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Working the Red Eye, Pittsburgh to Vegas

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The man in the emergency exit row has been drinking
from his own bottle of duty-free vodka
and because he was quiet about it,
kept his clothes on, and didn't hit
his call button even once
no one notices until we land in Vegas
and he refuses to get off the plane.

He's sure we haven't gone anywhere.
"You people think I'm a sucker," he says.
"I'm no sucker. I paid good money for this."
He boarded in Pittsburgh, my home country.
In Pittsburgh, we have two dreams:
to go to Vegas to live
and to go to Florida to die.

The gate agents call the police.
The pilots are pissed.
The A-line flight attendant with the fake French name
twirls a pair of plastic handcuffs and says,
"These make me so-o-o hot."

My father, who stopped drinking years ago
but never found his way, loved Vegas.
He'd carry a sweatsock full of good-luck
nickels through security
and get stopped every time.
He died at home in a rented hospital bed
in Pittsburgh, not Florida.

"Sir," I say to the drunk on the plane
who squeezes his eyes shut so he doesn't have to see me.
"Please put your shoes on."

"Fuck you," he says. "I'm not going anywhere."

— Lori Jakiela


Lori Jakiela is the author of a memoir, Miss New York Has Everything, and three poetry chapbooks, most recently The Mill Hunk's Daughter Meets the Queen of Sky, from which this poem is taken. Her full-length poetry collection — Spot the Terrorist! — will be published in April 2012. She lives in Trafford.┬áMany writers featured in Chapter & Verse are guests of Prosody, produced by Jan Beatty and Ellen Wadey. Prosody airs every Saturday morning on 90.5 FM.

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