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News & Features » March 2015 » “The Friendly Skies” by Linda Lenhoff

“The Friendly Skies” by Linda Lenhoff

Thursdaze (because the weekend won’t come fast enough) features original flash fiction modeled after our Drug Chronicles Series. Each story is an original one, and each encapsulates the author’s fictional experience with drugs. Our print series has anthologized authors writing about marijuanacocainespeed, and heroin, but contributors to the web series can focus on any drug, real or imagined, controlled or prescribed, illegal or soon-to-be legalized. Submissions to Thursdaze will be judged on an author’s ability to stylistically emulate his or her substance of choice. Submissions are also limited to 750 words, so try to focus. (They have a pill for that.)

This week, Linda Lenhoff takes us on a trip.

Linda LenhoffThe Friendly Skies
by Linda Lenhoff

I was fine when I got on the road that morning—a little nervous, but I’d taken two Ativans. The pills were supposed to be strong enough to get me on the plane and all the way across the Midwest to LA. Not like last time.

Still, I couldn’t believe how hot it was inside the airport. And my luggage felt heavier than usual. I just had the two bags—I knew how to fly. People started pushing into me, and my ears felt like they were filled with Jell-O, and there was just this mass of voices and people brushing into me and this damn dinging sound, so I had to sit down.

I thought I was in the smoking section because these fuzzy clouds of gray smoke with shiny particles began streaming around me, up toward the ceiling. But I remembered there isn’t a smoking section anymore, so I figured this is just what you get for flying out of Newark.

I did my alternate nostril breathing, although it was a little hard to keep track. You know what terminals are like.

But it seemed people were everywhere, and moving way faster than they should have been. A child came screaming by me and crashed into a trash can, spilling fluff and Coke cans and weird pink stuff all over the carpet. The crash scared the hell out of me, so I began to picture sea turtles.

I headed for the gate, which started to look farther and farther from my seat. And I was sitting at United. I was where I was supposed to be, and I was ready for my speech. My shoes started to feel heavy trapped in all that goo, like I was in someone’s swimming pool trying to walk through the water with those blue flippers on.

I made it to the desk that said Gate 5 on it. The woman behind it gave me this look I’ll never forget, and I thought, Well, honey, your face doesn’t look all that great either, what with all that eyeliner in this heat. The woman snickered, and I thought, This is why people take Amtrak.

Then I saw it. I’d booked the largest available—the Boeing 787 Dreamliner. It looked a little translucent, as if it were made of crepe paper like those lamps at Cost Plus. It looked like it might rip open in the sky or catch fire, or both. The fire would sweep through the aisles starting in first class because I’d splurged on my ticket, because I’m a professional and I wanted the hot brownie for once.

I felt like I was starting to have trouble thinking clearly, and the pilot and copilot went by slowly, as if they were drugged, which reminded me that I had the Ativan. I reached into my black Coach bag and took two more pills, which tasted lousy without water and started crumbling out of my mouth, so I figured I’d better take a third. I was flying, after all.

I have to say that tranquilizers generally have no effect on me. So when I turned back, the plane still looked cheaply constructed and had turned blue and was moaning, and I’ll admit I was alarmed. I saw these guys on the side of the plane that were lashing at it. It was squealing, bucking up and down hysterically. I would have run to help it, but what with the flippers on my feet and the water in the pool getting higher, I couldn’t move. I just took a deep breath in case I had to hold it awhile until they could make the plane get out there and burst into a speeding flameball and take out all the houses in its path, like it was supposed to.

When I woke up in the terminal a couple hours later, I have to say that I didn’t feel any ill effects from the Ativan. It’s possible I’d need a larger dosage. And you should know that a plane flying from Cleveland to Denver crashed just twelve days after my flight. A Boeing 767-300-ER, which is plenty big, or was. Just twelve days. So it could have happened to my plane, the sad blue one. Just so you know I’m not making anything up.


LINDA LENHOFF’s third novel, *Your Actual Life May Vary, follows a young woman and a child she’s borrowed as they look for a new community in the Golden State that feels warm and familial, even though no one they actually know lives there. The novel delves into valley life vs. city life, big-box stores, eerie theme parks, and overpriced real estate built on land that basically tends to give way. It’s a dark comedy in search of a forever home with an independent press. Linda has published two previous novels, Life a la Mode and Latte Lessons, and has an MFA in creative writing in her file cabinet. She lives in California’s Bay Area, where she writes fiction and nonfiction, and serves time as a copy editor. See more at lindalattelessons.wordpress.com.


Do you have a story you’d like us to consider for online publication in the Thursdaze flash fiction series? Here are the submission terms and guidelines:

—We are not offering payment, and are asking for first digital rights. The rights to the story revert to the author immediately upon publication.
—Your submission should never have been published elsewhere.
—Your story should feature a drug, any drug, and your character’s experience with it. We’ll consider everything from caffeine to opium, and look forward to stories ranging from casual use to addiction to recovery. Stylistically, we’ll respond most favorable to stories that capture the mood and rhythm of your drug of choice.
—Include your drug of choice next to your byline.
—Your story should not exceed 750 words.
—E-mail your submission to info@akashicbooks.com, and include THURSDAZE in the subject line. Please paste the story into the body of the email, and also attach it as a PDF file.


About the Drug Chronicles Series: Inspired by the ongoing international success of the city-based Akashic Noir Series, Akashic created the Drug Chronicles Series. The anthologies in the series feature original short stories from acclaimed authors, each of whom focuses on their fictional experience with the title drug. Current releases in the series include The Speed Chronicles (Sherman Alexie, William T. Vollmann, Megan Abbott, James Franco, Beth Lisick, Tao Lin, etc.), The Cocaine Chronicles (Lee Child, Laura Lippman, etc.), The Heroin Chronicles (Eric Bogosian, Jerry StahlLydia Lunch, etc.), and The Marijuana Chronicles (Joyce Carol Oates, Lee Child, Linda Yablonsky, etc.).

Posted: Mar 26, 2015

Category: Original Fiction, Thursdaze | Tags: , , , , , , , , ,