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Flash Focus: Michelle Reale’s “Flight” Captures and Spreads Wings

Michelle Reale

Upon arrival she'd begun to think the shiny white bandages she'd wrapped herself in (all the rage back home) might have been a mistake. The stocky woman at the airport counter wore hair like animal fur. The men were tall and pale, just like the men at home. They appeared intrigued, with faces set for battle.

What are you here for? The woman in blue asked, her brass buttons shining.
I am spreading my wings, she said, fluttering her long thin arms in gentle arcs.
Her red synthetic wig held her thoughts in place.

Later, in the long shadow of yet another bleak afternoon, she counted on the red swollen tips of her cold, cold fingers, the minutes like hours, the woman and the men laughing, waving her through to her new home. She could never forget their glassy, bear-like eyes, crinkly in the corners with the kind of mirth she wished she could feel.

Now, she looks up at the sky and sees planes like steely coffins. She wraps vulnerability around her like a cloak. She hums home, home, home. She ages at warp speed, but likes to imagine time has stopped for her parents, for the others she left behind. She forgives them, but she can't remember for what.

Beautifully eloquent and calming, "Flight" by Michelle Reale connects the reader and story
in a truly intimate manner. Reale evokes the reader's senses with vivid characters, scenes, and captivating word choice, most brilliantly crafted by using ordinary images.

A woman appears to be leaving the familiar comfort of a home, destined for a journey into a new realm. What could be interpreted as the end of a life is really just the beginning. Her white bandages, which were "all the rage back home," no longer seem to fit into the culture and neither does she. How fitting that she may now shed these bandages, these past reminders, and take herself into a new life.

An ordinary airport is described through standard characters, a "stocky woman who wore her hair like animal fur." Additionally, Reale uses nature in a setting where often little light is seen, just as certain animals hibernate for winter. She describes airport attendants' eyes as "glassy, bear like." What is most striking is how Reale gives a normally hectic, fast paced airport, a calm, poignant presence in the story. In "Flight," the woman seems to be entering an entirely different world from that which she knows. Reale makes it possible for many interpretations to come forth on part of the reader.

Reale depicts the fragility of this woman without making her appear broken."I am spreading my wings, she said, fluttering her long thin arms in a gentle style." This woman radiates confidence, lifting herself up from perhaps a broken relationship, retreating to unfamiliar territory. Flight can be attributed to many themes in life--a literal airplane ride into a new destination, a journey into parenthood,a child going to college, or a journey into death.

Most perfectly portrayed is the theme of escapism, as we witness the woman leaving a seemingly familiar life and departing into the unfamiliar. Reale's work is not simply for those who have experienced loss or regret, but for those who are truly searching for whatever may be out in the world. The quiet tone that Reale sets for the story imparts a soothing effect‚--that it is okay to stray from conventions.

My most favorite line, "She wraps vulnerability around her like a cloak," keeps us at a close distance with the woman, just as she keeps her fears, her past close to her, yet not overcoming her. But what is life without fears? If we fail to take flight, to venture from the ordinary, we may be missing out on the extraordinary. Such a story makes you want to spread your own wings and take flight.

About the Author


Katie Baker is an MFA in Creative Writing (Fiction) candidate at Rosemont College. She graduated with Political Science and English degrees from Saint Joseph's University in 2009. She enjoys reading, writing, and running, though not all at the same time. She currently teaches Writing at Philadelphia University.


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One comment

From Benjamin Grossman

I love the image of planes as coffins. Thanks for shar­ing this sto­ry, I love the philo­soph­i­cal under­pin­nings.

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