Never been here before
word by Jacob Goldberg
colour by Joe Hengst
The flight attendant looks at my carry-on like it’s got four heads. ‘It’ll fit,’ I tell her confidently as she lets me pass through jet bridge, windowless and quiet. A considerable gap between the walkway and cabin has me thinking that there should be a warning sign somewhere. So, I watch my step. The stewardess, black and shapely, smiles at me. I have to walk with my right shoulder toward the tail of the plane so I don’t hit those already settled with my bag.
It fits in the overhead compartment above my seat, which I share with a woman of about 25. Her nail filing looks like she’s playing a small violin and we exchange smiles when I sit down. The stewardess over the intercom welcomes us to American Airlines and asks for our attention as we prepare for takeoff. I remove my headphones but mostly hear my neighbor and her nails. At the stewardess’ direction, I open the In Case of Emergency pamphlet located in the pouch in front of me. The pamphlet’s spine feels fresh. Inside, images accompany the text. One picture, detailing the protocol for a water landing, has people fastening their life jackets; their cheeks are loose, their eyebrows steady, and their mouths unopened. I quickly put the booklet back in the pouch.
The plane stops at the takeoff hash. I look out the window and make eye contact with my neighbor.
‘Hi, I’m Calvin’ I say.
‘Stacey, sorry about the nail filing. It’s a bit of a nervous habit,’ she adds with an uncomfortable smile.
‘Don’t like flying?’
‘Rather be on the ground,’ she says as the engines crescendo.
‘I’ve never flown before, actually. Are you afraid of heights?’ I ask, immediately wishing I hadn’t.
‘Never?’ The plane jerks forward and she grabs the armrest between us. ‘I just don’t really like takeoff is all. Why now?’
‘My brother lives out in Seattle and he’s getting married.’ Outside, I see LaGuardia flitting past us, and I wonder how long the runway is.
‘Oh, you’re getting married?’ She asks, her eyes closed, hands gripping both armrests, body frozen to the seat.
‘No, my brother is.’
When the back wheels come off the ground, I feel the plane’s tail swing underneath and Stacey says, ‘Oh.’
Stacey is busy grabbing the back of the seat in front of her. We pass through some clouds, which from the ground I’d never imagine would be so dense and unwelcoming. The plane feels like a rickety train. Before this flight, I’d think of overcast, opaque skies in terms of an absence of sun. But on this side of the clouds you realize that it’s just the presence of clouds; the sun is always shining. The view from my window looks like what I was taught to believe Heaven looks like.
And so the plane continues to climb, and the blue of the sky turns from baby to turquoise, climbing higher to navy, and now stars pepper the sky and I look at my watch and it’s only 3pm.
From the author: “I guess the question to ask is: How do you deal with people who are scared? Do you let them fall deep into their phobias? The artwork moves from mimetic to surreal, vertically, in the photo, and I thought it would be fitting if the plane that Calvin and Stacey were on flew right into space.”
See more colour by Joe Hengst
word by Grant McLaughlin
colour by Michael Ward
Every time I see that sign, I can’t help but wonder what was the conversation behind that choice.
Could they honestly not come up with something better? In all their brainstorming sessions, was that really the best in show? No one involved thought for even a moment that maybe they should go with something more eye-catching?
‘Cause I’m not gonna lie. I can rattle of all kinds of better ideas. It feels like every time I’m there I come away having thought of yet another superior choice.
Is there honestly someone out there who grew up dreaming of the day they would be the proud proprietor of this: a tiny island of a shop amidst an ocean of parking lot swept up on the side of the latest superhighway. A forgettable piece of detritus that they could finally call their own.
Wouldn’t want to ruin that with a memorable moniker.
The lack of creativity is extremely galling. We already know that all we’ll find inside are shoddy sunglasses, miniature American flags, and a shit ton of cheapo cigarettes. That Family Feud list of things that no one needs.
The least they could do is dress it up with a better sign out front. A façade on the façade, if you will.
Are they describing the activity? What you’ll be buying? Just in case their patrons are so slack-jawed as to need the extra hint.
It could be a command. An imperative order to any who find themselves wondering what they should be doing with their lives.
Or maybe it’s simply old school arrogance. A belief that through their very existence they will be patronized.
“In my mind, it’s always been a concession. They know the tides of history have come out against them, the studies are damning, the fix is in.”
It’s a white flag. A desperate plea.
We don’t have a good reason to convince you, but we’re hoping you’ll do it anyways.
A discount name to match our discount product for you discount people and your discount dreams.
As rallying cries go, it isn’t terribly inspiring.
But I keep coming back, so I guess it doesn’t have to be.
This all started because he’d seen an old movie where some stoned chick with an 80’s crop cut said something about when you grow up, your heart dies. (You’d know the flick; kids in detention.) It was supposed to be funny, but it scared the shit out of him. Nothing funny about compromising your soul, he’d thought. That’s why they were out here in the cold, freezing their tits off. This was about never losing sight of your soul.
The mask was a little tight against his face- it felt right. The fox had cost him $17.99 at the costume store, a small price to pay for immortality, and it was one with him now, a new face. His true face. The book of voodoo had said they had to choose masks they thought reflected their character, their true selves. It said this was the most important part of the ritual. Before you could change something about the world and your place in it, you had to know, really know, who you were inside. In your soul. That’s why voodoo doesn’t work for grown-ups in the West: they’re all dead inside.
His breath in the cold leaves little beads of condensation that run down the inside of the mask and out the bottom. He watches them and listens to the crackle of the fire underneath the languid, off-time clapping that seems to pervade most any pagan ritual. The children’s chanting is hushed now, but it’ll grow, feverish and in leaps and bounds, to a frenzied crescendo when the moon is brightest. He isn’t sure they’re speaking the right words, but he hopes whatever gods they’re praying to get the jist. Through the slitted eyes of the fox he tries to count the number of snowflakes the fire touches. He can’t. There’s too many, a million. If the magic works, the flakes will never melt. The inevitable thaw that follows the cold will never come, and they’ll endure, ageless, in the depths of winter.
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