that chilled him with moisture as his waveform passed through them to approach the surface on the nightside of the globe. Salty smelling oceans separating dark continents passed below with no artificial lights to betray advanced civilizations. He dared to hope he’d found a new home.
Emerging into the dawn, the water dazzled his sight. In his capsule, his heartbeat rose. Land masses covered in red, green and brown, gray and white, revealed snow tipped mountains, trees, and arable land releasing its earthy scent as he zoomed in. Even closer, he followed a sparkling wide river where graceful creatures crossed on four legs in undulating herds from forest to grassy plains. Hope became happiness and he smiled in the dark.
Glittering waterfalls drew his attention to a broad valley between the arms of rolling hills beyond a range of smaller mountains. Slowing his approach, he saw them. Clusters of rustic shelters constructed of mudbound wood and stone, huddled together at the edges of lakes reflecting cloudless deep blue. Each trickled tangy wisps of smoke through a hole in its thatched roof.
His smile vanished. He watched. He listened.
The beings who lived here walked on two legs and worked with their hands. They had language. They appeared primitive, their pale brown skin covered with softened animal hides, decorated with colorful feathers hanging from the long dark fur on their heads. By law, their presence precluded his own people’s settlement.
Every time his awareness journeyed, his heart ached to see what was happening on his own planet. Their time was short. Already, the vessels orbited the planet, prepared to ferry its survivors to a new home. They waited only for a report that the way was clear.
Danian could issue such a report and the migration would begin. By the time they arrived, the indigenous people may have developed more advanced technology, but they would still lag far behind the new arrivals. And there would be no turning back. Ultimately, the First People would become extinct. There was no path for both to tread together.
The tank’s seal opened and the chamber’s dim lighting dimmed further through Danian’s nictitating membranes. His scaly mauve skin shed the last drops of the suspending fluid as he prepared to deliver his report about the third rock from the sun.
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