What happens if they go to stir the oxygen cannisters and there is an explosion?
That was Apollo 13, I tell her. Not a flight to New York.
Snakes on a plane? she wants to know. I have to be honest with you, I say. That is always a possibility. Do you remember how to suck the venom out?
I have no cinematic analogy for what I am feeling. I don't think I will be able to breathe for the next two hours. She has never flown without me. She's only playing the disaster scenarios for laughs. I am the one scared to death. She can't wait to get to New York, where she will spend the next five days taking over the town with her very best co-conspirator.
For two days she has been leaving little goodbye notes for me all over the house. I wish you were coming with me, she says. Do not die while I am gone. She tells me I must sleep with her two stuffed rabbits while she is away. She wants the whole family to accompany her to the airport. She is positively Shakespearean in her efforts to manufacture the most dramatic send-off possible.
Where does the little dramatist spend her first night in New York? Shakespeare in the Park, naturally, where she watches Twelfth Night and gets to have her picture taken with "Viola," who happens also to be the star of a movie every 11-year-old girl in the country has seen at least twice.
Guess where I am now? she asks me later. I am in Times Square! She is out of breath with excitement. Could it get any better? I ask her.
It probably could, she says.
She is not missing me at all.
Photo: Three drama queens in Central Park by Rick McCawley.