PLANE OF ANIMALS • by Markham Sigler

It is the kind of day where the sky looks back at you like a cat. I recline in my seat, arms behind my head. My co-pilot, an orangutan, looks relaxed at his chair, giant hands hanging off his knees. I admire his arms. Their length astounds me. They seem a gross advantage in the sphere of evolution, one I can’t fathom.

“Monkey. Would you rather have long monkey arms or a big human brain?”

He sits there and says nothing. I cluck to myself and take a sip of coffee, which I instantly spit out. The coffee is astoundingly bad. Monkey looks at me and starts laughing. I place the cup down and yell for Giraffe, the stewardess. Her head innocuously enters the cockpit. I display the coffee cup to her with a pained expression. She shows me her teeth, which has always been her way of saying sorry, and retreats. I sigh and look at Monkey.

“I tell you what, Monkey. You’d think with all that oil we’d be able to get some decent coffee.”

“Coffee is what you think it is,” Monkey says.

“Monkey.”

We are flying over volcanoes. I inform the passengers I will be bringing us closer to the lovely formations. I pat Monkey on the shoulder, a pilot’s smile on my face.

“My great wish is to be a volcano in the next life,” Monkey says.

“How interesting, Monkey.”

“I was once a crawdad.”

A blue light blinks on the dashboard. This frightens me at first, but Monkey clicks it, and Giraffe’s voice comes frantically through the system.

“I’m having difficulty with some passengers, and Panda’s asleep. Can one of you help?”

Monkey says, “Everything is everything.”

“Take the reins, Monkey,” I say, standing up and shrugging.

The family of koalas clumps together. I smile and nod to the parents, who look at me with button eyes. The coyote father reaches out to shake my hand. He is an old friend. The penguin child nearly has a fan conniption when he sees me. Penguins love a symbol of authority. I see the fracas as we enter economy class. There’s a fight going on in the rear seats. There’s sweat all down Giraffe’s neck. Disgusting. I squeeze around her. Octopus and Crocodile are in a kind of standoff. The octopus is large and blue, probably the eldest passenger, with scarlet oval eyes. Crocodiles, like rocks, all look alike. She too is one of the eldest passengers.

“It’s the seventh time you’ve asked me,” Octopus says. “And the answer is still no, Crocodile. The answer is still no.”

“But you’re not even using it,” Crocodile says. “I don’t understand. You’re not even using it.”

I look at them, back and forth. They pay no attention to me. I’m not sure they know I am there.

“It doesn’t matter if I’m not using it. It belongs to me. Its mine. It’s my fork.”

There is an unopened dinner box before Octopus. Crocodile’s dinner is largely eaten. Pasta and dessert remain. Inside of Crocodile’s paw I see the tineless handle of what must be a fork. I hold up my finger to speak but Crocodile beats me to it.

“I just don’t understand. How do you benefit from not sharing something you don’t even need? If you share this with me now, I’m more inclined to share with you in the future, or help you in any way you might want.”

“Excuse me, friends,” I say. “But could someone please explain to me what the problem is?”

“You’re out of line, Crocodile,” Octopus said. “As usual. You have no right to even ask. You should learn from your buffoonery in any case. Eat with your hands.”

Crocodile’s tail thrashes against the side of the plane. Poor thing doesn’t even realize she is doing it. She is worked up and I am inclined to take her side. Nobody really likes Octopus. He’s crotchety and aloof, vain on a good day. Crocodile’s tail thrashes again. I warn her to cease. She continues to thrash. The plane sighs with frustration. Octopus looks nervous but ready for a fight. He has a way of never losing fights, although he never really wins.

I pull out my ray gun. It folds into the moment like a car commercial, all things suddenly charged with their endless significations. I accept this as selflessly as possible. Octopus looks at me with his oval eye. Crocodile too finally notices. Her tail stops thrashing. The air is still and waiting.

“Crocodile,” I say. “You really must have more self-control. Did you ask Giraffe for an extra fork?”

She shakes her head solemnly. Octopus snorts. I swing the barrel toward him.

“Octopus, when are you going to get off your damn sea floor and join the rest of us in the kingdom of reciprocity? You think you’re so special. So clever with your bizarre body language and your flaccid camouflage. You damn hermit.”

He has me fixed with that oval eye. What’s in there?

“Now I want the two of you to hug.”

I watch them as they move toward each other. Octopus takes rock-faced Crocodile in his arms.

There is no resistance, no need for resistance; there is only the newest memory of tired reluctance. It’s as though I’m a tattoo artist: the scene the arm of a tribesman or hipster.

The passengers roar approval. I make my way to the cockpit, passing a relieved Giraffe, clapping seals. Even the dear koalas seem more at ease, bless them. I enter the cockpit and take gentle Monkey by the shoulder, leaning over the controls to catch a glimpse of the slowly vanishing volcano.


Markham Sigler is from Corpus Christi, Texas. He currently writes from Oaxaca, Mexico.


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Every Day Fiction