By Marvin Shackelford
We’re at home doing nothing and it flies so low over the house my ears rattle and then the walls a little. I’m prone to expecting Jesus or maybe aliens, so I check out the window and it’s just a plane. Not a single-engine crop duster or puddle jumper but a jumbo jet. Commercial airliner of the first order. It must be crashing. Steph turns on the TV, and I go out to the car and put the radio on the AM band. It’s afternoon drive-time, no one breaking in. The host barks and fusses. Steph’s dad sits in the open door drinking beers, and I ask what he thinks. He says it might rain. I finally pry out that he didn’t even see the plane. I’m just minding my own goddamn business, he tells me, and you might consider the same.
Steph’s flipped to cartoons upstairs. I take the remote and look for news, emergency broadcasting systems. I don’t see how a plane can crash and nothing be said. The simplest explanation is probably didn’t nothing happen, Steph says, and the five-o’clock news agrees. But I still got the feeling. After supper I make Steph put on pants and we go for a ride. Her dad decides to go, so I’ve got him in the backseat with two open cans of beer and a sour look on his face. Where we headed, anyway? he wants to know, and we all want the same. I back us out the drive and push down the street. It’s come to night and I’m seeking a sign, the pillar of fire that tells me where I’m going, where I’ve been. We snake through the neighborhood hunting smoke and flame, a crowd at the water’s edge. Steph turns all around in her seat, helping the search. She says it’s a shame it takes a tragedy to draw us together, and I have to agree. We pass through town, the traffic and the stores and all the empty faces. We put on our seatbelts, roll up the windows, and we hit the freeway. A low orange glow pulls me to the horizon, promises. It’s not the apocalypse, but maybe it’s what I’m trying to see.
Marvin Shackelford is author of a collection of poems, Endless Building; stories, Tall Tales from the Ladies’ Auxiliary (Alternating Current, forthcoming); and flash, Field Guide to Lonely Birds (Red Bird Chapbooks, forthcoming). He resides in Southern Middle Tennessee, earning a living in agriculture.