I Know These Things — Attalea Rose

This was not one of the airports with an intercom that spoke in English and Spanish. It was one of those Northern airports, one of the regional ones with sixteen gates and exorbitantly high ticket prices. The intercom, in the few instances it chirped to life, delineated final boarding calls in English and English only, which suited Miriam just fine because she knew English and English only.

Sitting in the peeling faux-leather chair closest to the window at Gate B8, she propped her slippered feet up on the top of her carry-on and thumbed her way through a pocket-sized paperback copy of Moby Dick. The print was too small for her to read without her reading glasses, but she had left them at the hotel and was too cheap to buy a new pair from the over-priced airport kiosk. Her head reclined on a cheetah-print neck pillow—newly purchased from the aforementioned kiosk—her grey hair pooled atop it.

Miriam was at Gate B8, the furthest gate from security and the gate assigned to the first flight of the morning. 7:10 am departure. Boarding started in twenty minutes. The sun had just begun to rise, and for every minute Miriam spent on Moby Dick, she spent three watching the bland, colourless dawn.

Gate B8 was mildly cluttered. The three rows of connected seats had been claimed, except for courtesy seats between waiting passengers. The air murmured with soft chatter between adult passengers and the squeals of impatient, half-asleep half-angry children.

“Is this seat taken?” a wide-eyed young woman with a bulging, purple suitcase asked.

“Oh, no,” Miriam said, gesturing to the open seat to her left. She snapped Moby Dick closed and shuffled in her seat as the woman sat down. At the odd angle Miriam’s head was craned, her neck pillow gave her a triple chin.

The woman ignored Miriam, focused instead on her phone. Her creamy gold acrylic nails clicked against her phone screen, and she worried the fleshy part of her thumb over a slender crack in the screen protector. She gnawed on her lower lip as she refreshed and refreshed and refreshed the app.

“What’s the matter, dear?” Miriam asked.

The woman glanced up at Miriam, taking a second to realize she’d been asked a question. “Oh, I have a tight connection,” she explained. “I’m checking for delays. Honestly, a short delay for the next flight would be a blessing.”

“Where are you headed?”

“Birmingham. Back to school at UAB.”

“Nursing student?”

The young woman blinked. “How did you know?”

“You’ve got that look in your eye.” Miriam readjusted her neck pillow. “What’s your name?”



Edith, assuming the conversation had concluded, pulled out her phone again.

“Well, Edith, you’re going to be a great nurse,” Miriam said, tapping Moby Dick against her armrest. “I know these things.”

Edith offered Miriam a tight-lipped smile. “Thank you.”

“Do you have a boyf—” Miriam was interrupted by the intercom.

“Attention passengers on flight 3777 to Atlanta, Georgia. This flight has been delayed due to bad weather. The new departure time is 8:30am.”

Edith frantically tapped the screen of her phone, her mascara threatening to run. “I’m not going to make it.”

Miriam put her hand on Edith’s shoulder. “Don’t worry, love,” she soothed. She tried to brush a lock of hair behind Edith’s ear. Edith batted her hand away, casting a scornful glance, which Miriam seemed to not notice.

Edith crossed her legs and turned away, hunched over her phone.

“No need to make such a fuss,” Miriam said, half to herself. “The flight won’t take the full hour and a half. It’ll be more like an hour, probably even less.”

“How would you know?”

“It’s the wind. Flights, once they’re up in the air, they’re always early. Because of the wind.”

“The wind,” Edith deadpanned.

“Yes, the wind.” Miriam wiggled her butt in her chair. “All the flights are faster because of the wind. Three hours is two. Two hours is one. Wind.”

“I don’t think that’s. . . Yeah, wind.”

Miriam smiled smugly. “I know these things,” she said. “My son is a pilot. He told me so.” Miriam opened Moby Dick again and bent the spine backward.

“Be right back,” Edith muttered. She walked to the ticket counter, her bag rolling behind her. Edith changed her next flight to one with a three-hour layover, then hid behind a pillar out of Miriam’s line of sight until the intercom — in English — invited the passengers to board.

Attalea Rose is a fiction writer native to the Pacific Northwest currently residing in the South. Her short stories appear or are forthcoming in The Marr’s Field Journal, The Albion Review, Arachne Press’ Byways Anthology, and others. She was the contest winner of Periphery Journal’s 60th issue. Her debut novella, When the Flowers Breathe, was published by Red Rook Press in April 2023. Twitter: @attalearose