On a Flight to Singapore for a Weekend Shopping Trip

By Lana Spendl

The plane was experiencing turbulence because Mary Louise was snoring so hard. Behind her satin sleep mask, she was fighting ninjas. They had stolen into her home in Massachusetts in the night. One had used a grappling hook to climb up the side of the house. In her dream, she was lithe, like a gazelle. But dangerous, too. Like a cheetah.

When the stewardess poked her shoulder, Mary Louise’s hand flew to her chest in fright. She grasped at her beaded necklaces and ample bosom and exhaled a sigh so big the napkins of the other passengers fluttered away. She pulled her sleep mask to her forehead and smacked her lips.

Before her, the face of the stewardess hovered like a lover’s—a pretty lover and a woman (something Mary Louise had tried because she believed human desire should be explored without shame)—but instead of leaning in for a kiss, the red mouth of the stewardess told her to desist. People were alarmed, the woman said. The babies in economy seating screamed into the air.

Mary Louise took a moment to process the request. Then she grew shocked. Then irate. The men in security had taken her sleep apnea mask away, she said—the thing that gave her an elephant’s trunk and a quiet night’s rest—and she had begged them to let her keep it, she had pleaded with interlaced hands. But they ripped it from her grip and shoved it under someone’s desk—no doubt with plans for later resale—and now she was the one being shamed, she was the one being thrown against the wall in chains. Well, she wasn’t going to stand for it. She wanted her voice to be heard. She wanted to see the supervisor of the plane.

And as she gesticulated and yelled and stuck a finger in the stewardess’ face, she noticed the other passengers holding crying children to their breasts. They whispered to one another in tongues she did not understand and, one by one, they turned their tired eyes away.

Lana Spendl’s work has recently appeared or is forthcoming in The Cortland Review, Hobart, Greensboro Review, Quarter After Eight, Atticus Review, Monkeybicycle, Prick of the Spindle, and other magazines. She holds an MFA in creative writing and an MA in Hispanic literatures from Indiana University.