by Tom Hazuka
Halfway back from Hawaii, most passengers on the redeye are asleep. Hunter doubts he’ll be able to join them, even in the business class seat he’s splurged on. He glances at his wife, who has the gift of crashing anywhere. Wrong verb on an airplane, he realizes.
But Sara isn’t sleeping; she’s staring at him. Hand stroking high up his thigh, she whispers warm in his ear.
‘Bathroom in the back is open. Mile High Club meeting in thirty seconds.’
Hunter grins at the joke, but her eyes are dead serious. With a curt nod, like a soldier heading off on a mission, she gets up and strides toward the rear of the plane.
It’s a great sign, right? Bounteous sex in the first three days on Kauai was followed by none in the last two, when Sara seemed a trifle cool toward him, somehow a link or two more distant in the chain that binds them.
Hunter unbuckles his seatbelt, armpits suddenly swampy. He sometimes kids Sara about his membership in the Mile High Club, which he joined years ago courtesy of an ex-girlfriend who specialized in that sort of thing. Meanwhile Sara is still on the club’s waiting list, where he assumed she wanted to stay.
He sidles up the aisle. Two flight attendants perch on fold-down seats, lost in a fashion magazine and a paperback. He taps the door. It accordions open and he pushes in. He shoves the door shut, slides the bolt.
‘The meeting will come to order,’ she says, reaching for his zipper. They wriggle each other’s pants below their knees. In such cramped quarters there’s only one real alternative.
‘Bow wow,’ she says, and leans over the toilet with her hands on the wall.
Hunter tries to keep his jeans taut against his calves so they don’t drop to the nasty floor. He’s half an inch into Sara’s initiation when the plane lurches down, then thrashes side to side. Hunter is flung away from her. Stuff rattles and bangs in the galley on the other side of the wall. Someone screams.
‘This is Captain Collins. We’ve encountered some rough air. Return to your seats immediately and fasten your belts.’
The plane is bouncing like the sky is full of potholes. Hunter detests turbulence, but trying to pull up his pants while holding the sink with one hand leaves him little time to be terrified.
Knuckles rap at the door. ‘Folks, return to your seats!’
Their eyes connect. Folks?
‘Oh Jesus,’ Sara says.
Hunter gulps the knot in his throat. The plane bucks him against the door, and Sara grabs his shirt. Like drunks after last call they stumble into the aisle, clutching each other despite the embarrassment. A wrinkled harridan glares at them like Torquemada. They totter past the belted-in flight attendants. ‘Hurry, folks!’ one orders, lips curling in a righteous smile Hunter recalls from his Bible Belt childhood.
They tumble into their seats, Hunter’s heart thumping. He squeezes Sara’s hand. Why? To reassure himself? She enjoys turbulence, thinks it’s fun, like rocking a ski lift chair over jagged boulders a hundred feet below.
‘So,’ she says softly, ‘how’s it feel to get slut-shamed?’
‘What? I mean…’
‘Feels like the whole plane’s looking at us, doesn’t it?’
It wasn’t my idea, he thinks. ‘Kind of.’
Sara leans in close, like when she invited him to the bathroom. How long ago was that, five minutes? Less?
‘Did you get it in?’
‘You couldn’t tell?’ Hunter tries to sound aggrieved, but in the jerking aircraft all he sounds is scared.
‘I maybe felt something.’
Hunter can smell her shampoo—lemon, maybe, or some kind of flower.
‘Any penetration,’ she says, ‘however slight, is sufficient to complete the offense.’
‘It’s the army’s definition of rape.’
‘How do you know that?’
‘I picked it up somewhere, like an STD.’
The plane shudders orgasmically. Hunter grits his teeth and squeezes his eyes tight. He realizes this is a strange and memorable moment in his life, yet minutes ago he wouldn’t have expected any of it.
Sara grips his wrist. ‘The point is that it counts. I’m in the club.’
He considers quoting Groucho Marx about not wanting to belong to any club that would have him as a member. The bumps level out but he knows that can change in a second.
‘Of course you are, baby.’ His eyes are still closed hard. ‘Of course you are.’
Tom Hazuka has published three novels, over sixty-five short stories and two books of nonfiction. He has edited numerous anthologies, including Flash Fiction, Flash Fiction Funny, Flash Nonfiction Funny and Sudden Flash Youth. He teaches at Central Connecticut State University. Links to his writing and original songs can be found at tomhazuka.com.