The small prop plane rises from the runway in Salt Lake City. Rain falls. Charcoal clouds churn. The plane pitches left to right.
A business woman in heels and pearls grips her armrest across the aisle from me; her knuckles yellow, then whiten.
The plane dives suddenly, sending my stomach into my throat and drawing a gasp from everyone onboard.
The eight year-old and her little brother behind me throw their hands in the air. “Weeeeeee!” they laugh. “This is so cool, Dad!” Dad is silent.
A man in sunglasses, flat billed cap cocked sideways, crosses his shiny black patten shoes, bows his head and makes the sign of the cross over his gold chains and pectoral muscles.
The plane climbs, drops, rolls left and right, drops, zig-zagging its was through the gray vapor over Utah.
The flight attendant grabs the microphone and begins an altar call: “Every head bowed, every eye closed, no one looking at their neighbor…”
Ok, so I made that last part up but an invitation would work now for sure. A plane full of people buckled in and out of control. Hope, if not belief, is high.
Big sister and little brother are still laughing; weeing, exclaiming. “This! Is! Aaaawesome!”
Because they’ve never heard of Buddy Holly. They don’t realize that the odds of survival plummet as soon as a singer with a guitar gets on board.
They don’t watch the news. They haven’t heard about the recent crash on the west coast.
They don’t understand meteorology, the science of flight, the effect of a lightning strike on a metal fuselage, what a collision with the the unforgiving ground does to a speeding tube full of flimsy human beings.
I know. The business woman and the probably-athlete beside her knows.
“Woohoo!” big sister shouts. Little brother giggles himself into hiccups. “Wee-hic-eee-hic-eee-hic-eee!”
I turn to the business woman. She glances at me. “Wee,” I deadpan. We’re silent but smiling. White knuckles fill with pink again.
The plane dives.
“This is the best roller coaster ever!”
I relax, nod off and wake up in Spokane.