She was in the airport, waiting for her flight to be called, when a woman came to a phone near her chair. The woman stood there, dialling, and after a while began talking in a flat, aggrieved voice. Gloria couldn’t hear everything by any means, but she did hear her say, ‘If anything happens to this plane, I hope you’ll be satisfied.’ The woman spoke monotonously and without mercy. She was tall and dishevelled and looked the very picture of someone who recently had ceased to be cherished. Nevertheless, she was still being mollified on the other end of the phone. Gloria heard with astounding clarity the part about the plane being repeated several times. The woman then slammed down the receiver and boarded Gloria’s flight, flinging herself down in a first-class seat. Gloria proceeded to the rear of the plane and sat quietly, thinking that every person is on the brink of eternity every moment, that the ways and means of leaving this world are innumerable and often inconceivable. She thought in this manner for a while, then ordered a drink.

The plane pushed through the sky and the drink made her think of the way, as a child, she had enjoyed chewing on the collars of her dresses. The first drink of the day did not always bring this to mind but frequently it did. Then she began thinking of the desert which she was leaving behind and how much she liked it. Once she had liked the sea and felt she could not live without it but now missed it almost not at all.

The plane continued. Gloria ordered another drink, no longer resigned to believing that the woman was going to blow it up. Now she began thinking of where she was going and what she was going to do. She was going to visit Jean, a friend of hers, who was having a hard time – a third divorce, after all, Jean had a lot of energy – but that was only for a day or two. Jean had a child named Gwendal. Gloria hadn’t seen them for over a year, she probably wouldn’t even recognize Gwendal, who would be almost ten by now. Then she would just keep moving around until it happened. She was thinking of looking for a dog to get. She’d had a number of dogs but hadn’t had very good luck with them. This was the thing about pets, of course, you knew that something dreadful was going to befall them, that it was not going to end well. Two of her dogs had been hit by cars, one had been epileptic and another was diagnosed early on as having hip dysplasia. That one she had bought from the same litter that Kafka’s great-niece had bought hers from. Kafka’s great-niece! Vets had never done very well by Gloria’s dogs, much as doctors weren’t doing very well by Gloria now. She thought frequently about doctors, though she wasn’t going to see them any more. Under the circumstances, she probably shouldn’t acquire a dog, but she felt she wanted one. Let the dog get stuck for a change, she thought.


Americans
Jimmy