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Reservations Confirmed

 The ticket settles on my desk: a paper tongue
pronouncing "Go away;" a flattened seed
from which a thousand-mile leap through the air can grow.
It's pure potential: a vacation-to-be the way an apple is a pie-to-be, a bullet is a death-to-be.
Or is the future pressed into it inalterably—woven between the slick fibers like secret threads from the U.
S.
Treasury? Is my flight number already flashing as cameras grind and the newly- bereaved moan? Or does it gleam under Arrivals, digits turned innocuous as those that didn't win the raffle for a new Ford truck? If, somewhere, I'm en route now, am I praying the winged ballpoint I'm strapped into will write on Denver's runway, "Safe and Sound"? Was my pocket picked in Burbank, and I've just noticed at thirty thousand feet? Am I smiling, watching the clouds' icefields melt to smoky wisps, revealing lakes like Chinese dragons embroidered in blue below? Lifting my ticket, do I hold a bon voyage, or boiling jet streams, roaring thunderstorms, the plane bounced like a boat on cast iron seas, then the lightning flash, the dizzy plunge, perfectly aware (amid the shrieks and prayers) that, live or die, I won't survive the fall?

by Charles Webb
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