As the ship coasted through the air, the cabin lights dimmed and Ms. Elena came through, asking everyone to sit down and strap in. We were landing at an emergency strip, as we had inadvertently drifted too close to a net battle, which could compromise our digital tail routing. Of course none of us had any idea what that really meant, but we tried to be reassured by Ms. E. Most of us took advantage of the free wine and beer, which lightened the mood even more. The windows were quietly glossed over like butterfly wings, and soon our little room was warm and cheery like an Irish tavern.
I took that opportunity to introduce myself to Chef Robert, who had indeed been on one of the cooking shows in my hometown of Lonelyville.( Lonelyville - always hated it until I couldn’t go back anymore. Now it tums in my imagination on a daily basis.) Robert has worked in kitchens since he was 15 and has been a chef since he was 20. Now in his mid 30s’ he still have a very boyish look. His hair was long and floppy, and he wore the same kind of tee shirt and bell-bottomed blue jeans that my nephews did. He spent 6 months living in Lonelyville, and we exchanged names of people we knew, but neither of us had a mutual acquaintance.
So we sat and traded scathing stories about the low down and dirty grubs who made up the majority of people living there now. We got to talking about Ohio, and it turned out that he had also gone to college there - to the once-again defunct Antioch College. This was well after he had started his own chain of truckstop restaurants. Now they’re all over the place, but when he built his first one, no one dreamed they’d become the next best thing. Robert told me he was considering opening some sort of food venue at Tar Sands. The only hitch being the lack of edible local foods. Bexxon was suppoed to have put in new soil and planted local plants, but they’d not done a very thorough job, and so the soil had mostly washed away, leaving the pits and canals filled with toxic water and other debris that was also supposedly gotten rid of in a highly Green fashion. Oh yeah, like they cared about being Green! I was starting to get my old anger fused up, so I changed the subject, as it wasn’t the place to start a rant. Robert took my cue, and decided to go up to the starboard cabin and see how his partner was doing. I sat there, trying to calm down by breathing slowly and deeply.
The Marine across from me nodded and gave me a slight smile. For some reason, that made me feel better, and the rush of red left my head. I turned to the window and smiled at Robert’s seatmate. She was an older woman who hadn’t looked up from her screen for hours. She had wild red hair done up in rastas, and was wearing an astronaut-type designer suit. She looked like someone out of a sci-fi movie. In order not to seem snobby I went over and sat down on the sofa next to her. She looked up from her paper and gave me a shimmering smile. It totally transformed her, and I immediately forgot my first impression. Her name was Sally Piejack, which she said was her stage name. She wasn’t an actor though, but a mid-level writer of graphic novels. She’d dropped out of school as a teenager, and gone to a steampunk atelier in Lyons, where she’d learned to write and draw cartoons. One of her first books, “So-called Youthful Gangs” was an early e-book success for the Atelier, and she’d worked for them for many years. Now she was retired and wanted to spend time back in the Americas. She wasn’t all that clear about what exactly she meant by that, and why Tar Sands would have been a first choice. She too was staying at the Tundra Inn. Her daughter from her first marriage had told her that she shouldn’t miss seeing it, so like a good mama, she was meeting her there. They were going to take one of the 3 day trail hikes and she asked me lots of questions about the area, of which I knew next to nothing. But her charming smile and sea-green eyes helped me to make up information as I went along. Always been one of my better talents, although Janine would just call me a liar.
Turns out she’d been drawing on her pad the whole time. After a brief hesitation, she showed me her pages. She’d done quick, oh-so-perfect sketches of all of us in the cabin. Whene she showed me the one of me, I was flattered; she made me look sort of handsome, and definitely a lot younger. When I thanked her, she grimaced and took up her pencil and added some wrinkles. Now it really looked like me. I sort of liked it better, and I told her so. With that, it seemed there was something of a friendship starting. I passed her my book and she confessed to preferring the heavy load to the digital stuff. So we were similar old chucks, beating back the waves of the future as hard as we could. Sally took notice of my 20s look and gave a kidding joke, whereupon I mentioned that rastas had been out of fashion with us whites for almost a millenium. She grinned and I could tell she knew that I liked it anyway.
So we continued chatting, ignoring the slivers of talk from the pilots’ cabin that came out from time to time. It was hard to tell where we were, and where we were going, what with the windows shut down. Ms. Elena wasn’t in our cabin anymore, but as head steward she was probably making her way through the other three cabins, making sure that everyone was calm and that the panicked ones weren’t getting too drunk. The only person in ours that seemed upset was the Marine. Sally had spoken with him at dinner, and she told me he was indeed a former marine, probably special forces, as he was reluctant to say where and when he’d been deployed. She said he had flight fear, and used meditation to counteract it. Now I understood the look he’d given me before. I used meditation to keep my temper down. Sometimes I needed it in negotiations, so I was reluctant to use meds, as I never knew when I needed to pump up the fires inside.