Apples & Oranges

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Deep predawn colors of ink and cobalt are streaked with yellow and magenta as I work my way down the narrow aisle of a Boeing 737 as it levels off at 28,000 feet.

“Something to drink?” I set the break on the beverage cart and flip plastic glasses to the edge.

Nose buried in the Sunday Times, 9C eschews eye contact, and mumbles, “apple.”

The women in his row smile and chat as they make their choices. I nod, open the orange juice carton, and start to pour. Early morning flights are easy, sleepy affairs.

“Apple,” roars 9c, snapping his paper and breaking the silence, “apple, apple, apple.”

My chin whips around and I goggle at 9c. His face is blotched with angry streaks of red. His paper crinkles in clenched fists. He’s kidding, right? I snap my mouth shut and look at the women. They stare back with wide troubled eyes. I shrug and offer a smile.

9c levitates in his seat. “A.P.P.L.E.”

Heads are snapping all over the cabin and I can’t help it, I prop a hand on my hip and give him a bland look. “Yes,” I say, “you can spell, but the ladies are still having orange.”

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