Sometimes you read something you don’t understand but still know it’s important. I believe the section on pages 240-241 is one such example.
The two people sitting in front of him were discussing ghosts. Fate couldn’t see their faces, but he imagined them as older, maybe sixty or seventy. He asked for an orange juice. The stewardess was blond, about forty, and she had a mark on her neck covered with a white scarf that had slipped as she bustled up and down assisting passengers. The man in the seat next to him was black and was drinking from a bottle of water. Fate opened his bag and took out the Seaman file. Instead of ghosts, now the passengers in front of him were talking about a person they called Bobby. This Bobby lived in Jackson Tree, Michigan, and had a cabin on Lake Huron. One time this Bobby had gone out in a boat and capsized. He managed to cling to a log that was floating nearby and waited for morning. But as night went on, the water kept getting colder and Bobby was freezing and started to lose his strength. He felt weaker and weaker, and even though he did his best to tie himself to the log with his belt, he couldn’t no matter how hard he tried. It may sound easy, but in real life it’s hard to tie your own body to a floating log. So he gave up hope, turned his thoughts to his loved ones (here they mentioned someone called Jig, which might have been the name of a friend or a dog or a pet frog he had), and clung to the branch as tightly as he could. Then he saw a light in the sky. He thought it was a helicopter coming to find him, which was foolish, and he started to shout. But then it occurred to him that helicopters clatter and the light he saw wasn’t clattering. A few seconds later he realized it was an airplane. A great big plane about to crash right where he was floating, clinging to that log. Suddenly all his tiredness vanished. He saw the plane pass just overhead. It was in flames. Maybe a thousand feet from where he was, the plane plunged into the lake. He heard two explosions, possibly more. He felt the urge to get closer to the site of the disaster and that’s what he did, very slowly, because it was hard to steer the log. The plane had split in half and only one part was still floating. Before Bobby got there he watched it sinking slowly down into the waters of the lake, which had gone dark again. A little while later the rescue helicopters arrived. The only person they found was Bobby and they felt cheated when he told them he hadn’t been on the plane, that he’d capsized his boat when he was fishing. Still, he was famous for a while, said the person telling the story.
“And does he still live in Jackson Tree?” asked the other man.
“No, I think he lives in Colorado now,” was the response.
Then they started to talk about sports. The man next to Fate finished his water and belched discreetly, covering his mouth with his hand.
“Lies,” he said softly.
“What?” asked Fate.
“Lies, lies,” said the man.
Right, said Fate, and he turned away and stared out the window at the clouds that looked like cathedrals or maybe just little toy churches abandoned in a labyrinthine marble quarry one hundred times bigger than the Grand Canyon.
Things to note:
The stewardess is a victim of vampire bites. From Bram Stoker’s Dracula, chapter 12:
I could see that the Professor had carried out in this room, as in the other, his purpose of using the garlic; the whole of the window-sashes reeked with it, and round Lucy’s neck, over the silk handkerchief which Van Helsing made her keep on, was a rough chaplet of the same odorous flowers.
The silk handkerchief was meant to cover the vampire bite marks.
Also, the story of Bobby in Jackson Tree is another story within a story.
Canelli, what is the man next to Fate talking about when he belches out the “lies” comment?