“Expect some turbulence,” the pilot announced as the plane drifted over the snow topped peaks and began to glide through the canyon. On her lap she held a copy of the SF Chronicle. A man and woman, only in their twenties, had been attacked by an intruder to their rooftop flat. Both were bound and the woman was raped and then forced to watch the intruder beat her husband’s head “to mush.” Then he set fire to her husband’s corpse as she escaped across the rooftops of the adjoining buildings.
“Oh god,” she said, folding the newspaper and placing it on the empty seat next to her where she’d found it.
The wings see-sawed as the plane fought the Washoe crosswinds. Lower and lower they dropped until she could see the highway leading into town, the trailer parks and auto wrecking lots and then the landing strip. Too late now, she thought as the wheels touched ground.
“Welcome to Reno Nevada,” the pilot announced. “Despite getting roughed up a bit during landing, the temperature outside is a balmy 75 degrees. Those of you continuing on to Salt Lake, please remain seated.”
Well, maybe it wasn’t not too late. She could remain seated.
No one was there to greet her at the gate. I should have known they wouldn’t come. I should have flown straight to Portland.
Still she held out hope that maybe they’d remember as she walked to baggage claims to retrieve her duffel. Not both of them, but at least one.
Fifteen minutes passed before the first pieces of luggage began tumbling onto the carousel. Fifteen minutes of sideways glances around the crowded arrivals area thinking perhaps she should have waited at the gates a little longer. Perhaps that’s where they’d gone.
No, they’d forgotten. Or just hadn’t cared.
After her duffel arrived she grabbed it from the carousel and went outside to wait on the curb. For some reason she remembered that a rival high school was within walking distance of the airport. The joke at Reno High was that it looked more like a prison than a school. For example, there was no grassy lawn on which to hang with friends before school. Or Dairy Queen across the street. Just a concrete yard surrounded by a chainlink fence beyond which were auto body shops and bingo parlors.
Also within walking distance was the-redbrick hospital where she and Nora had gotten fired from their candy-striping duties for excessive silliness and where in the dungeon-like basement she’d first smuggled Marboros to the doomed Nancy Jean. Further west, on the river, lay the gothic “Institute for the Mentally Impaired” where Johnny Belle volunteered. What stories Johnny Belle had to tell of the patients she’d met! One of them ⏤ an African American man ⏤ had been found wandering the streets with a severe head injury. The injury resulted in amnesia and since they could find no one to “claim” him, he was institutionalized. Johnny Belle became intrigued with the case because the man was obviously well-educated and articulate. “I must find out who he really is and reconnect him with his people.” she would say with the sugar of a Louisiana belle. Meanwhile in his sunken study her husband ⏤ the Dean ⏤ and his salon of eminent writers drank Chianti and wrote bawdy limericks. No women allowed.
Funny the things that remain so clear in your mind while all else begins to blur. They’re like finding the lost pieces to a jigsaw puzzle in your pocket. Or the Joker from long lost deck of cards. Enough she thought and went inside to find a pay phone.