From July 18, 2014
This is a new piece of short, short fiction I wrote while waiting for a flight in the Atlanta airport.
Rose by Annisa Tangreen
The man was middle-aged and balding. His shiny head, seemingly polished to a high gloss, was freshly shaven around the sides where the hair follicles still claimed a hold. His pilot’s uniform fit his trim, six-foot frame well. A cell phone rang, somewhere inside his suit jacket. He answered it with a smile, removing his thick-rimmed glasses and twirling them by the earpiece between his thumb and forefinger as he spoke.
The crowd in the terminal ebbed and flowed with the departure and arrival of each new plane. A thirty-something Asian woman, wearing a black trenchcoat, cinched at the waist, her hair held back by a gray scarf, read a book about getting rich in Asia. She glanced up distractedly each time a new wave of arrivals flooded the gate.
In the rows of seats that lined the far wall of the terminal, various travelers passed the time by reading. One read on her cell phone, another on an iPad, one on a Kindle, and one, a distinguished-looking African-American businessman in a gray suit, read the Wall Street Journal the old-fashioned way.
Rose glanced up every few minutes, casually taking note of her fellow travelers. The habit of knowing what kinds of people surrounded her at any given moment was a hard one to break after all those years in the service.
The gate agent’s nasally voice came over the loudspeaker, jolting Rose out of her comfortable anonymity by calling her name.
“Passenger Whitcomb please report to the counter. Passenger Rose Whitcomb.”
Rose flinched involuntarily at the announcement. She stood, shouldering her bag. Walking to the counter, she imagined every eye in the terminal following her. Squaring her shoulders and raising her chin, she fixed her eyes on the focal point: the gate attendant.
As she made her way through the obstacle course of dangling feet and roll-away luggage, a woman with the feet of an aged ballerina dropped her cup of ice and bent to pick it up, forcing Rose to swerve to avoid her gray head.
Her glance strayed momentarily from the gate attendant, her perception wavered. For a moment all she saw before her were rows of skeletons, their faces melting with age.