She boards the airplane with her hat and her hopes. A bride of three weeks. She rides alone, her GI husband sailing home on the troop carrier. Everything trembling and hopeful and uncertain is in her face, her nervously wide smile. Does she worry her new hat will slide off? It’s wrapped up with a bow, like a pillow tied to her head. Where is she going? Wisconsin. What does she know of Wisconsin? Cheese, the photographer said, and so she smiled, into the future, into the new world. Legs crossed only at the ankles, hoping her new synthetic stockings won’t run, arms folded over her chest, hoping her new husband’s parents who will meet her at the airport won’t think she’s trash. They’re gonna love you, he said, but will they love what’s not theirs? She keeps her coat on to hide any telltale signs of sin.
She takes tiny sips of Coca-Cola, leans forward in her seat, smiling through cramps, sweat beading on her forehead, the stewardess half kneeling, offering her aspirin. We girls understand, she whispers, offers a cigarette: Sometimes they help. The bride takes the cigarette, American tobacco, who could say no? Though she worries, after, that her in-laws will smell it on her, their worst fears confirmed, a cheap chain-smoking tart. Her nervous hands squeeze her sweaty, wrinkled gloves, then drop them in her pockets. The stewardess returns with a warm washcloth and drapes it across her forehead and the bride leans back, surprised by kindness. She looks up at the flying saucer-shaped airplane light above her head, a light she can turn on or off, tilt forward and back, so many choices she’s never had before. She feels herself flying into a world of unimaginable brightness.
is an editor and workshop teacher at Cleaver magazine and has work featured in Atlas and Alice, Okay Donkey, trampset, and Wigleaf. Her flash fiction was chosen for Best Microfiction 2020. Find her online:
Wendy and Brian on the Last Night of the World, flash fiction
by Kathryn Kulpa in KYSO Flash (Issue 2, Winter 2015)
“Wendy and Brian...” is among 100 personal favorites on
Clare’s List, selected from among a thousand works published
in KYSO Flash over the course of six years.