A long time ago I had a thing I called Friday Fiction on this here blog, where I’d post a random short story I’d written. No particular reason; just something other than the usual diary blah-blah, a good excuse to use a different set of muscles. It was fun, but I never kept it up.

In honor of the long-dead Friday Fiction effort, then:

——————

When the intercom crackled to life and the flight attendant began her bored lecture about returning seat backs to their full upright position, the man in 26-C sucked his teeth in disappointment. He’d been openly enjoying the view of the sleeping woman in 26-A, her lean angles and blouse that had been pulled slightly askew. With no wifi on this crappy flight and a laptop battery that was about dead anyway, he figured he might as well take in the scenery, such as it was. 26-A would do.

As the plane tipped and the descent got underway, the woman instantly sat upright, adjusting in her seat in order to raise the shade and squinting against the late afternoon sunlight. He cleared his throat and leaned over.

“Excuse me,” he said, “Can you see Mt. Rainier out there yet?”

The woman didn’t turn towards him. “No,” she said, focused somewhere in the distance. He could see they were starting to pass through dark cloud cover, the grid of the city barely visible below.

“Too bad,” he said easily. “It’s always my favorite part about flying here. You here for business or pleasure?”

The woman sighed and reached a hand down to massage her knees, flexing one jean-clad thigh at a time. “Neither,” she said, shifting a little further towards the window.

Okay, he thought. “Hey, I know this is stupid, but can I tell you something? Jesus, I feel like a jerk for saying this … but landings scare the crap out of me. Always have, I don’t know why. It’s not like I’ve ever been in a crash or anything, right? Anyway, it helps if I talk to someone. Do you mind? I swear I won’t bug you for long, just until we’re back on solid ground.” He widened his eyes in a practiced move that conveyed sincerity, nervousness, vulnerability.

She finally turned to look at him, and he smiled with what he hoped was a good mix of warmth and embarrassment. She had startling grey eyes, pale and fringed with long black lashes. A slight spray of freckles across her cheeks, faint lines here and there. Maybe not model material, but not half bad, either.

“You’re scared of landings,” she said. “Not takeoffs?”

“Right! I know, it’s ridiculous. But the landing is the hardest part, don’t you think? Hey, so my name’s Jason, you can call me Jay, everyone does. Nice to meet you …?”

“Devin,” she said, and leaned forward across the empty seat between them. Her seatbelt strained against her hip as she moved her body until they were nearly touching, and for a breathless moment he was sure she was going to kiss him.

“Can I tell you something now?”

“Absolutely,” he said. “Anything.”

Devin from 26-A grinned, her teeth inches from his face. “Go fuck yourself, Jay. Don’t stop until you see blood.”

+++++

Devin Briggs stepped off the north shuttle loop (“Main terminal … main terminal,” intoned the recorded voice, unchanged after all these years) and moved quickly towards the parking garage. She rode the escalator past baggage claim, where the automatic doors kept opening and closing on Seattle’s damp autumn chill, and Jason You-Can-Call-Me-Jay was standing near the slow rotation of a luggage conveyor belt. He glanced up from a passing tumble of suitcases and immediately saw her, his face darkening, and she briefly touched her fingers to her forehead in a mock salute.

Asshole.

She was less amused when she passed the young couple with their toddler, the family that had been in row 8 where she’d originally been seated. She’d immediately asked to be moved, and the parents had sat there blinking at each other. “She’s actually a pretty good traveler,” the father had offered, inclining his head towards his daughter, a tender-faced little girl clutching a grubby stuffed rabbit.

“Sorry,” Devin had said, pushing roughly past their legs, avoiding the toddler’s curious gaze. “Sorry.”

The mother looked at her now unsmilingly from where she stood near an elevator, her arms strained from holding her daughter’s weight. The father was occupied with unfolding a stroller. The little girl was asleep, her mouth a tiny cupid’s bow.

Above Devin’s head, a sign blinked EXIT TO PARKING, and she hurried through the doors into the cool evening air.

The rental was a dull silver Jetta, and it reeked of a pineapple-shaped air freshener that dangled from the rearview mirror. Like someone’s idea of a tropical suntan lotion, in a town that doesn’t know anything about suntans, Devin thought. She tossed it to the ground and sat for a moment with the windows down, pressing her back against the driver’s seat to stretch her legs. God, her knees ached. Five hours in a metal tube folded up like a piece of origami, breathing canned farts and feeling Call-Me-Jay’s eyes crawling all over her.

Not for the first time since she’d boarded the plane in Phoenix, Devin considered what it would take to abandon this trip altogether. It would be pretty easy, actually. Just turn around and walk back to the ticket counter, book the next returning flight, wait to go back home. Maybe have a drink or three in one of those shitty lounges that offers an extra shot for a dollar.

Home. Or wherever.

Somewhere in the recesses of her carryon, her phone buzzed, fell quiet, and buzzed again. Devin glanced at her bag, then exhaled. The car still smelled sickeningly sweet, a cheery Wish You Were Here! beach postcard, blackened and rotting at the edges. Outside, a light rain began to fall, gathering into drops on her windshield and turning the airport terminal lights into tiny glittering prisms.

Ignoring the insistent, insect-like hum from her bag, Devin started the car and pulled away.

Traveling the interstate into Seattle was like watching a half-remembered movie, the exits and landmarks unfamiliar at first glance, then revealing themselves in her memory moments later. The map she’d brought remained untouched and folded, and soon the city stretched before her in tones of grey against grey. The buildings—she used to be able to name them, but only the imposing black Columbia Center came to her now—reaching up to brush the ever-present clouds, the overpasses hanging thick with ivy. Water and glass and pine trees. She drove with a sense of dreamlike unreality, the little Jetta seeming to hold still as the scenery moved all around her.

It was as though she’d never left, she thought. Or maybe more like part of her had always stayed behind.

In the gathering dusk Devin made her way through narrow surface streets, pulling aside to let oncoming cars pass not out of politeness but a growing desire to delay her arrival. Every block was a strange shock of nostalgia: the yellow house with the peeling fascia, the bulbous grey-green top of a water tower, the raised bladed arms of a monkey puzzle tree standing guard over a corner lot. The only real differences she saw in the neighborhood were the rows of locked cabinets that had replaced the battered metal mailboxes that used to sit at the end of each cramped driveway.

Their mailbox had read BRIGG. The S had fallen off and no one bothered to replace it, although rust had collected where the letter once was. Another ghost.

She made one last turn before the road abruptly ended—not a cul de sac, exactly, more that city planners had never bothered to push the street through—and Devin let the Jetta roll close to the curb before coming to a stop. She carefully switched off the ignition, tucked the rental-company key in her front pocket, and only then did she turn her head to look out at the house she grew up in.

The tiny once-white Cape Cod still had the crumbling blue trim around the windows, and as Devin rolled her suitcase up the uneven walkway she could see that the battered screen door had the exact same gaping tear in the netting it had twenty years ago. (A dropped bookbag, the sharp edge of her Social Studies text. Her father’s reddening face.) Weeds had overtaken the small front yard, an eruption of dandelions gone to damp silvery seed. Rain dripped steadily from the steep cottage roof.

Last chance, Devin thought to herself, and looked back to the Jetta. Twenty minutes and she’d be back at Sea-Tac. Thirty minutes and she’d be sitting behind a martini, extra olives, extra everything.

“Oh, fuck it,” she said, and pulled aside the screen, just as the front door opened. In the gloom of early evening an enormous shape was outlined in the entryway, backlit by a dim yellow hall light. The woman that stood there was wearing a ratty terrycloth bathrobe over her bulk, and in the brief shocked moment that followed, she raised a cigarette to her lips, inhaled, and coughed out a laugh.

“What’s the matter, Devin?” she asked, smoke curling from her grinning mouth. A dragon hissing out steam. “Don’t you recognize me?”

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taryn
taryn
10 years ago

love it – i am hungry for more!

K.
K.
10 years ago

I second that!

Liz
Liz
10 years ago

More! More! More!

Audrey
Audrey
10 years ago

More, please :)

Jenn
Jenn
10 years ago

Next chapter please!

Christine H.
Christine H.
10 years ago

Very nice. I wish there was more.

JudithNYC
JudithNYC
10 years ago

Wow! I started reading because I like you but soon was totally immersed in the story.

More, please!!

Shelley
Shelley
10 years ago

Whyyyyyyyy are you not writing fiction? Why?

And yes. Please. More.

Valerie
Valerie
10 years ago

I need to know the rest. I agree with Shelley, why are you not writting fiction. I for one would stand in line for your books.

Kate
Kate
10 years ago

More please!

kathy
kathy
10 years ago

That’s it?? Where’s the rest? Love her FU line!

Sandy
Sandy
10 years ago

You are a tease. Dammit, what happens next?

Sara
Sara
10 years ago

Nice!

Fairydogmother
10 years ago

Awesomeness. Thanks for sharing! I agree with everyone else, I want to read more!

Angella
10 years ago

Writing is a gift, Linda. A gift that you have. And own.

Ronna
Ronna
10 years ago

Amazing writing, Linda! I was seeing the scenes in my head as I was reading…so much so that I was caught offguard during the scene on the airplane. When Devin leans over and the seatbelt strains agains her shoulder? I had to stop and think…really? My airplane seats only have a lap belt! How come she gets a shoulder harness? :)

Sarah
10 years ago

I really want another installment, please! I was getting very lost in the story. Er, in the intrigued way, not the confused one.

Christine
Christine
10 years ago

Yes, please to more! I am hoping that “Friday bowl of serial” means that I will get more of this story next Friday? Please, please??

Jaime
Jaime
10 years ago

Very nice. I know how hard it is not only to write, but to share your work with the world.

bouncy
bouncy
10 years ago

Oh, crap, I am on the edge of my seat! MORE, woman, don’t make me wait!

Kristin
Kristin
10 years ago

Amazing. When can I buy/read the book? :)

Bad Mama Genny
10 years ago

You wouldn’t BE so cruel as to withhold more…

OR WOULD YOU?!

See, I’m always getting my heart broken like this.

Love it,
Bad Mama Genny

Christine
10 years ago

Huh. So that dragon woman at the end….I never knew that you had met my mother in law. My sympathies.

On a more serious note: great writing.

Alexandra
Alexandra
10 years ago

I would totally buy the book.

Jennifer
Jennifer
10 years ago

Wow. I want more as well. You have a gift! Totally my style, sucked me right in.

Catherine
10 years ago

I loooved that. If there’s not a full novel in your future, I am hoping for at least a compilation of short stories!!

joaaanna
joaaanna
10 years ago

Keep going….. Please!

Kristina
10 years ago

Wow Linda, you are really, really talented. This sucked me right in! I would also love to hear more!

Judy
Judy
10 years ago

You need to finish this. I need to read it.

Tiff
Tiff
10 years ago

Also, echoing the rest, I loved this. I hate demanding shit from a writer, but perhaps I could ask politely if you could continue this storyline on your upcoming Friday fictions?

FrostedLemonCarrot
10 years ago

I’m seconding the started reading it because it’s you but then got sucked in. Normally I read the first little bit of something like this and then lose my concentration and move on (I think it’s something to do with a computer screen) but this one I couldn’t stop reading.

sooboo
10 years ago

Then what happened?

Jo
Jo
10 years ago

Love it, more please! This sets the scene beautifully.

Anne L.
Anne L.
10 years ago

I hope you continue this very story every Friday!

Donna
Donna
10 years ago

@ sooboo, “And then I fed it to the cat!”

Really really good, and I didn’t catch the seatbelt either, and I follow things closely, lol!

So the woman that opened the door and is her sister, and their parents just died and now the smoking chick wants it all. Or not.

Jenny
Jenny
10 years ago

Wow. Just, wow….
Not very fair to your readers there Linda, not fair at all. You’ve got a very intriguing story going on there and gave just enough of a taste to get our own creative juices flowing wondering where it would all lead if only…if only you’d share more…

jandpmum
jandpmum
10 years ago

this was fantastic and I am so looking forward to more :o)

Lucy
Lucy
10 years ago

Wow!!! I hope you post some more on here (or publish a book) – that was fab!!!

Sandy
Sandy
10 years ago

Was not going to read this post. It’s Saturday morning, early, and I am sipping coffee and not quit awake ,trying to gear up for a run and I didn’t think my mind could handle a fiction entry…..but what the hell, began reading…..and I WAS HOOKED! Excellent. Feeling like I wish this was already a book I could curl up and read this afternoon!! WOW~

Michelle
Michelle
10 years ago

So good! I’ll add my more please to the growing throng in hopes that you will have pity on us and grace us with another chapter next Friday. Please?

Amy N
Amy N
10 years ago

What they said!! You’re straining your body with running….why not strain your brain and give us more! Because, as a mom of two boys, I know you have a surplus of free time.

Julie
Julie
10 years ago

More, more, more!!

Kristin
Kristin
10 years ago

Loved it! But now I need to know what happens next …

Wendi
10 years ago

Love it, Linda, and I really hope you share more! If I picked up this book and read this far, I would *totally* buy it to find out what happens. :)

Eric's Mommy
Eric's Mommy
10 years ago

That was great! I hope there is more!!

Stacy
Stacy
10 years ago

OMG, More!
More More More! Excellent character development, you leave the reader starving for “what next?!”

Pamela Brookins
Pamela Brookins
10 years ago

I’m hoping that you mean to give us more next Friday?! I’m loving the beginning; don’t stop now ….

Nell
10 years ago

More please!!!! Great writing!

Jess
Jess
10 years ago

MORE!!!!!!