Chapter 1 of Thickly Settled
the satellite toast
The button on my phone was broken so I couldn’t power it down when the flight attendant instructed us to through the cabin speaker. I knew then that I could be the potential cause of a fatal plane crash but said nothing. It gave a drama to the takeoff that was like a recital for the next three weeks. I looked down at my phone like a detonator.
Within fifteen minutes of boarding flight 212 to Boston and taking my seat the Eastern European man next to me decided we would need a bottle of champagne. While it was 8:17am, he made me feel better by adjusting everything to east coast time. He relayed the adjustment to our unexcited flight attendant and explained we required glass flutes. She blankly looked at us with the enthusiasm of the Amish and handed us two plastic cups.
I suggested we celebrate my upcoming nuptials but he said that wouldn’t be necessary and we clinked plastic.
My fiancé of eleven months was not on the flight with me. In fact, she wouldn’t be with me for the first week of our trip to the Cape at all, where we would be staying with her family. We were getting married a week after that.
We had been planning this wedding from Los Angeles for the past eleven months. And when I say “we,” I mean her. I work as a television staff writer and am not allowed to do anything other than pitch jokes and break stories.
I hadn’t left Los Angeles in over two seasons.
“You aren’t drinking that like you mean it.”
His accent was robust. His face looked like an unpainted clown’s mask. While resting it held an unintentional smile. “Join the festivities. We could be vaporized within moments.”
This conversation and the act of traveling, coupled with the general anxiety of staying with her family, had made me smaller.
“Drinking champagne on a flight is much like thinking about Plato while at a ballgame.”
He didn’t explain but rather took my cup and finished it. His accent reminded me of a childhood I never had. He never actually looked me in the eyes, but rather, seemed to be looking at something towards the front of the plane. We drank across three states. He talked like a crowd as we glided over the wrinkled forehead of the Rockies.
My fiancé had to work two more days at her job as an aspiring actress. The restaurant’s holiday crew was always skeletal, but Astrid, being the newest server, was volunteered for the “lead up” shift.
“I sell multi-purpose plastic bands. They can be manipulated to fix leaky pipes or used as inspirational bracelets. That’s how diverse they are. I sold 280,000 of them last fiscal year. Barely got a raise, but you know what?”
He waited. And as he waited I saw him throw his finger up in the air towards our unexcited flight attendant signifying, apparently, that another bottle of champagne was needed.
“Here’s what. I don’t care. I love the job.”
And that was it.
Later on in the trip, outside of the British Beer Company, I wouldn’t be able to recall what he looked like as I tried to explain the flight to my fiancé while also trying to come up with a more accurate game plan to save our wedding, which was three stitches away from complete self-destruction.
“Listen buddy. I don’t expect you to pay me back for the champagne. It was my treat.”
He refused to talk across the entire state of Illinois so I stared out my window.
Venus was in transit. It was an amazing sight. The fact I was in an airplane 30,000 feet up in the sky while Venus, a hazy dot, waned across the burning star that was our sun made me think magic did exist.
For the next ten minutes I continued to think magic existed. Then that passed like the transit of Venus.
This cosmic event wouldn’t happen again for 113 years I wondered if it was a metaphor. For what, I didn’t know. I then wondered how many people on this plane would be dead in a year, if I would be dead in a year. All these things left my mind as a spider crawled upside-down near the light above my head. That spider was traveling cross-country. It would never see the place it had spent its entire life in again unless it stayed on the plane and flew back. It would never know any of these things were happening. It would produce strands of silk, content to find prey on this airbus until death.
I leaned back against the overstuffed seat on flight 212 and stretched a skin over the entire memory and felt the air go empty as we descended through a hole in the sky.
I had no idea what to expect on the Cape. It would be much worse than I imagined.
This is the opening chapter of my novel in progress, Thickly Settled.
Currently: I am working on The Gnome, a short film written by my twin, Jamie Neese & I. It is in the final stages of production.
Jason Neese lives in the direct center of Hollywood where he’s diametrically opposed to being honest about how he got there. He runs killpoet with Cat. He writes novels and scripts. He works in tv. He is left handed. Left handers die 2.3 years earlier than right handed people. He found that on the internet.