Short story: Fear of Flying


The plane is full. The fat man beside me spills over his seat into mine. I lean my forehead on the window, counting the tiny houses, a splash of blue behind each one.
“Going to England for a vacation?” The man asks.
“Going home,” I say.
“I’m going to visit with my daughter.” Something in his voice makes me turn. His hands are gripping the arm-rests, sweat beading his top lip. “Scared of flying,” he says through gritted teeth.

We hold hands for the rest of the flight, while he tells me about his daughter and I try not to think about my father in the hold.


This piece of writing was inspired by the picture prompt provided by Rich Voza for the Friday Fictioneers writing group. Each week writers from around the world attempt to write 100 words (or so) and this week I’m a little over.

I’d love to receive comments and constructive criticism. Click here to read other people’s stories inspired by this picture or to join in.

78 thoughts on “Short story: Fear of Flying

  1. I really enjoyed this – and there was a definite tug on the heartstrings without it being maudlin. The short time spent on a flight is a funny one – I chatted with one girl (over one very annoyed man!) for two-and-a-half hours once, on a stormy flight from Berlin to Bristol. I have to have a window seat, she had to have an aisle seat, and we were both terrified. She got me through that flight! 😀


  2. wow Claire! That rocked me. For a minute I thought she had killed him ( this is friday fictioneer land ), then realized she was bringing him to his final resting place. Funny how we find comfort in different places.


  3. Very interesting story. For a moment … just a moment … I thought it was a mondo bizarro ending in which this sensitive,caring woman had her LIVE father traveling in the hold, but then I thought better of it. Very effective, maybe in part because it does take a second on two to get what’s happening. Good job.


  4. Claire, this was beautiful. Like a love story of two souls comforting each other, in a time of need. I find God to be this way too.
    I almost cried! I’m sure he never forgot the lady who held his hand.

    Again beautiful!



  5. Dear Claire,
    I applaud your subtle, yet magnificently touching ending. You morphed the annoying stranger to an endearing father figure in so few words. Beautifully done, my artist friend. Just enough accent color to make this painting sing.


  6. Dear Claire,

    This was one of the best stories I’ve ever read in almost two years of Friday Fictioneers. Very well done. It unfolded naturally with perfect pace and poignance and finished perfectly with the two of them hand in hand, helping each other endure their particular burden. Stellar work.




  7. Excellent, and really surprising twist at the end there. I liked the bit about ‘splash of blue behind the houses’. That’s so evocative, just what I find myself looking at on take-off and landing. (Anywhere but England, that is) 🙂 Nice work.


  8. You know I continue to marvel at the arrangements that constitute a community. Strangers on a plane, people that suffer through a traumatic event like the mass shootings that rage through the US or some other event where unconnected folks are sudenly matched up for some reason. The support is doubled, even though the man has no idea why the woman beside him feels as she does.


  9. Unfortunately, resonates. Three long haul flights for funerals in under a year and in two cases, bizarre travelling companions.I’m glad your story is different. And it is plausible.But I’m glad I’ve nobody else to ‘dispose’ of!


    • Sorry about my ambiguity. The hold is where they store the baggage in plane, and since her father is in there, the implication is that he is in a coffin, and she is bringing his body home. I hope this didn’t spoil the story for you too much.



  10. Dear Claire, Your last line brought a tear to my eye. Having faced a similar situation to your MC she can only have benefitted from being distracted by helping someone else.


  11. Great pacing! I was ready to call this a good story just based on the turnaround in her attitude toward her seatmate as he became a real person to her, but the revelation in the last three words gives this encounter another layer of meaning.


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