Flash Fiction: Fear of Flying


The plane is full. The fat man spills over his seat into mine. I count tiny houses from the window, a blue tear behind each one.
‘Going to England on vacation?’ The man asks.
‘Going home with my Dad,’ I say.
‘You couldn’t get a seat next to him?’
Something in his voice makes me turn. He’s gripping the arm-rests, sweat beading his top lip. ‘Scared of flying, he says, teeth gritted.

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


This is a Friday Fictioneers story, inspired by the picture above. Rochelle Wisoff-Fields, our host is doing a few re-runs of previous pictures, and this one is from February 2013, as is my story (although slightly edited). The picture was supplied by Rich Voza. You should go to Rochelle’s website to read her joint story (with Doug Macllroy) which is incredibly moving, and there you can also see how you can join in with Friday Fictioneers or read other people’s stories.


60 thoughts on “Flash Fiction: Fear of Flying

  1. So much to offer in this story. Apart from the ripping punchline, I loved the ‘blue tear’ behind the houses. I often count those, marvelling, as we fly over the UK, how much use they get during summers that are the way this one is shaping up. Good one, Claire.


  2. I do remember it I think .. I did expect it when avoiding the question, but I almost expecting there would be ashes in her carry-on. My aunt crossed the Atlantic with her husband that way, and I guess one day I will do the same with her.


  3. Ohhhhhhhh SNAP! Awesome, Claire! You made my day with this one. Like the rest of them, I didn’t see that ending line coming. But, also, the sweet interplay between her and the man was very nice.


  4. This is superbly crafted as ever, Claire.
    The devil is in the detail, they say, and this piece is full of single words, short phrases, whole sentences that tell us so much more than your 100 words.
    We know these people, you make them real.


  5. Good piece, but it does feel like an old entry i.e. I think you’re writing has changed a lot in the last couple of years. Hence why you are now our resident superstar!


  6. All I could think of was the annoyance of someone invading my personal and emotional space on a long flight, but that’s just me. I’m not much of a sharer or a hand holder. It’s always interesting to me how we write a piece and then release it to the universe and we have no control over the reader’s reaction to it. It’s a great piece even though I felt uncomfortable for the wrong reason.


  7. I loved this. I have a fear of flying so I really empathised with them both seeking comfort by holding hands and talking, even if they were strangers. I did not expect the ending though, but it made sense that she reacted to the strangers comfort and, it doesn’t appear she was scared of flying unlike the man but obviously upset from her fathers death so accepted the comfort from a stranger. Both are dealing with difficult situations.


  8. Though I wasn’t sure initially if the title was a nod to a Jong lady, this turned out to be another superbly written flash fiction and the ending was a cracker.


  9. A well-written story once again, Claire. I’ve got to admit I put the tears together with her not sitting with her father and expected that ending. It was heartwarming all the same, though. —– Suzanne


  10. I love the single word reply “no” – very true to life. As anyone who has lost a loved one knows, there are many times when that loved one is mentioned in conversation and the split-second, unconscious decisions has to be made – to correct the other person and risk a very awkward moment, or to let it pass.
    The hand-holding between strangers was also very well written, as was the unsaid comfort it brought the narrator.


  11. We all have to manage the difficult task of being inside the worlds of our own lives and minds, while also being available to connect with others, particularly when our own experiences are hard to bear. Your story shows beautifully how reaching out to someone else is still possible, and helpful, at such times.


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