Meredith Sue Willis
Nineteen Sixty-Nine

"What pisses me off," she says (and he tries not to stare at her across the rough planks of the table with its pale moons of beer pitcher stains), "what pisses me off beyond belief is that you think nobody can touch you up in the sky in that damn flying tin can."
"No," he says. He feels everything is wrong: afternoon light falling on a nighttime place. "Backwards. When I try to sleep, I hear whistling."
"What whistling? What are you talking about?"
"The plane going down or maybe missiles. And after the whistle, I float. That's how I know I'm dead, because I float."
"So why the hell are you going?"
She is hard as fingernails tapping. She has black around her eyes, whitish pink lipstick, metal beads in her hair, and little gun barrel points at the ends of her breasts. He had expected the blue strapless prom gown like crisp bells one smaller one larger with the narrow parts together. He can't get used to girls cursing. It adds to how hard. This place is too hard for what he has to say.
So he doesn't talk.
She looks towards the door.
He says, "If you float down, they pick you off. And even if you don't get shot, you're in the middle of nowhere, and they find you."
She shakes her head from side to side.
As hard as the black enamel on the fuel tank of his Harley, which he just sold. He looks into his glass of beer instead of at her. "They give us capsules. If you get captured, all you have to do is - "
"Listen," she says, "This eats shit. Did you come because you want to sleep with me? Sex is nothing, if that's what you want."
He can't hear crudeness today. He says, "I'll be able to take the poison. I know I will."
"What are you saying?" Maybe she can't hear him either. "Are you talking about scared?"
He is trying to say that floating at night is bad. At night, you float to death.
"Don't you believe in God?" she says. "I thought our Southern boys were all religious. Dropping bombs for Christ and then going on to Glory."
"I am going to float away," he says. "I'm telling you that I'm floating away."
"Oh shit," she says. "Oh shit, shit, shit."
She looks away and jiggles her knee. She is not who she was, but she is all there is right now. She looks like she might cry.
He says, "Please don't curse. I know you do it, and I know you have the right to do it, but I don't want to hear you. It's a request. I'm making a request."
She says, "Let us save you. I know people. I know a hundred people. We can save you from - what you're afraid of. It would be our pleasure to take you away, like the Underground Railroad. It would make us happy."
He smiles to himself about her beaded friends saving him.
But she has chosen not to curse, so he believes he will be able to do what he has to do.