Business or Pleasure

by E.M. Killaley

 

‘Business or pleasure?’  I asked as the seatbelt light flashed off.

‘Both, I guess.’  My seat mate smiled thoughtfully at me.  ‘You?’

‘Pleasure,’ I responded.  She was what a lot of people would call plain, but she had the kind of laid back grace that made her attractive.  ‘You don’t seem so sure?’

She shrugged.  ‘It’s complicated.  Is Atlanta home for you?’

‘My parents live a few hours away.  I’m dropping in to see them after a job interview.’

‘Interview?  I thought you said this was a vacation.’

I laughed.  ‘It’s part of the fun.  It’s at a camp I went to every summer as a kid, I’m hoping to become one of the assistant directors.’

‘Oh?’  Her hand twitched toward her hair.

‘I’ve been working there summers during university.’  I could feel the wide smile spreading across my face, something I could never resist when talking about the place.

She began to turn away towards the window.  ‘Did you ever go to summer camp?’  I wanted to keep talking to her.

‘Once.’  She glanced behind us, and when I turned I could see the flight attendants wheeling the trolley up the aisle.  ‘I can’t imagine working at a camp.  But then, I don’t really like kids.’

I tilted my head back and forth.  ‘Yeah, you’re not the first person to say that.  They can be a lot — kids can be messy.  But they’re the fun kind of mess.’

Her hand went to her hair again, this time taking a small chunk and beginning to twist it compulsively.  Something about the behaviour was familiar.

‘I guess that reminds me of one of the weirdest things to happen at camp.  It was when I was a kid.’  Something bumped my elbow, and over my shoulder I saw it was the drinks trolley, serving the row behind us.  When I turned back she was staring at me.

‘What happened?’

‘We were doing this play before going home, and one of the girls had really bad stage fright.  I felt really bad for her,’  I touched my chest to emphasise, ‘but the counselors made her do it.  In the finale, everyone had to be on stage, and the counselor directing it thought it’d be cool to have some of the guys come out with girls on their shoulders.’

She raised an eyebrow, her hair a tightening coil.

‘Yeah, didn’t make much sense to me either.’

The attendants had reached us.  I asked for Coke, but my seat mate asked for whisky, which they had to get from the back.

‘Halfway through the girl started to slip a little — I wasn’t that strong.  So I tightened my grip, but then she started to move around a lot, and I tightened it even more, thinking she was about to fall.  Suddenly she went rigid.  I felt something warm spreading down my back, and I realised she’d been trying to get down.’  I paused for effect, grinning.  ‘She’d pissed herself, and me, out of fright.’

For a moment, neither of us said anything.  She turned in her seat, mumbling, ‘Where’s that drink?’

‘So,’ I searched uncomfortably for a new topic.  ‘What business are you traveling for?’

We watched the flight attendants and trolley disappear to the back as the seatbelt light came on again suddenly.  The plane jolted.

‘I work for a company that’s buying an old summer camp.’

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