Riding my warm cabin home, I remember Betsy’s laughter; she laughed as you did, Rose, at the first story. Someday, I promised her, I’ll be someone going somewhere, and we plotted it in the humdrum school for proper girls. The next April the plane bucked me like a horse, my elevators turned and fear blew down my throat, that last profane gauge of a stomach coming up. And then returned to land, as unlovely as any seasick sailor, sincerely eighteen; my first story, my funny failure.
Maybe, Rose, there is always another story, better unsaid, grim or flat or predatory.
Half a mile down the lights of the in-between cities turn up their eyes at me. And I remember Betsy’s story, the April night of the civilian air crash and her sudden name misspelled in the evening paper, the interior of shock and the paper gone in the trash ten years now. She used the return ticket I gave her.
This was the rude kill of her; two planes cracking in mid-air over Washington, like blind birds. And the picking up afterwards, the morticians tracking bodies in the Potomac and piecing them like boards to make a leg or a face. There is only her miniature photograph left, too long now for fear to remember. Special tonight because I made her into a story that I grew to know and savor. A reason to worry, Rose, when you fix an old death like that, and outliving the impact, to find you’ve pretended.
We bank over Boston. I am safe. I put on my hat. I am almost someone going home. The story has ended.