there are two men in my assigned bathtub.
One claims the middle seat.
I like the middle he announces.
It sounds sexual but isn’t. He’s an all-beige man, with bleached skin and bleached teeth, the color of an over-proofed virgin. No one listens to him or the hymns he is humming. They are too busy belting themselves into bathtubs with naked strangers under overhead bins full of meat that smells blue and baguettes that smell of Gerard Depardieu.
The other man in my row glued himself to the window before I arrived. Literally. With Elmer’s school glue and rubber cement and hot glue for good measure and bad burns.
I like the window he announces.
His speech is slurred from a cocktail of sniffed rubber cement and swallowed tiny bottles of booze, cheap wine and cheaper booger glue. He’s watching the in-flight movie Titanic for the tenth time, measuring to see if there’s room on the escape door for Leonardo DiCaprio and Leonardo da Vinci and maybe a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle or four.
There are pink subway tiles lining the aisles and shower caps like gifts, folded into rubber ducks. I couldn’t afford golden girly tiles and tubs and had to bathe coach. A baby is crying in row 6. He’s getting a bath, naked as a Jaybird and named Jay too. My companions admire my naked legs and the baby’s chubby ones too. One is a leg doctor. A physician of femurs. A tender of tibias.
I want a gin and tonic the row 6 baby announces.
We laugh because he isn’t old enough to drink.
We feel turbulence, the men and the baby and the attendants with hot washcloths and hot boiled peanuts in paper bags.
When it feels safer for a moment, I pull out wax and fire and molds from my candlemaker safe. The window seat man tries to roast a rump roast and his own rump while my middle seat man pulls yeasty dough out of his sourdough mouth.
Take your marks and take your seats Captain Marks says.
I try to grip my seat to my seat but the daisy decals slide away as we slide into Miami.
A bath water hurricane drenches us all.
Both men look to me for comfort, sad beige eyes and glued-shut eyes.
Thank you for being our friend they say.
I can offer them no comfort and no friendship as water pours from above and below and our bathtub sinks to the bottom, leaving bread and beef and candles and rubber duckies floating on the surface.
We hold hands and kick bicycle naked legs up higher and higher until we catch a collective breath. I try to light one of my artisan candles but the wick is wet. We are all wet as we float in darkness together, bobbing and weaving, a Turbine Mallard wing waving at us, sinking with us, finally sinking us.
Somewhere, the baby is still crying.
Rub-a-dub-dub we sing to him, a trio chorus.
Amy Barnes has words at FlashBack Fiction, Popshot Quarterly, X-RAY Lit, The Molotov Cocktail, Lucent Dreaming, Anti-Heroin Chic, Flash Frog, Janus Literary, Perhappened, Cabinet of Heed, Spartan Lit and others. She’s a Fractured Lit associate editor, Gone Lawn co-editor and reads for Narratively, Retreat West, NFFD, CRAFT, The MacGuffin, and Taco Bell Quarterly. Her work has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize, Best Microfiction, and longlisted for Wigleaf50 in 2021. Her debut flash collection “Mother Figures” was published by ELJ Editions in June, 2021. A full length collection is forthcoming from word west in spring, 2022.