On a Red Eye Heading East (Intermediate B2) – Learn American English through Short Stories


Hey there! It’s Mrs. P.
Today’s story is called “On a Red-Eye Heading East”. It’s a story about a man on a midnight airplane
(a “red-eye” airplane), who is reminiscing about his relationship
with his daughter. In the description, there’s a link for the
transcript for this story. And if you want to know how to use this story
to get the most out of it; either for pronunciation, or general language
learning, or listening comprehension; you can watch my video called
“How to Use Stories to Learn English”. Click on the card up here to go there. On a Red-Eye Heading East
By: Ken Elkes Last weekend, Daniel spent 43 hours straight
with his daughter Esme. Nearly two whole days. Nearly. Now he is 30,000 feet up on a red-eye heading
East, looking at a picture she has posted online – a ‘selfie’ and a shadow of his face. He is not tagged. Planes, hotel rooms, toilet cubicles off quiet
corridors. These are the sliver-thin places where he
finds a little home, like a fisherman standing in a fast flowing river, hoping to hook something
beautiful, reel it in, hold it for a while. He spends these moments ‘liking’ her uploaded
images – the lemon cake drizzle she made, Esme with a ginger-haired girl he doesn’t
recognize, her new patent-leather shoes. Or typing funny comments about cold feet,
hair braids, boys in spectacles; thumbing love into the holy blue glow of the screen,
as if a string of 0s and 1s were invisible threads that joined them. Another flight, a few weeks back. A stewardess, greying and flat shoed, saw
a picture on his laptop. She asked: “So, is that your daughter?” The picture wasn’t her, not really, he said. None of it was, the patchwork of messages
and posts and the slow, twitching images of video calls. “Zoom in. Just zoom in and see just how pixelated she
gets,” he said. When she turned away wordless, he regretted
his candor, the potential rudeness. He was relieved a little later when she brought
him a whisky, unasked, leaned in and told him it was on the house, saying she had kids,
was divorced, and understood. Today the stewardess is different, young and
brisk, and he sits quietly, held down by the weight of the laptop and the phone, silent,
in his pocket. Finally, he lets himself think about last
weekend. That fat, cold Friday, Daniel had driven through
a blizzard to his ex-wife’s house and taken Esme back to his too-hot, too-small new place
where they scoured peanut butter straight from the jar and gazed at the ghost prints
of birds in the snow. When the snow relented, Esme insisted they
go out, so they bought a plastic sled and drove out to the hills near to where he grew
up. When they crossed a bridge at the foot of
the slopes, Daniel stopped and told Esme about how snow changed the sound of everything. “Listen to the stream, I mean really listen
to it,” he said and was silent for a long time, until Esme pulled on his hand, said
she wanted to have fun. He watched her sail down the hill, time after
time, worrying about the cold and the night and what they should eat when they got back. Then she said, “let’s build a snowman” and
they worked together, heaving a great ball of snow around the bottom of the hill, a lesser
one for the head. He gave up his scarf and his hat and Esme
made a face from twigs. When they had finished she adjusted the cap
to a better angle, and then patted its belly. “Looks like you dad.” Against the hum of the plane’s engine, Daniel
remembers how, as they were leaving, he turned and saw the swathe of grass they had exposed
all round the snowman, bright green, incredulous in its color. He stares out at the vast fields of clouds
that stretch, white and unending, to the horizon. He thinks about what lies below. By now, the snowman would have melted and
the deep, bright grass would be an unremarkable piece of field. Maybe someone walking there might just see
a hat and scarf, a pile of twigs. They might wonder, just for a moment, about
who left them there and why. He didn’t take a picture of the snowman, neither
did Esme. There had been no profile update, no location
marked, no online record uploaded, filed or shared. But when Daniel closes his eyes he can hear
the trickle of a stream dulled by snow, the sharp pipe of his daughter’s laughter in the
cold air. He can smell crushed grass and he can feel
the wondrous weight of tiredness in his limbs as he carried his own sleeping daughter to
bed that night. There you go! Please like this video and share it with other
English-language-learners. If you have any feedback, or questions, or
suggestions for future videos, please leave a comment down in the comments
section below the video. Subscribe to my channel by clicking my face,
over here. Go to my website for lessons, actives, and
materials by clicking on the box over here. You can check out my playlist with all of
my stories by clicking here, and click over here for my most recent video. You take care, and I will see you next time.

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