Locust House Variations, A Weekly Fiction Column by Adam Gnade, “Plans”

The Las Vegas airport is the worst I’ve been to and it’s also the connecting airport I’ve stopped at the most—the sea of clattering, chiming, ringing slot machines; the gamblers drunk and excited upon landing, drained and sour on the way out, gray-faced, tired. The food in the Las Vegas airport is the worst too; the healthy burrito-bowl place is shit; I’ve never seen the bagel shop open, and now I’m just complaining.

I have a list of friends to see in San Diego and a list of places to go. An actual list. I’ve written it down: Verbatim Books, the Plot up in Oceanside, a visit with Dean and Renee if I can, Libelula, dinner with PJ and Bettie at Donna Jean, dinner with Jeremy and Christine at Pokez, Ocean Beach, the woods outside the Che, Black’s, lunch with Brant and Reyna, Crystal Pier, the P.B. Rec Center (to take notes for something I’m writing), El Veganito, Holsem Coffee, Saguaro’s, Ranchos, Sunset Cliffs, Plant Power. Of course, most of this will be impossible. Alison and I will be in San Diego less than 48 hours, after which we fly to Santa Cruz for my cousin Cara’s wedding. So, plans, lists, amendments, things crossed out because there’s only so much time and others added in because they’re essential. I’ve got an hour left of the flight before we land in Vegas (to catch my connection to San Diego and meet up with Alison) and I’ve spent every minute of it making plans. Plans are hope. Hope is rare. Especially now.

The thin, older Chinese man two rows ahead of me keeps asking his young, shapeless, pink-faced white seatmate: “You know that guy Joseph Stalin?” His seatmate looks like a maggot, a grub. Apparently, he’s not getting an answer, so he continues to ask the question. Is the grub-maggot-seatmate ignoring him? Mad at him? Scared of him? For a moment, I consider applying for a Spirit Airlines credit card, but now it feels like it wouldn’t be a good idea. I don’t trust anything involving special offers. Corporations don’t care about “special.” Not the kind of “special” you want. The “special” you want is altruistic. Corporations are not altruistic. They’re looking for an angle to trick you out of whatever they can. The “special” you want is a gift, a miracle, a creature of sweetness, good chaos, and luck. Corporations are too mathematic for that. They want results and the results they want are detrimental to your financial well-being. They don’t give a fuck about you beyond your money and because of that, “special offers” are to be avoided at all cost.


That’s an opinion.

It is.

Deciding upon opinions then sticking with them is part of how you develop a personality, but often people hate you for your opinions and the more of them you have the more obnoxious you are. Or rather, the more you tell people your opinions the more obnoxious you become. People will like you if you listen to their opinions, but will you like them? Maybe the way for everyone to like each other is for no one to hear anything while always being a reliable, attentive listener.

The flight attendant comes over the PA and tells us the name of two people who are having birthdays today and asks us to clap for them—”a round of applause,” she says happily with italicized emphasis on the word “applause” and at least three exclamation points. At first, I swear I won’t do it, but as soon as everyone on the plane starts clapping, I clap too and it feels good to clap; like, hey, maybe we’re all in this together, like, y’know, life sucks but at least we have birthdays and birthdays are nice, right? The flight attendant says, “Thaaaanks, guys.” She says “guys” like “guice.” She has a very loud, squawking voice through the speakers like a bird imitating a human. She says, “If you see them down on the Strip, buy them a drink. I’d sing, but I can’t.” I imagine a parrot saying this, a parrot dressed as a flight attendant with a nice little blue hat, and the image works, it tracks. I like the parrot better than the person and I’ve met neither. How’s that for some bullshit?

Now the plane begins to descend.

It feels as if we’re sinking through the clouds—sinking deeper into soft, cottony nothingness.

Out the window—gray desert wasteland down below, pale blue sky above, midday haze, all sunflash and glare.

Somewhere below us—shitty Las Vegas.

Adam Gnade