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August 16, 2021

to attend

Tyler Barton

Gus’s first flight with Delta. Name-tag upside down till takeoff. Odd odors all through cabin. Beer burp. Teriyaki. Are the letters from his new health insurer truly not bills? Bánh mì? Even though they say this is not a bill, how could they not be? Subway stench. In his head it starts, his list of treasures. Which every job has: canned air. Neck pillow. Texans. Window-seaters concealing gasps. People who pray with people who have never prayed and never will again. Middle seaters concealing gas. Dentures resting in the empty soda cup. The beer burp is back. Corn. Garlic bread. The cabin beginning to remind him of Golden Corral. Gus wonders why he’s so apologetic when asking his dentist if he’s going to be charged for this. Pickled something. He has to find a new one—Dr. Vu’s out of network. Maybe therapy is covered. Could talk to someone. The children never know its on airplane mode. Tap-tap away at the glass regardless. Conversing with who? Or is it whom? Air from a can. Neck pillow heavy as a dachshund.

Sug?” says a warm southern voice from the aisle seat. “Honey, is that short for Sugar?”

“Splenda or the real stuff?” Gus says.

“No, I mean your nametag.”

“I thought I’d fixed that,” he says, thumbing the magnet apart.

“Who says you didn’t?”