Minus 41 & 35,000 Feet

Squeezed in the middle. Point of honour not to hog the rests. Window French chap; aisle Indo domestic going back to her kampung for a fortnight. Both uncommunicative. Former had just come out from Paris without wearing the evidence of the ordeal. Business could wait in Jakarta while he looked over Jogja a couple of days. Budget class, but you couldn’t draw any conclusions, necessarily. The lass had landed good Red Hill Finnish employers who holidayed twice yearly and extended the same privilege to the helper. Perfectly at ease the woman, outwardly at least; certainly the French. It recalled Bab’s sangfroid going to Belgrade first time in her mid-seventies. What was to worry? If we went down it would be in the company of hundreds of others. Suddenly the pilot’s laughter through the cabin door; couldn’t have been anyone else. Touch creepy. Hopefully the co- wasn’t breathing his last on the floor and we were readying a fireball aimed at one of the oil tankers down in the water. Not so much the D-day landing today queueing at the port—the Covid lull was still a factor, however downplayed in the media. Hard against the perspex made it difficult to observe the hosties facing 18 inches away, without being a pest. Senior had given the safety voice-over in sync with younger’s display. Shorter lashes; younger felt the need to put out more, which was possibly appreciated by the co-pilot when he came out for a chat, the curtain drawn for some privacy. Both ladies hair oiled, neatly clasped, make-up, tightly fitting uniforms. Novak’s win overnight was a little pleasure. After Karadjordje & Marko Kraljevic, perhaps one or two others, the most famous Serb in history. Njegos, Tzar Lazar, Saint Sava and daylight between the rest. Third of the distance covered before the turbulence arrived, buffeting quickly increasing. Passengers belted, unlike the crew—no need panic just yet. You would not be a screamer going down; neither dragging the heels like the guy at G. Serai described those at Changi arrived at their dawn date with the noose. You couldn’t ever really tell, maybe. Bus crash in the Hunter, NSW the site of this morning’s disaster, 10 casualties in the early reports. Minus 41 was it? outside the aluminium skin and 35,000 feet. What were you supposed to do with that kinda info? Keeping the customers in the loop? Transparency? Techies would like to know. Reflection of a guy the other side of the aisle reminded of the intention for the mask—in the overhead. Amidst all the rest, how were you supposed to remember. Pilot apologising for the bumpy ride. Realistically, one’s own haggard reflection in the perspex was rather more troubling, never mind air disasters. Co-pilot when he appeared was conventionally smooth, light-skinned middle-class Indian. How one felt the absence of one’s fellows, the non-flyers, those street people destined never to take wing. All the beautifully grounded rascals. The point had never emerged clearly like that before. Confined with all the frequent fliers and holidaying crowd, happy happy happy, like in a mall. Whistle and light. Blow into the tube for more inflation. Yeah, right. Even the domestic helpers had their former selves rubbed away after their terms in Singapore. Pink trainers, Mickey M tee, lippy, make-up & gold. The adopted behaviour with it. Back in the kampung couple hours outside Cilacap this gal’s folk would apprise her as if from a distance, like a fancy guest arrived for a visit. Reminder again of the emergency exits. Landing was as dangerous as take-off. Damned eDeclaration had not appeared anywhere in the notices. WTF?! Blasted thing. Descent was always more like hovering in place. You never got used to the ordeal. Lowering of the wheels. Was greasing so friggin expensive? Green fields & river. At that height some chance of survival, fuel tank explosion aside. Touchdown. And reverse thrust wasn’t it?

                                                                               Singapore-Yogyakarta, Indonesia



An Australian writer of Montenegrin origin, Pavle Radonic has spent nine years living in Southeast Asia. Previous work has appeared in a range of literary magazines, including Ambit, Big Bridge, New World Writing Quarterly, The Citron Review, and The Wrath-Bearing Tree.

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