On the plane to Mexico, the woman next to me said she was going to find Jesus. She bounced her boy, a toddler, and said Maine weather made her evil. She smiled at me. Her baby laughed.

Looking out the window, I wanted to put an arm out. The clouds seemed beneath us. The woman leaned in and she asked if I believed.

I looked at her red lipstick, noticed a mark on her tooth like a cross, and I told her I believed in a lot of things.

Like what? she said.

I said, I'm going on vacation.

She said she'd been a cheat. She said she was clean now. She told me something saved her.

I told her that was good. I got a book out, one I'd written, only because it was the only one with me. It was mostly about women with problems with their partners, who'd been abused by fathers, women who were tough and independent. I opened to a story called Jesus, about a girl whose father was a pastor.

The woman's baby started to cry. She got out a blanket, put him under, drew him to her. She said to me, Excuse me.

My son had done the cover, a portrait of a face with pouty lips and dark eyes. The book was called Pretension, the title of a story about a woman on a plane with her toddler.

When the attendant came around, I ordered a Bloody Mary. The woman next to me said she wanted nothing. As I sipped, I looked at my watch, wondering if my boyfriend had arrived yet. He was meeting me at the place he'd booked the month before, the trip a gift to me because he said he loved me. We'd be fishing, sailing, bathing at a beach house.

When I finished my drink, the woman grabbed my hand and told me that God loved me. I was ready for a nap then.

As I closed my eyes, she sneezed, and I said, Bless you.


Kim Chinquee is the author of the collections Pretty and Oh Baby. She is an associate professor of English at Buffalo State College.

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