Michael and May were finishing dinner at The New Sky restaurant.  Michael had been diligent in his adherence to the vegetarian foods May loved, and had found his mushroom hot-pot to be infinitely more succulent than he ever could have imagined.
     “There are about a half-dozen different kinds of mushrooms in this dish,” he told May enthusiastically, lifting to his mouth a dark plum-coloured fungus that looked like a length of groundsheet you’d take on a camping trip.
     “Nine actually,” said May.
     “There are nine different kinds of mushrooms in your hotpot,” she told him.
     Michael grinned.
     “I didn’t even know there were nine different kinds of mushrooms.  Here,” he said to her, “try one.”  Using his chopsticks as deftly as he could, he lifted to her mouth a dark, glistening mushroom that, he realized too late, was rather provocatively shaped, a smoothly knobby, glans-like thing that she might conceivably misconstrue as a symbol—or maybe even a suggestion.
     May opened her exquisitely shaped lips and slowly accepted the warm, shining mushroom cap into her mouth.  Her smile was deep and mysterious enough to convey to him that, yes, she thought the mushroom was indeed suggestively shaped, and yes, she imagined that Michael would by now be anxious about whether or not she’d be put off by the gesture, and no, she wasn’t, and yes, she regarded what it had implied as a perfectly lovely idea.
     “Good?” Michael asked her.
     May smiled a wonderfully languid, feline smile.
     “Absolutely delicious,” she sighed.


     Tom Dollop came home from the office the day his wife, Violet, decided that being a writer of some sort was bound to be more enjoyable than complaining endlessly about being bored and depressed, and informed her that though he would much rather do anything else, he had to get on a plane the next day for a meeting in Calgary.
     I’ll be back the day after tomorrow,” he told her.
     “That’s nice,” Violet replied, thinking that she really had to find herself another fountain pen to replace the one she used to have and now couldn’t locate.  They were harder to find than ever these days and she wanted a good one.  She knew she couldn’t afford a Mont Blanc.  She had looked up Mont Blancs online and found to her horror that even a Mont Blanc ballpoint pen could be $400!  A nice looking Lamy Fountain pen that had recently taken her fancy was almost $500.  I’ll write with a cheap Bic ballpoint, she thought to herself.  I’ll be a populist writer, the people’s writer.  The writer with the proletarian pencil.
     At dawn the next morning, Tom was out the door and into a waiting limo.
     “See you Thursday, Vi,” he called to her as he folded himself down into the limo’s velvety grey leather back seat, and was summarily lost behind its darkly tinted windows.  Violet waved at the black departing shape, now sighing away from the curb.   It’s like riding around in a giant pair of sunglasses, she thought to herself.
     Tom hated airports—not a very original attitude, he knew—and tried to see them as places to be got through with as much emotional economy as possible.  All the bars and bookstores and public artworks and duty-free shops in the universe didn’t make the transition from the earth to the sky any more enjoyable.
     When his flight was finally called, he filed obediently though the gate, down the tunnel—Alice’s rabbit hole—and onto the plane, always shrouded by the end of the umbilical entry-ramp so that he couldn’t peek into the cockpit and decide for himself whether or not the pilot looked flawlessly competent.
     Once on board, he belted himself into the Russian Roulette seat (as in “who would be beside him?  Someone survivable or not?”) and then, seat-belted tightly like a baby in a high-chair, gazed abstractly out over the tarmac, idly watching the little airport trucks busily zipping to and fro, lights winking, and the aircraft roustabouts, all clad in orange florescent jackets, making authoritative gestures to one another.
     It wasn’t long into his flight when dinner began.  Both Tom and his seatmate, a slender, exceedingly vertical young man with a sad, sallow face, had decided on the chicken choice (as opposed to the pasta dish or the beef offering) and both dinners now came abruptly.  Tom ordered a thin bottle of white wine with his meal—his seatmate had a asked for a coke—and the two of them began gingerly peeling the burning hot tinfoil cover away from the scalding hot, tinfoil, TV dinner-esque tray on which the food was huddled.  Microwave heat, thought Tom, is hotter and sharper than any other domestic heat.  And it gets cold way faster than seems reasonable.
     The slabs of chicken on their trays sat swimming in a reddish liquid, and featured a nearby moraine of steamed carrots and a pile of sadly diminished, next-to-lifeless broccoli florets.  A heap of white rice sat doggedly at the end of the tray.  There was a hard bread roll, and two pats of butter, both sealed in nearly impregnable nano-coffins.
     Tom had just begun to eat when his sallow-faced seatmate suddenly punched up a moronically violent and stupefyingly pointless movie on the monitor affixed to the seat before them and, for the next forty minutes, never took his eyes from the screen—the eating of his chicken dinner notwithstanding.
     The man’s outlandish concentration on the film made it possible for Tom to observe him more carefully.  And what he began to find oddly fascinating about him was the way the man methodically worked through his meal—in a progression, a narrative, from one side of his tin tray across to the other.
     He began by eating the chicken.  He’d saw off a chunk, rapidly convey it to his mouth, and chew it.  Then, while scarcely pausing to breathe, he’d saw off a second chunk and eat it.  Then a third.  Then a fourth and fifth and sixth until the chicken, which had never once been sullied by the reddish sauce, was entirely gone.
     He doesn’t like vegetables, thought Tom.  But no, with the chicken now dispatched, the sallow-faced man, still transfixed by a series of slow-motion explosions on the screen, began a rapid-fire assault on the carrots.  Two carrot chunks on his strafing fork, then two more chunks immediately afterwards, then a third pass to finish them off.  After which he moved on to the broccoli, which received the same relentless take-no-prisoners treatment as the carrots had.  The mound of rice remained untouched.
     He doesn’t like rice, Tom noted. 
     When the meal remnants were removed—the flight attendant carefully manoeuvring the sallow-faced man’s rice-laden tray so as to avoid a snowfall of rice over Tom’s knees—Tom ordered a glass of cognac.  The sallow-faced man wanted another coke and asked, as well, for a tube of Pringles’ potato chips.  The explosions on the screen raged on.
     Tom glanced at his watch.  Another two hours to Calgary.