Try Again Later

: On a flight from Denver to Rapid City, South Dakota :

He untucked his jeans from his boots that were worn and beaten. The tips had turned an ashen gray, the soles a bit flattened. The jeans were new. 

His beard, a deep charcoal gray, was turning white, but all of it was trim and neat. His arms were strong, like working man's arms, but nobody was answering his calls.

Not Anita, Jimmy, nor Amanda. FaceTime said, "Try again later," and water began to fill his eyes. His jaw clenched and relaxed. Clenched and relaxed. His deep breaths suppressed the swell. 

The wallpaper on his phone was of a little blond girl, maybe seven years of age, and she was wrapped around his arm. They were both smiling, and they both looked happy. 

He called a few more numbers, but nobody answered. His jaw clenched, then released. Clenched. Released. As he stares out the window. He flexes his knuckles and rotates his wrists, and the orange glow of the sun sets above the clouds, until it is gone. Then everything is dark.

The sun didn't leave, it just went somewhere else.

He stretches his leg into the thin aisle and yawns, as the plane flies on, ready to land, and ready to bring him home. Or far from it. 

But when he calls, no one is there to answer.