On a recent flight to Los Angeles, a young girl, maybe three or four, sat beside me, her father in the aisle seat. After looking at me with open curiosity for about half an hour, she said, “I like your tattoos. They’re pretty.” It had been a long time, perhaps too long, since I had thought of my body in relation to the word pretty. She showed me a temporary tattoo of a heart on the inside of her left wrist that was about to fade away.
We compared books, and together decided hers was definitely prettier. I told her that mine—Dan Chaon’s Ill Will—was filled with pretty words, but I could see she didn’t believe me. She asked me what it was about. I tried to find something among the deceit, violence, and sexuality that would convince her. I told her it was about two brothers who don't get along, and she looked at me triumphantly.
She asked if my parents were taking me to Disneyland, too.
She asked if I liked movies.
She asked if I was going to California, too.
When I told her that we all were going to California, everyone on the plane, she got quiet. I wondered what she was thinking and if I, by my simple statement, had irrevocably changed her world, shrunken it somehow.
As we began to descend, light poured through the airplane window, so I closed the plastic shutter and was quickly admonished. You can’t see when we’re in the sky when you do that. Don’t you want to see when we are flying? I pushed up the shutter back up. Did I want to see when we were flying? The plane had been swallowed by clouds, the brightness muted but I knew the landscape was getting closer and closer, and I waited to break through.
Evan James Sheldon's work has appeared, or is forthcoming, in Spelk, Roanoke Review, Flash Fiction Magazine, and Poetry Super Highway, among others. He is a junior editor forF(r)iction.