Cover art by Dan Hiller

Phoebe 37.1, Spring 2008

Kim Chinquee

There were flybys where I lived and I was curious about them. Their sounds pounded on the hollow of my ears. I got used to the sound and smell of airplanes, living on the airbase, and got to know the aircraft schedule, timing it like clockwork. When the airplanes flew and landed at odd times, you knew something wasn’t normal. At the base in Mississippi, there was a path on the outline of the airfield, where I would go speed walking, pumping my arms with a pair of plastic dumbbells. I noticed each arrival and ascension, each bird on a mission, gathering for young ones. I would take a break, sitting on a bench, chewing on some celery that I’d packed up in the morning. The carriers were clunky, reminding me of my son’s toys I always stepped on. In time, we got on one of those C5s and took a ride to England. The seats were made of net, and the loud roar was a resounding headache. It became a war invading your eardrum. My son was just a toddler. The plane was packed with other airmen getting stationed other places. I changed Alan’s dirty diaper, and the aircrew handed out tin boxes that looked rescued from a junkyard. I had a ham sandwich, gave half of it to Alan and I emptied my juice in Alan’s bottle, which I knew he was too old for. The base was full of empty buildings, like a bank waiting for a savings. There were no planes on the airfield and I found solace there, thinking of my husband, who used to stay out late, saying his F16 was having problems. He’d been a mechanic, fixing jets. One day in England there was an air show. I went with Alan to the village and got fish and chips and asked for extra catsup. We came back and spread our lawn chairs. Alan covered his little ears. The planes danced like ballerinas, almost colliding, then floating away. A latecomer would join in at the end of the formation, frolicking like a clown. I pulled Alan on my lap. His shirt was full of bison. I heard the planes roar. Then a bang. A fire had started. Raining pieces of an engine. A parachute descended. I got up to see closer.


Kim Chinquee is the recipient of a Henfield Prize and a Pushcart Prize. She writes flash fiction, short stories, novels, nonfiction, and poetry. She is a regular contributor to Noon, Denver Quarterly, Conjunctions, and has also published work in Ploughshares, The Nation, StoryquarterlyFiction, Mississippi Review, and over a hundred other journals and anthologies. She is the author of the collections Oh Baby, Pretty and Pistol, senior editor of ELJ (Elm Leaves Journal), and associate editor of New World Writing. She lives in Buffalo, NY.