Travis Cebula is the Pavel Šrut Fellow from 2011. He worked with both Linda Gregerson and Jan Pohribny. He wrote to us with this Creative Non-fiction piece he wrote while attending the Prague Summer Program!
My Arrival in Prague
At 6 AM on a cold June morning and with a ridiculously over-packed suitcase jouncing along behind me, I crossed the street to the lobby of the Hotel Residence des Arts for a cup of café créme. And this was where I waited for the taxi I’d arranged to come pick me up for the airport. All went smoothly, with both the coffee and the arranged pick-up (which is not my normal luck) and the driver was just fast enough and skilled enough that I wanted to send him home to provide my wife with a chauffeur to and from work. He also looked a bit like Ashton Kutcher, which I figured would go a short way toward an apology for my wandering Europe, writing, while she was working her face off in a Family Medicine clinic back in Colorado. The taxi driver asked me where I was flying out of, and I told him, “Charles de Gaulle Terminal 3. Smart Wings.” That’s what I thought it was, anyway. “Smart Wings?” “Yes, Smart Wings. Terminal 3.” “Okayyyyy.” And the doubtful pause after this word, a word that should have been an unequivocal assent, said a lot. Anyone who’s ever heard this before would agree—it was unlikely that any of the news that followed a pause like that was going to be good.
We pulled up outside Terminal 3 of CDG, which has all of the charm of my father-in-law’s World War II-era army-surplus Quonset hut in rural Wyoming, and is roughly the same size… The driver stopped the car and ratcheted the transmission to park. When he turned around he slid his sunglasses down his nose at me dubiously. “You sure this is the terminal?” “Well. I think so.”
“Yes.” I said this with exaggerated confidence, even though I was becoming less and less sure by the moment.
“Hmmmmmmm.” Another one of those pauses, this time appraising me for reliability. Once up, once down. He turned back around, jabbed on the hazard blinkers, and started dialing manically on his cell phone—I assumed to find out if anyone trustworthy could verify the existence of an airline called “Smart Wings?” …and its location, if any. I didn’t consider this an auspicious beginning to my journey. Eventually he replaced his sunglasses on their previous perch atop his nose, which was the closest Gallic to approval I hoped to get. He climbed out of the car and struggled quietly with my bags, professional and dignified to the end. It was the correct terminal, and France, after all.