2,000 words or less: “Skimming the Clouds”

Though not the worst of the several contenders for the title, Tuesday easily ranks as one of the more tiresome travel days I’ve had in my life. I was about three-quarters of the way through my second of three flights for the day, a triple-header that was bookended by a four-hour drive on the front side and, eventually, a two-hour drive as a final knockout nightcap, and was making an effort to fight off that drunken oxygen depravity brought on by stale recycled plane air with the pages of William Gibson’s “Pattern Recognition.” That plan was marginally successful; I was making progress with the book, but after a time the poor air, bumpy ride and general over-exhaustion that already had set in. I looked up from Cayce Pollard’s globetrotting to refocus my vision.

The flight had been mostly through overcast skies, but as I looked up from the book I saw that we had cleared the haze and were briefly above the clouds. Above, perfectly clear blue was fading away into dusk, with a splash of orange and yellow on the horizon showing the sky’s final attempts to extend the sun’s efforts for the day. Below, snow-covered landscape, roads and squared-off plots of land, borders dimmed and hazed by the frozen cover.

The plane was beginning its approach to Chicago. For a few moments, it seemed to skim just over the tops of the clouds, as if the pilot was intentionally trying to ride their crests. Fog billowed up from below the wings, most just grazing the bottom of the engines. Some managed to spill over onto the tops of the wings, and some reached high enough to temporarily block the view from my window.

As we descended, the clouds eventually overtook the windows and damped out the sky, leaving only the winking of a white light at the tip of the wing visible in the fog.

A few dark minutes later, we were on the ground.

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