Steve!, I mentally hissed. After receiving stares for the better part of five months, I had finally realized that his reading my mind, meant he could read my mind! After that, my communications with him, at least while I was out in public, was strictly mental, as was I.
I had boarded the plane like I had a million planes before, using my status like a badge to get me through the lines and into my seat before the aircraft was a crowded mess. Seat 12A, a window seat, just like I liked it, and on the smaller plane, only had one seat next to me, in that rare instance that I had to get up to use the bathroom. I sat down, took out my Adam, slipped it into the seat back pocket in front of me, pulled out my Ipod so it was accessible, and closed my eyes, trying to fall asleep before takeoff, as I often did.
I get it, I really do, some people are just social creatures, but I am not and when the woman, a little on the hefty side, poked me and asked me to hold her stuff while she sat down, I’ll admit to being a little irritated. But, I had a three and a half hour flight ahead of me, right next to this woman, so I acquiesced, and held her purse while she tried to maneuver the backpack she had set in her seat up into the overhead bin. She finally sat down, with an audible thump, and I am certain the plane shook. I handed her back her bag, closed my eyes, and tried to sleep again.
The drink cart was two rows away when I reopened them, and to my dismay, the woman next to me had her tray down, and it was covered in paperwork. I swear that I counted at least ten different piles, if you could call them that, on that little tray. I let out a sigh, and grabbed my tablet, powering it on, debating whether to watch a video, write, or play games. I had settled on writing, and fished out my headphones, plugging them into my ears just as the lady on the plane, thanks Mr. Carlin, asked me what I wanted to drink.
I ordered my usual and as I was reaching over the woman next to me, something on one of the papers caught my attention. It was innocent really, but I saw the word Graham.
Nah, couldn’t be I had thought or at least I had meant to think, to myself.
“Yes it could,” Steve chuckled, looking at me from the aisle, trailing behind the beverage cart, a tiny bottle of wine in each hand.
I sighed again, and peeked another glance at the papers on her tray, and caught sight of the high-liter in her hand. I read more of the sheet I had seen and sure enough, it was my Graham. The woman on the plane next to me had printed out my story. And was editing it, I realized as she drew a yellow line across the page and then scribbled a note, I struggled to read it, but was unable to.
So intent was I on reading, that I missed Steve’s tail snake up and over the tray, and knock my glasses off. I reached up to stop them from falling, but only succeeded in hitting myself in the face, and then watched as my glasses fell into the woman’s lap.
Instinctively, I reached for them, and realized where my hand was as the woman looked up at me and smiled.
“Hi, my name’s Julia,” she said.
“Go for it! Your hand’s already there!” Steve said.
Shut up! I said internally, and probably made a face while doing so. I grabbed my glasses and quickly retracted my hand, “Uh, I’m Jonathan.”
“Oh come on, you can do better than that,” Steve laughed, walking back from where the drink cart was, with two more bottles of wine.
We made small talk for a minute or two, I found out she lived in a loft in Dallas, and worked for one of the telecomm companies in Richardson.
I told her my dad used to work with them, and we talked about that for a minute longer, before dead silence.
“Ask her,” Steve prompted, tilting back one of the small bottles and downing it’s contents in one long pull.
Shut up, I snapped again, picturing an image of his tail mounted to a plate on my wall for emphases. In response, the image of him and a number of his companions hunting me through what looked like the Savannah’s of West Africa.
“So uh, what are you um, reading there?” I asked, not sure where this topic was going to take me.
“Oh, something a friend of mine online told me to read, it’s rough around the edges but I like the story so far.” She responded.
It’s a first draft, I yelled in my head.
“You keep telling yourself that,” Steve smirked.
“What’s it called?” I asked, with the one in a million hope that someone else had done something similar to my story, or maybe I had misread what I read, but those hopes were dashed against the proverbial rocks, when she told me the name of my story.
“Oh, I’ve heard of that, I think,” I admitted. “Where are you at in it?”
“You are so dull,” Steve chimed in, returning from the back of the plane, carrying another bottle of wine and what looked like one of rum as well. “They’re out of wine.” He smiled and used his tail to twist the top off of the rum.
“I just got to Wal-Mart.”
“Oh, with Sam?”
“You have read the story.”
“Yeah, but I’m not sure I like this Wal-Mart thing.”
“I just can’t see a Wal-Mart doing that, with the turbines and stuff.”
“There’s one in McKinney just like it. I modeled it after that.”
“There you go,” said Steve.
What? I replayed what I had said and realized what Steve meant.
“Oh,” She pointed at me, and then at the sheets of paper in front of her, her mouth moving, but no sounds coming out.
“Now you’ve done it,” Steve added, before gargling with the rum. “Ugh, I hate the taste of wine.”
“Then why do you drink it?” I asked out loud.
“What?” She asked.
Damn I thought.
“Ha ha!” Steve laughed.
“Nothing,” I tried to recover.
“Hell, you’ve already had your hand in her crotch.” Steve smirked.
I glared at the demon. He glared back, and used his tail to press the button on my armrest. I collapsed backwards as my seat reclined to it’s fullest.
“Are you okay?” The lady behind me and Julia asked at the same time.
I took a moment to compose myself and answered in the affirmative before restoring my chair to it’s previously un-reclined position.
Already embarrassed, I decided to go for the question that had been plaguing me since I saw my story on the tray. “How do you like it? Really?”
“Like I said, it’s rough around the edges, but I like it. I really like the Pennyman.”
“That seems to be the consensus. It is a first draft though,” I admitted.
“But,” she continued, “I’m curious, who are the Ancients and what caused the explosions?”
“The Ancients huh?” I stalled, trying to decide if I wanted to give that piece of information away just yet. “They’re old…” I said obtusely.
“Well, yeah,” She began, and saw the adamant look in my eyes. I was not going to give away this secret, not yet at least.
“I will tell you what. I give my first hint as to who they are in Chapter 21.”
“That’s it. You’re telling me when the hint is coming?” I wasn’t sure if her disgust was mock or not.
“Can I see your notes?” I asked, feeling even braver.
“For another hint.”
Internally I struggled, but only momentarily, craving the feedback.
“Well, they’re gods…” I said, hoping that would work.
“But I had already kind of figured that out….” She pouted.
“Fine,” I gave in, “The original count of the Ancients, and I mean original when I wrote the story, was twenty-five. It was a nice round number and that was really why I used it. Now though, that number is more like fourteen, because well, it works with the whole god thing.”
“But the story is written already…”
“That is the exact reason I am still calling it a first draft. So there is your second hint.”
“Ok, so you have some tense issues.”
“I know, and I also have an unhealthy love for the apostrophe. What about specific feedback?”
“Well, the scene where Chris tries to start Jud’s car just felt to laid back.” She began. This was the kind of criticism I was after. She did not tell me it sucked, which was a good start.
“How so?” I asked.
“For starters, I think that Peter’s anger towards Chris should be greater. Like he should hit the kid or something. And maybe leave out the detail about the cars being empty. Build up the tension more…”
I grabbed the marble notebook and a pen out of my backpack, which was a struggle in the small confines of an my seat on the airplane. I started writing down everything she said, and by the time the plane landed, I had a couple of pages of notes, and a new friend.
“See, that wasn’t that bad.” Steve said as I exited the plane. He was lounging behind the ticket counter, his tail was tickling the legs of a woman in a short mini skirt.
“No, no it wasn’t…” I said out loud, and ignored the looks that I got.