In today's story, Layover, coworkers consider a bit of history
Today's prompt was suggested by my friend and fellow yoga teacher, Gretchen Schutte. In addition to teaching at local studios and online, Gretchen also holds yoga retreats in lovely international destinations. Which may be why she had travel on the mind when suggesting this prompt! You can learn more about Gretchen's yoga retreats and regular practices at PeaceinthePause.com.
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More about Susan Quilty
Susan Quilty mainly writes novels, including two standalone novels and her current YA series: The Psychic Traveler Society. Susan's short stories for Freely Written are created during quick writing breaks and shared as a way to practice her narration skills before she dives into recording audio versions of her novels.
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Below is the transcript for Season 1, Episode 84 of Freely Written, a podcast by author Susan Quilty:
Welcome to Freely Written where a simple prompt leads to a little unplanned fiction.
[Light piano music]
Hi, friends! I’m Susan Quilty and today’s prompt is Layover.
Today’s story will be airing on the last day of February. Winter is wrapping up, and spring is just around the corner. For me, warmer weather brings an urge to get out and do more. So it’s fitting that today’s prompt, suggested by my friend Gretchen Schutte, lends itself to a story about travel.
If you’ve heard me talk about Gretchen in past episodes, you may know she’s a wonderful yoga and meditation teacher. Full disclosure: I also teach a class for her virtual studio. I don’t think I’ve mentioned that Gretchen also hosts yoga retreats in beautiful settings. Last year, she held one in Iceland. Next year, she’ll host a retreat in Mexico. You can learn more at Gretchen’s website: PeaceinthePause.com. I’ll add a link in the show notes.
Back to today’s story… As always, I’m following my usual process, where I write whatever comes to mind from the prompt with no planning and very little editing. And then share that story with you.
Let’s see where that led today:
They sat next to each other in another airport. Phones in hand and carry-on bags by their sides. A massive window to their right showed airplanes taxiing to gates or out to runways. A father stood by the window with two small children who jumped and pointed at the gleaming white planes.
Jeff and Margo scarcely noticed the window or the planes beyond. If they did, it would only be to note whether their plane was in sight. The novelty of watching planes had long worn off. In fact, every novelty of air travel had worn off.
Jeff and Margo had been traveling together for work several times a month for five years. During the busiest times, that could ramp up to several times a week. They had seen it all. Frazzled parents and lost children. Overly amorous newlyweds. Spaced out spring breakers. Every type of animal sporting a service-animal vest.
They’d missed connections and sprinted to make new ones. They’d been stranded at airports during storms and delayed by security threats. They paid for all the programs that would bypass as many annoyances as possible and stopped stressing over anything else that came up. It would all work out one way or another.
“What do you think Amelia Earhart did during layovers?”
Jeff asked the question as if they were mid-conversation.
“Refueled her plane,” Margo answered, without looking up from her phone. “Made repairs.”
“Sure,” Jeff agreed. “But what else? Do you think she spent a lot of time sitting around airports? Waiting.”
Margo rested her phone on her leg and considered.
“Yeah, she probably spent a lot of time in airports. Maybe not waiting though. I think she was probably doing stuff there. Getting ready to fly.”
“What if she was waiting for the air traffic controllers to let her fly?” A touch of belligerence edged into Jeff’s voice. “She’d just be sitting around then. Like we are now.”
Turning to eye him skeptically, Margo said. “Sure, we’re just like Amelia Earhart.”
She glanced out the window with a small shake of her head and Jeff bristled.
“I didn’t say we’re just like Amelia Earhart. I said she probably sat around airports a lot, like we do.”
“What’s your point?” Margo asked, slipping her phone into her bag. Jeff was in the mood to talk, and she’d have plenty of time to skim inane memes later.
“No point.” Jeff shrugged. “It’s just interesting.”
“How so?” Margo asked, finding that she was oddly intrigued by Jeff’s sudden interest in Amelia Earhart.
Jeff shifted in his seat and stretched his arms in front of his chest, careful not to invade Margo’s space.
“Well, like I said,” he eventually answered. “That she was this famous pilot and spent a lot of time sitting around airports, just like we spend a lot of time sitting around airports.”
“Uh, okay?” Margo’s face squinched in confusion. “But we aren’t famous pilots. Or pilots at all. We just fly a lot.”
“I know!” The edge was back in Jeff’s voice. “But that’s another thing. Think of how much we’ve flown over the years. Probably a lot more miles than Amelia Earhart by now.”
Margo’s mouth twitched to one side, a habit when she was thinking deeply.
“Why are you suddenly comparing us to Amelia Earhart?”
Jeff shrugged with one shoulder and looked up at the flight board. They still had at least 45 minutes to wait, but their flight was still listed as on-time.
“I saw a book about her in that shop over there. When I was walking around.”
Margo looked across the terminal to the place where a hall branched off with a wide array of stores and eateries.
“You didn’t buy it?”
“No.” Jeff looked surprised. “I’m not interested in reading about Amelia Earhart.”
“But you are interested in talking about her?”
Jeff shrugged again, which Margo knew was his way of saying it was just a way to pass the time. Something they did a lot during layovers.
“I don’t know much about Amelia Earhart,” Margo admitted.
Jeff nodded, saying, “Neither do I.”
They sat quietly for a moment, testing whether the conversation had run its course.
After a slow sigh, Jeff asked, “Did they have air traffic controllers back then? When Amelia Earhart was flying?”
“Huh.” Margo thought that over. “I want to say yes, they must have. They had radios back then and would have to track where different planes were. But I don’t really know. Were there even a lot of planes flying… back then?”
She added the last two words after a pause, realizing that she didn’t know when Amelia Earhart flew airplanes.
“Well, they had some. Not like now, but there were a lot of pilots, I think. Like Charles Lindbergh and, uh…” Jeff trailed off.
“That was in the 1920s?” Margo asked, vaguely remembering a middle school history lesson where she learned about Charles Lindbergh, jazz, prohibition, and other Roaring ‘20s things. “Or was it the ‘30s?”
“Both I think.” Jeff pressed his lips together and frowned. “I think she started in the ‘20s but disappeared in the ‘30s, maybe?”
They looked around the familiar airport, both wondering what air travel had been like back then.
“That’s a hundred years ago,” Margo said suddenly. “I mean, the starting to fly part, and if she disappeared in the ‘30s, we’re not far from that being 100 years, too.”
“Can you imagine what that was like? When crossing an ocean in a plane was such a big deal?”
“I think it was the solo part that made it really impressive.” Margo tried to remember some of the posts she’d seen online about Amelia Earhart. “They always say she was the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic.”
“Pilots don’t do that anymore, do they?” Jeff asked, eyeing a group of pilots farther down the terminal. “They always have co-pilots now, I think.”
They were both quiet again. After another glance at the flight board, Jeff stood up and asked Margo to watch his bag.
“Where are you going?”
“Our flight was just delayed,” Jeff told her, gesturing at the board. Then added, “I’m going to buy a book on Amelia Earhart.”
Thanks for listening. The airport setting of today’s story was obvious, given the prompt. I wasn’t sure why Amelia Earhart came to mind, until halfway through, when I realized tomorrow is the start of Women’s History Month. I guess, my subconscious is ready!
If you enjoy Freely Written, please leave a review wherever you listen and share your favorite stories with your friends. Outside of this podcast, I write novels and am currently writing the third book in a young adult series. You can learn more about my books at my website: SusanQuilty.com. Links are in the show notes.
Until next time, try a little free writing of your own. Let go of any planning and see where your imagination takes you.
[Light piano music]