Changing Planes by Ursula K. Le Guin

By Ursula K. Le Guin

The distress of looking forward to a connecting flight at an airport ends up in the unintentional discovery of alighting on different planes - no longer airplanes yet planes of lifestyles. Ursula Le Guin's deadpan premise frames a sequence of trip money owed via the tourist-narrator who describes weird and wonderful societies and cultures that usually reflect our personal, and occasionally open difficult doorways into the alien.

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Whenever it stopped of its own accord at one of those holes bordered with thorns that farmers dig along the edge of their ploughed land, Charles, waking with a start, would quickly remember the broken leg, and try to recall all the fractures that he knew. It was no longer raining; day was breaking, and, on the leafless branches of the apple trees, birds sat motionless, fluffing out their tiny feathers in the cold morning wind. The flat landscape extended as far as the eye could see, the clumps of trees round the farms making widely spaced splashes of dark purple on that vast grey surface which, at the horizon, merged with the dreary tones of the sky.

When he entered Les Bertaux his horse took fright, and shied violently. It was a prosperous-looking farm. Through the open half-doors of the stables you could see huge draught horses placidly feeding from brand-new mangers. A stream of vapour arose from the big manureheap that flanked the buildings, and, standing out among the hens and turkeys, five or six peacocks––that luxury of Pays de Caux farmyards––were pecking for food. The sheep-run was long and the barn tall, with walls as smooth as the back of your hand.

Père Rouault embraced his future son-in-law. They put off any discussion of money matters, there was plenty of time for that, since the marriage could not decently take place before the end of Charles’s mourning, that is to say, not until the following spring. The winter passed in waiting. Mademoiselle Rouault busied herself with her trousseau. Part of it was ordered from Rouen, and she made herself nightgowns and nightcaps with the help of fashionplates which she borrowed. During the visits Charles made to the Madame Bovary  farm they talked about the preparations for the wedding, wondering which room they’d use for the wedding feast, how many courses they’d have, and what particular dishes they’d serve.

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