Exodus from the promised land

M ercy stopped writing abruptly; Bennie was making strange hiccuping noises. She grabbed the euphemistically named motion sickness bag and opened it just in time for him to relieve himself of an evil-smelling mixture of peanuts and chicken. Unfortunately, not all of the motion sickness went where it was supposed to. Mercy called a flight attendant and cleaned Bennie up with the hot rag he brought; when she was done, she stuffed what she'd been scribbling into the barf bag along with the unappetizing mess. It seemed to be an appropriate place for her mental regurgitations.

Poor George--whatever had he done to deserve a woman with such unnatural expectations, wanting nothing less than emotional and professional support? Mercy might as well have been shooting rubber bands at the moon. And the irony of the situation was that she had been half the wooer.

But for the time being, Mercy had few thoughts to spare for poor George, because she had to concentrate on poor Bennie, who still looked rather green. The plane was making plunges worthy of a roller coaster, and Bruce woke up in a foul mood, squirming and whining. Mercy explained to him that he had to leave his seat belt on because they were having a rough ride and the pilot hadturned the light on. This didn't seem to impress him, although normally he was logical to the point of precociousness. His whining got louder and louder until the passengers nearby began to look at her with reproach.

But in spite of the theatricals in the airplane, in spite of whining and retching and squirming and screaming, Mercy's head was already beginning to clear. Bennie's stomach might be upset, but hers was settling, and she could deal with his stomach better that way. They were flying over Texas, far from George and domestic squabbles. She would have two weeks to take the kids to Enchanted Rock and San Antonio and tell them the story of the Alamo, and then it would be back to dreary, grey, bleak, rainy Oregon. And George. It had been two years since she'd been home; now the kids had to pay, she couldn't afford it, and then she was so busy and Austin was so hot in the summer, her parents usually came to Oregon to visit them. After her dad's retirement, they had joined the flocks of geriatric dwellers of highly modern and exorbitantly expensive mobile homes migrating from park to park in the warm months.

When the plane finally landed, Bennie and Bruce had both dozed off, and she had to shake them awake, initiating two minor attacks of hysterics which lasted until the rest of the passengers had gotten off the airplane. By the time Mercy calmed the boys down, the flight attendants were waiting impatiently. Carrying Bennie and dragging Bruce, Mercy got out of the airplane and into the airport, where her parents were waiting at the gate. As her mother tried to embrace Bennie, he began kicking and screaming again.

"I should have gotten an earlier flight," Mercy said. "They're tired and cranky and impossible."

"We were afraid you'd missed the flight altogether," her mother said. "Welcome home, dear."

"It's nice to be here, Mom. Dad." She gave them each a peck on the cheek over Bennie's head. Patience and Frank Kennedy were typical representatives of their generation, plump and pleasant, all rough edges worn away--if they'd ever had any to start with.

"Why didn't George come along?" Patience asked with such studied casualness Mercy felt like laughing. So her parents were speculating.

"He doesn't have enough vacation," Mercy replied. Even if she did tell them the state of her marriage, she wasn't going to do it in the middle of an airport.