Once again I find myself at the airport. DTW the abbreviation. In the last six weeks this marks the 7th start to a round trip. This time I am at the gate where the idea for my recently released short story “A Wing and A Prayer” first came to mind.
It’s the announcements here. Every few minutes a prerecorded message comes through loud and clear about the time zone, directions, the moving walk way, or the tram service. From this perch at gate 56, against the gray marble façade walls with the red triangle logo, sits a tree. I don’t think it’s a real tree. Something Shultz might put into a holiday special, it is in need of love or attention, perhaps sunlight, but clearly dusting. On this tree, a few years ago, sat one of the many birds that lived in this mile-long corridor of international traffic and travel. There were enough birds that posted signs and announcements used to ask people to not feed them and be mindful of the practices and noises used to scar them off.
In door birds are not that uncommon. We used to see them at the Oakland Mall in a time when mall’s were in fashion, smoking inside was acceptable, and parachute pants were the rage. It is rare for me to visit a shopping mall, but it is very common for me to be at an airport, where rolling down the moving walkway I can catch the scent of the fresh leather on racks, see the pressed and folded shirts one may need from poor packing, or the gadget stories every few yards that want to sell you replacement parts and overpriced headphones.
“A Wing and A Prayer” is more than a short story, but less than a novella. It more than just about birds who flock together in an airport, and less than traditional in the views it expresses about how different people can work together.
This short story, among everything I have written, stays in my thoughts most frequently as I fly in and out of DTW.