Chapter 1: Off We Go!
Pursued by an imaginary enemy, the two entered the one hundred
year old yellow train depot. Three people came into sight: the
ticket agent, one janitor massaging the dark wood floor with a
filthy mop that had grey duct tape wrapped around its crooked
handle, and a crusty old fellow with a very large belly and
elephant-size ears seated on a decrepit bench.
"The train is never on time" the corpulent old man with large
ears yelled at the wall he was facing. Cody and Jimmie witnessed
this. The fat man started to yell louder. "If the train is on
time today, I will never eat ten hamburgers for lunch again!
Never drink two bottles of wine in one day! And never take the
bus again, because the bus is never on time either. "
The old man shook all over several times, and then arose, or was
lifted upward by some unnatural force-because his speed just
about required it.
The man was very unstable on his feet. His legs shook and knocked
at the knee bones, making an absurd sound like a bird flapping
its wings in icy water. Jimmie was unnerved.Someone out of sorts
shakes Jimmie up emotionally. Cody threw himself between the mad
ranter and Jimmie and said, "Keep on track, Jimmie, that old man
is nuts, maybe the cops will arrest him." With this, Jimmie
snapped out of the funk the old man had set him in. Or he had set
himself in, it didn't matter. It was the day, the day to fly
The train arrived on time. The crazy man was still talking to the
wall and shaking his cane at the light bulbs above the painting
of the tree and lake that hung tightly to the station wall.
When the train pulled to a stop, almost feather light and
seemingly unaffected by gravity, the boys sped into position and
bounded onto the train.
The old man approached the train following the same path, his
forward progress hindered by the earth's natural forces and
several large suitcases without handles or wheels.
A porter jumped off the train and attempted to offer the man
assistance with his ancient baggage.
"Sir, please let me put your bags on the wagon so we can deliver
them to the baggage compartment."
The old man kept trudging toward the train's inviting door,
ignoring the porter's offer. The now-irate luggage handler
assailed the man with, "Hey, I said you gotta put them there bags
on this here wagon or you ain't gittin on my train."
The old man continued his labored journey toward the open door,
completely ignoring the new demands of the luggage handler.
Jimmie, comfortably seated by the window, had his face plastered
to the glass, watching the event unfold.
The luggage handler now was mad as hell, and let out a roar from
which all the passengers and crew shielded their ears. "HEY, you
stupid hick MO-FO, stop your honkey ass right there and give me
those freaking bags or I will jump on your white ass and mess you
The old man continued on his path nonchalantly, finally reaching
the steps into the train. He raised his right leg and attempted
to deposit his foot on the first step when the mad porter grabbed
one of his overstuffed bags and tried to separate it from its
A tug of war developed between the old man and the crazed baggage
handler. The porter pulled the bag in his direction; then the old
man pulled the bag back towards himself. Jimmie watched as this
procedure repeated itself at least three times. The porter
started screaming obscenities at the old man's backside, and
several mothers gathered up their children and left the scene, as
the fathers moved closer to consume the action, like it was a
The porter now had both bags in his grasp. With his arms spread
to their fullest width, he pulled with all his might and the old
man responded with the same, one last time.
When the old man started to teeter backwards the audience gasped
"Ooohh." The porter then eased his hold, and the old man fell
forward slightly. Then the luggage handler shouted "Give me the
bags," and putting his feet firmly on the step, gave a tremendous
Herculean pull that teetered the old man backward. It was beyond
his ability to recover from this volley, and he dropped backward
in slow motion like a felled tree. His mass at this point
encountered the porter, and the two continued the fall as one.
The last words Jimmie heard the porter yell were "Holy firkin
shi..." The fall ended with only the fat man visible, his large
hands still clutching the two bags.
The scene then was silent. A fat old man lay on the floor of the
train station holding two bags and possibly crushing a luggage
handler to death. The old man wallowed from side to side,
attempting to regain his standing posture. With each motion
either way, a peepish voice moaned "Help... hel..."
Cody and several other passengers rushed to the rescue and pulled
the great man off the short and cross-eyed porter, who was now
gasping for air, and making strange hissing sounds.
After several minutes the porter caught his breath and meekly
stated that he thought his ribs might be broken and please would
someone call 911. The old man, with much help, mustered himself
onto his feet and barked in a great voice, "That idiot is on
drugs! I think he is a crack head! You can't trust the train! If
it's on time something always goes wrong! Hell, I can't even hear
myself talking, damn hearing aid batteries always going dead."
Then the old man removed his ear pieces and thrust them to the
ground, crushing them with the heel of his enormous wingtip shoe.
After the ambulance carted the porter away, the fat man
surrendered his luggage to the surviving porters and boarded the
As the train departed the station, Jimmie said "Wow Cody, I ain't
ever seen anything like that. I hope that black guy don't die. I
know I would die if that fat guy landed on my head!"
Out of town at last, Cody said, "We are free."
Jimmie was almost asleep when this declaration was made. His eyes
lit open and he said "We are so dead."
On a fast train, movement is constant, time fades with the
scenery, secure with the passage.
The two intrepid travelers took up several excellent seats next
to a window that displayed the finest scenery. Through the glass,
the two spied a world previously unknown to them. The crossing
gates at first, the switch yard, and then the open track before
them. The view from their seats was unencumbered. The miles...one
turned into ten and ten into lots more. Sure was a great way to
travel. As dreams started to whisper into their minds, a porter
knocked on Cody's head with his bony knuckles. "Wake up boy, I
gotta see your ticket. You too, Blondie."
Cody produced the requested tickets, which he had purchased from
the sleeping lady he'd wakened at the ticket counter in the old
train station. The porter never glanced at the terms printed in
block letters on the blue and white passports, only brutishly
punching several or three holes in the center of the cards, and
thrusting the holed papers in their laps. They fell like playing
cards from a deck shot in the air. As the porter continued
towards his next victims, his left eyebrow twitched and he
snapped back, "Say you two, where is your parents?"
Jimmie arose and declared "We're both eighteen, wanna see our
ID?" The porter grunted an obscenity and returned to his rounds.
"Man, Cody, I thought that train guy was gonna ask for our fake
IDs. I think that Vinnie ripped us off, two hundred bucks! But I
guess it was worth it."
"Shut up Jimmie! Someone might hear you!" Cody whispered to
Jimmie, and then, "Yeah, that Vinnie is a crook, but we need
them. You can't fly solo if you ain't eighteen."
"Yeah, I guess you're right because you sure don't look
"Screw you, dork! If I don't look eighteen, how can you?"
"Because I look older than you, that's why."
"No you don't! We're both the same age, and you don't have a
mustache like me."
"Ha! You call that a MUSTACHE! It's just FUZZ! Peach fuzz!"
"Just shut up, Jimmie, or someone might bust us. That train guy
keeps looking at us."
The train sped the boys into south Florida, like fast. One night
and two days on the tracks made midnight. The crusty town they
landed in swept up the welcome mat at half past ten.
Heck, the train station was closed when they arrived. So they
both pitched their backpacks on the train station's old benches
and started to dream about tomorrow. Cody knew of a feller in
Indiantown who ran the small airport, and if the plan went
Chapter 2: The Flight School
Jimmie, awakening from a deep state of sleep, asked Cody, "JC,
are we going to learn to fly an airplane today?" "JC" was Cody's
nickname; his real name was James Cody.
Cody said maybe, and reminded Jimmie to let him do the talking.
At this, Jimmie spurted in a haphazard manner, "Well Cody, you
know the guy, you do the talking. I just want to fly an
Jimmie and Cody had always dreamed of flyingairplanes. All of
their living years, almost Forever. Now the dream was about to
The office of Mr. Bill was never closed to potential paying
customers, regardless of age or ability. The office was open
seven days but never occupied on Sunday. (On Sundays Mr. Bill did
something; no one was quite sure what-no one cared to know.)
Jimmie was told this story by Master James Cody: "Okay. We are
almost at the airport; it's not like I actually know Mr. Bill. I
sent him an e-mail and he replied with an ok-see-you-soon
thing...umm...he said to come and he would teach us to fly for
cash only, we got enough cash for both of us to learn to fly, but
not enough for both of us to solo."Jimmie admired and trusted JC.
"For now that's good, Cody." Just to learn was the first part of
the dream, JF thought.
The entrance to the airport was a dirt road with a rather
tattered and dull pointed sign indicating one might better turn
left now and follow the windy gravel and sand paved path, if the
entrant was so obliged.
The boys wandered down this path, chatting about nothing but
flight, the way they would fly here and there and rescue each
other from harm or from the grasp of wicked relations.
Nothing seemed impossible at this point; they had successfully
journeyed this far, were in fact walking down the dirt road to a
most prestigious flight school and had an invitation from a
person (via e-mail) of national and Internet recognition. The
sunbeams bounced off their heads.
As Jimmie looked over his shoulder, a cloud of dust rose and
roared towards the two foot travelers. The cloud was preceded by
a black, speeding mass of an old car. The old lead sled drifted
from side to side in a short but very contained path, spewing
white smoke from its now visible front wheels.
The boys decided to jump off the dusty path to their dreams and
watch this rusty monolith pass at a safe several feet or three.
The black sedan passed the two observers and filled their lungs
with the unsweet taste of dry dirt and long-ago- evaporated
vehicle droppings. Then the dust-creating monster slowly ground
to a halt. In the process the beast created a cloud of dust
twenty feet or more high and several more wide.
And then there was near silence, only the low rumble of the old
V-8 power plant of the black troublemaker. The falling sounds of
the billions of grains of sand that had been ejected from their
resting place could hardly have been heard if the boys had been
several hundred feet away.
The occupant of the black beast appeared as soon as the sand
cloud fell to the ground. The dark silhouette, a very large and
wide apparition, at first hovered, and then suddenly came forth
in a very quick and fast manner and shot his vast and very
textured face into Jimmie's space, almost knocking the poor boy
down. But JF held his ground, as the monster exhaled "WHAT YOU
BOYS DOIN' HERE?" After reeling from the halitosis he encountered
in the brief monstrous exhale, Jimmie let loose a yell, piercing
Cody's ears so badly that Cody flinched with a contorted face,
and thus startled the dust baron also.
"Holy friggin' split" the giant shot out, "that boy has such a
shrill yell, it done split my eardrums in half, and now I think
my head hurts." The giant stepped forward, advancing toward
Jimmie retreated backwards and immediately tripped on his untied
shoelaces and fell on his face. Cody, thinking the giant wanted
to do harm, leaped on his back and attempted to repel the
aggressor. The huge man then lost his footing, having the extra
leverage of Cody thrust upon his uneven balance, and promptly
fell toward Jimmie, missing him by mere inches. The crash
catapulted JC into the air and finally into a heap on some white
sand adorned with a solitary ant hill.
Jimmie's eyes were filled with sand and tears, and Cody shook his
head to relieve his ears of the two or three small black ants
that had crawled in, searching for a meal or whatever these
insects look for in ears.
The large man wallowed from side to side like a seal in dry sand,
consuming the sun's warmth as he would a hamburger. His eyes were
inquiring why? The giant soon regained his composure,
not his former composure, but a fresh and friendly decorum.
"Look fellers, I was just trying to be friendly. I seen you all
walkin' down the road and just wanted to offer you a ride. My
brakes don't work so good and my muffler fell off a few days ago
on the bridge, so I just left it there. There were a big truck on
my tail and if I had stopped to pick up the dam blam rotten
muffler, that old boy would of run me down like some mutt dog.
That old Pontiac was my daddy's. He left it to me last year when
he passed on."
The big man thrust his hand into the sand and with great
difficulty his right arm, like a hydraulic jack, leveraged his
massive body out of its sand mold. His huge feet sunk in the
sand. As the giant stood erect, he didn't seem quite so tall,
Jimmie observed. Cody noticed he was barefoot.
JC held out his hand and said "My name is Cody, that there is
Jimmie; we come in peace."
The Pontiac inheritor blasted forth a laugh. Then, almost in
rebellion, so did Jimmie. The laughter ensued through several
salutations, until it was established that the intrepid fly boys
needed a ride to the office of a Mr. Bill to obtain a license to
operate a fixed-wing aircraft, if not now, then soon, but now if
The huge man stated he knew Mr. Bill quite well, so the three
piled into the living-room-sized car's saloon and rumbled on down
the dusty road, never noticing the lack of essential exhaust
pipes and several rusted fenders, which were just hanging on with
hope and a bit of gusto.
Jimmie burst out, "What is your name?" The now taxi driver
replied, "T-Bone" in a serious tone. Jimmie let forth a sharp
laugh, "Ha, ha, ha...ooo...you are a...ooo ho...so funny! Damn!"
Cody worried that their new friend "T-Bone" might take JF's
poking the wrong way, but T-Bone was unmoved. In fact, it sparked
his appetite for conversation.
"Lookie here, boy," T-Bone said gently to JF, "look close into my
eyes. Do you see malice? Are you afraid of me?"
Jimmie shot into verse, "No I see a T-Bone, haaa, haaa," and bent
over and laughed for several or six seconds, until the inquisitor
spelled out another question.
Grabbing an old, crumpled, oily brown paper bag, T-bone asked the
laughing boy "Do you-all want some coon meat? It's fresh! I found
it this mornin' not far from my house. They shut the power off
the other day so I had to grill it on my old car's manifold. It's
pretty much cooked." J and J both made gagging sounds and said
they had already eaten. By this time all were at ease, and
somehow T-Bone was not a threat any more, but an ally.
In less than fifteen minutes, the trio had made friends, new
friends to be sure, but at least friends.
The old Pontiac rumbled its cargo up the hill to the sun-bleached
east side of the building that called itself an office for the
world famous flight school.
Thick air hung about, almost like a fog that never blew away, or
never let the sun burn it off. The aroma of old luggage, mixed
with fumes of AV-gas and fresh-cut weeds, hit Cody first. He
related his olfactory experience to T-Bone. The Bone replied,
"Sometimes it smells better."
"Hey Bill, got two students for you," T-Bone dished out. The
announcement drew the immediate attention of Mr. Bill.
A face appeared behind the window. The face was thin, much longer
than wide. Two enormous orbs consumed all three of the trio in a
single gulping glance.
The man, Mister Bill, appeared to Cody and Jimmie in person. JF,
as always, threw himself into the limelight and thrust his small
and sweaty hand into the grip of the master pilot. "Hey Mister
Bill, my name is Jimmie, please teach me to fly!"
"So you two want to learn to fly, do ya?" Mr.Bill inquired. "You
know you need to be at least eighteen years old to go up alone,"
and a pause, "without your parents' approval"
Jimmie was sure he could fool this guy, so he said, "We both got
IDs, so that is no problem." Cody, hoping to recover any lost
ground, stated "We have cash."
Cash is king, and Mr. Bill relented, as he had on several other
occasions involving cash.
Mr Bill: 'Okay guys, here is the deal'...two backwoods boys
learn to fly small airplanes.
James gave Bill at Indiantown Flight School the five hundred
dollars he then demanded, as a down-payment on admission to the
school. As James peeled off the fifty and twenty dollar bills
from their bankroll, Mr. Bill started to shake and drool. As the
five hundred dollars was placed in his clammy hand, Bill eyed the
remaining bankroll which James then stuffed in his jeans front
pocket. Bill thought, "Them boys probably got another thousand
dollars in that wad." In fact, they had almost twelve hundred
dollars in that pocket.
The T-Bone man left around sunset. He had offered the two future
aviators a ride, but they did not yet possess an address to be
delivered to. Mr. Bill left soon after, not knowing the two boys
were driveling over the aircraft lying in the field.
It was dark; it was hot. The mosquitoes had started to swarm.
These two knuckleheads had no place to sleep. They did not even
think of the prospect of sleep, when in their heads lay the
mastering of the sky. Crickets, bats and other nocturnal
creatures milled about under and above the lodgings the pair
engaged for the evening, an empty corner in one of the airport's
old yellow hangars.
When one focuses on a dream, discomfort is a path. The new day
awoke the fat-headed boys. Their brains swelled. Their thoughts
were in the sky.
Chapter 3: T-Bone
At nine in the morning, the two aces were fully awake. They
changed into their last clean shirts and split the last of the
mouthwash in the small bottle the train had offered as a perk.
Cody produced some stale French fries he found in his pocket and
gave several to Jimmie. The feast was complete when JF, stuffing
his hand into his left rear pocket, revealed an unopened Slim
Jim, flat and very warm. The two dined as if on steak.
After such a meal, one tends to nod. The aces nodded on the
office front porch and as ten-thirty approached, the ace of aces
"Wake up, you two," the master ace demanded. "You boys are here
damn early, daggonit." His tongue got sharper. "If you all want
to fly, you better get up and grab that bucket and rag and
commence to wash that bird over there."
Old Bill pointed to an almost colorless airplane, once blue, and
now quite buried in the high weeds and low branches of a huge
gumbo limbo tree.
The two milled about, looking at the sky as if they were already
above and performing acts of flight they knew not yesterday.
As the buckets and rags slowly moved towards the filthy
rag-winged aircraft, old Mr. Bill shouted instructions. "Hey you
two, you forgot the soap, you forgot to take the water hose and
you forgot to have donuts with us in the office!" By the time the
flight instructor interjected "donuts" into his instructions, the
implements of clean were deposited where they fell, and trod upon
as their former possessors backtracked in full force to the
There in the 30-year-old former house trailer, now airport air
control tower, airport corporate office and flight school, the
coffee pot percolated, the carpet smelled like an old dog, and
the donuts sat in their cradle, a white thin box with green
stripes, a most famous box, with lots of fillings, lots of mushy
creamy fried bits of dough, sweet dough. The engulfing scent of
bitter coffee and the sweet smell of fried dough made
conversation easy. That of course was part of Mr. Bill's depraved
plan, to extract information from his students he could use
later, to extract the remaining cash the boys had.
For there were prying eyes about.
The ritual of this early morning gathering can last several
minutes or last until the sweet morsels are consumed, this
occasion being the exception to both rules. You see, the one in
control, and the other inhabitants of this story are very
curious, possibly by nature, but now it's discovered by their
There were two old mismatched sofas opposing each other in the
only space possible for this to occur. In between the lounges, a
very low table of stout manufacture stood. Its uppermost surface
supported the feet of the inquisitionist.
The volley commenced. "So you boys from up north?" inquired the
owner of the newest airplane ever to land at the airport until
that day. "Yeah," Cody barked. Then the boys stuffed the last of
the donuts down their gullets, slightly gagging. The next
interrogation was delivered by the guy sitting on the end of the
north-facing couch next to Cody. The only reason JC had sat there
was that it was close to the donuts, but now this guy, spitting
the last crumbs of the only coconut pastry over those who were
listening, asked. "If you two want to learn to fly, why the hell
did you come here?" and promptly burst into laughter.
Jimmie's eyes flashed with rage. Infuriated, he made eye contact
with Mr. Bill. Jimmie wanted to fly an airplane. Now. Was Bill
going to go back on his word?
As the old geezers laughed out loud and stamped their feet on the
hollow floor of the flyers' club house, Cody jumped up and flew
out the door. Jimmie was on his heels, and the flight teacher
appeared as an afterthought.
"Look guys, I will teach you to fly that airplane. You go wash
it, clean the trash out of it." (It was full of beer cans.) "And
pull it over here to the gas pumps and we will talk turkey."
Mr. Bill slipped into the trailer, then stuck his head out and
said "Take your time, ha ha..." The motley chorus within the
dingy trailer cheered, "Yeah, take all the time you want, ha ha,"
and then entered into a low and secret conservation.
By this time Cody was full of rage. "That jerk wants to rip us
off, Jimmie! That low-down tree frog, that pig dog!" Cody started
to pace. Five small steps forward, and then only two large
strides back, over and over again until it made Jimmie uneasy.
"Okay JC, the guy might be a total rip-off. What now, I mean how
can we, I want to, o gosh, dammit."JF was just as mad as his
The dirt portal leading to the isolated air field was a road
called Takeoff Alley. The long narrow road, full of pot holes and
washboard lanes, made you wish the end was near, real soon.
The dust consumed the sky. A dark familiar projectile separated
the dust from the earth and shot it high and wide. "It must be
T-Bone!" Jimmie yelled. The dust cloud wound its way fast to the
The black beast ground to a halt. Its navigator, the revered
T-Bone, declared, "You two boys still on the ground? Well I'll be
dashed. That Mr. Bill ain't got you flying yet?"
Jimmie pleaded to the dust maker, "I...we think that Bill is
trying to rip us off real good!!!..." JC injected, "What the heck
is that moron Bill ON, T-Bone?He totally wants to screw us, and
if that happens I will lose it."Cody had interpreted Jimmie's
plea for help as something T-Bone could not understand.
"Hold it, wild-man," the dust master declared, directing his red
eyes in JC's direction. "Old Bill won't rip you off. I will make
sure of it." T-Bone by this time had a soft spot in his heart for
the two travelers, and soon-to-be flyers. He wanted to see at
least one of these boys fly today. As a younger guy Wilbur,
a.k.a. T-Bone, did fly one summer. But only once or twice. His
great mass prevented any further flight.
Now, the three, by noon, had washed the mold and other
detractions off the once dreary airframe. The great mass had with
sheer muscle power and a nylon rope managed to pull the old
Mooney airplane out of its organic garage of grass and tree
limbs, its former resting place under the trees.
The brow of the giant shone with sweat. His strides, one by one,
drew the clean airframe near the fuel pumps. Wilbur completed his
appointed task. When the airplane rested in its desired spot, the
giant knew it was good, and he sat on the porch of the
international office of the most famous flight school in the
south of Florida and expired.
The giant sat with his left arm wrapped around one of the
vertical porch supports. His eyes were open and his grip fast.
Jimmie jumped on the weathered wood deck that was the porch and
declared that T-Bone was the strongest man alive and was his
Jimmie put his hand on T-Bone's shoulder to offer a soda or some
other sort of refreshment to appease his revered and celebrated
hero, only to find him still and lifeless.
Cody at this point was looking for the air pump to inflate one of
the tires when he noticed a stale face on the man who had
delivered their new-found wings to the fuel depot.
James threw himself to the side of the two porch dwellers, one
alive, one very much dead. Jimmie kept insisting the T- Bone was
okay, he was just "overworked and hot." But James knew, the Bone
The great man had expired on the spot. When Jimmie realized
T-Bone was gone, he wept. He curled up in a corner and held his
stomach tight with both hands and spilled tears out of his eyes
until someone smacked the back of his head. It was Cody.
"Hey, Jimmie. Let's go. They took old T-Bone away in the white
wagon. They put a sheet over his face and took him away. He's
dead. And I don't think anyone else cares."
Chapter 4: Henry
All of the donut guys were there. They spoke of T-Bone as a hero.
"Hey boys, where you going?" they said as the mourners walked
"To T-Bone's funeral," said Jimmie.
The donut guys let out a roar. The laughter shook the trailer and
its coffee pot. "He...he...is going to the funeral. Ha, what an
idiot," the donut eater with two broken front teeth spat. And
then all the couch setters gave a great howl.
In the howl, Cody lost his temper and blew smoke. "Hey, you
jerks," he shouted, and when the attention of the revelers was
complete, shoved his clutched fist into the air, and displayed
his contempt with one erect finger.
The death of the giant did little to encourage Jimmie and James
to venture forth. The two found lodgings in a local motel, the
only rooms in town. The motel was a temporary home to several
other students of the great Indiantown Flight School.
Wilbur was buried several days later in the county cemetery. The
state, with all good intentions, deposited the massive corpse
with no fanfare, in a grave already awaiting his arrival, next to
his ma and paw and little sister Bertha.
It seems Wilbur and his now-extinct family were of pioneering
Florida stock, arriving in the early 19th century by steamship
and fishing and farming the coastal areas of southeast Florida.
At one time the family was one of the largest growers and
shippers of pineapples in Jensen Beach.
Wilbur, the last of his family's bloodline, lay in his grave,
engulfed in a wooden box, face up, next to his kin.
Henry, an old friend of T-bone's, and retired truck driver, went
out of his way to inquire as to the lodgings of the two boys the
giant had befriended, having heard the story of Wilbur's death
was closely connected with them. Henry had invited several
friends along with the boys to ride in his van to the final
farewell to the large man many knew and now very few would miss.
After the funeral service, James and Jimmie had wet eyes, and
only wanted to go home. Henry, observing their gloom, shouted in
a growling voice, "You guys wimps or are you two going to go out
there and find your place in this world?"
Jimmie was not moved, "Henry...hell, the guy wanted to help
us...and...and look what happened to him, he died, that's what's
in store for us two if we continue, I can see it."
"Shut up Jimmie!" Cody demanded.
Henry then said, "Look, if you two want to fly airplanes I will
teach you. I have been a pilot for thirty years and Wilbur was my
friend." The old retired truck driver continued, "That Bill is a
jerk and he will rip you off in a heartbeat. Heck, I think he
sold his mother to white slavers for the down payment on this
airport." Henry continued, "You two be awake at sunrise and I
will give you all a ride to the airport. My old bird is ready to
fly, and you will learn the basics of flight tomorrow." Then
Henry paused and interjected, "If you can handle it."
Jimmie and Cody agreed they could "handle it" and swiftly wished
the retired trucker a hasty return in the morning. JF and Cody
retired to their cramped quarters. The room they shared smelled
like a rotten sock. But no matter, the room was now new, the room
now shone with promise, tomorrow...tomorrow they would fly!
Jimmie's eyes hit the hard pillow, his face never feeling the
impact. He slept before his body was fully lodged in the bed.
James milled about and did not fall asleep as soon as JF gave in
to his slumber, but soon relented and collapsed on the spare cot
they had rented for another two dollars a night.
The morning appeared at the dawn. Chickens scratched the pebble
and sand pavement surrounding the boys' room. The early morning
glare thru the narrow window soon almost blinded Jimmie. He woke
fast and sprang erect, sitting in his bed, wondering if he was in
the same place he had recently retired to.
"Hey Cody...aaa, it's morning, the chickens are at the door, the
darn things woke me up Cody. Damn, I think I hate chickens,
unless they are cooked in a fryer!" and Jimmie continued, "Cody,
are you hungry? I sure am. Do you know how to skin a chicken? If
you do, I will cook it, but let's find the darn things' nest
first. I bet it might have a dozen eggs in it."
"Jimmie, shut up!" Cody shouted. Jimmie's eyes ripped into Cody's
face. He felt rage but let it pass fast. He had been hurt by
Cody's sharp demand.
As James slowly awoke and rose from his resting place, he placed
his hand on Jimmie's shoulder and said "Hey, we got to go fly a
friggin' airplane today; FORGET the damn chickens."
Chapter 5: An Accident
At the appointed time, Henry's van with its clanks and bangs
rattled its way up, as his half-bald tires split the mud and
gravel path into two sections that led to the boys' door.
"Hey Cody, Henry is here, let's go," and with this Jimmie bolted
out the door.
"Okay you two, things have changed," was the first thing Henry
said. "After I dropped you guys off last night I went to the Gas
Lantern Bar for a beer or two and Bill was there waving a fist
full of twenty dollar bills around like they was play money,
buying everyone he thought he could impress a drink or two. He
and his buddy Eric, the local sheriff, were drinking and whooping
it up, having a grand time, so I just wandered over to my friend
Duck and sat down and ordered a cold beer. Duck told me old Bill
was telling the sheriff that he thought his two new students had
stolen the money they had and had come down here to hide out from
the law, and that they had threatened him to boot."
Henry refreshed his lungs with several deep inhales and continued
his story. "That Bill is out to get you two, so I have a plan.
Look, I think you guys are okay and I don't trust Bill or that
sheriff. You guys are headed for trouble if you stay here."
Henry continued, "I have some friends in the Keys. My girlfriend
lives there and the guy who runs the airport is an old friend of
mine. He is honest and won't rip you off. You could learn to fly
and maybe I could get you a job. Do you want to go or stay here?
This place could get ugly soon, if that sheriff starts snooping
Jimmie said two words: "Let's blaze." But James pounded his foot
and let loose with "Stole the money? What the hell do they think?
We worked for a year in a place we hated, saving every dime we
earned to make this journey. I hated the boss. He smelled like
whiskey every day, his shirt had yellow stains on it, and his
hair had dandruff. Hell, no, the heck with Bill and his cop..."
James stopped short when he realized neither Henry nor Jimmie
were listening. Then he factored in that they were runaways, and
let the matter go. He promptly threw his pack in the van.
The ride to the airport.
Jimmie sat in the front seat like a driver. He mimicked Henry's
moves at the steering wheel as the old pilot navigated the narrow
roadways. The path to the airfield was at best indirect. Cody
snoozed in the back seat.
At the airport.
"Okay, let's hurry," said Henry. "That darn Bill might show up
early and you and I will be screwed." At this decry, the three
jumped out of the van and sprang into action.
Henry's airplane was the first on the tie up. The old bird was
restored to near new condition.
The three pored over the airframe, inspecting the flaps and
wings, the tires and the prop, and the myriad other important
inspections that are necessary to prepare a proper airplane for
safe flight on any journey.
Jimmie pointed out a mud daubers' nest under the left wing. Henry
just slapped it off in a single swipe with his accurate hand and
commented, "Good eye, Jimmie, things like that could bring down
an airplane, good eye."
As the sun rose, so did the expectations of the flight students.
Their fancy was in the wings, the fuel that drove their
imagination, not the whimsical, but the real.
The real was about to happen, next.
Henry shouted "James, Jimmie, we gotta fly now, let's pull this
bird out of its nest and spin that prop and fire this old beast
up!" The intrepid two shot glances at one another and responded
with a sudden action that surprised the old pilot and stirred his
heart. He responded with a low voiced "Damn!"
The old bird was pulled from its resting place with vigor and
expediency. She rested for only minutes before the master sitting
in the left seat spouted orders to the crew: "James, pull the
prop down until there is pressure and you cannot pull any more.
Then stop." The master issued further orders: "Jimmie, jump into
the airplane now, and bring all the gear."
Without hesitation, Jimmie jumped to the orders, fulfilling his
instructions. James awaited further orders.
As Jimmie finished loading the gear, Henry shouted to James,
"Okay JC, the mag is turned on, the motor is ready to run. Take
the prop by the tip and spin it as fast as you can." James said
"What?" In fact, JC did not have a clue as to what Henry wanted
him to do.
The sun was over the eight o'clock mark in the sky. Henry decided
that he, rather than JC, would spin the prop that started the
65-horsepower plant. So he did. But not before he sat James in
the pilot's seat and, grasping his leg at the knee, planted the
boy's foot firmly on the rudder pedals. "Don't move, don't touch
anything. When the engine starts, just hold your foot firm on the
rudder pedals and don't let go, or you will kill me, okay?" James
spoke in a fearful voice. "Okay Henry...sure."
As airplanes go or fly, the old restored airframe sped down the
runway's path, its wings digging into the air and lifting it up.
The pilot was in control, and as the wheels touched their last
bit of dirt, the bird lifted from the earth, very, very slowly
The three were now airborne. The air was crisp and the sun was
blinding and yellow. The sun's rays beat into the cockpit of the
little craft so intensely that Henry's eyes temporarily failed
him. But he quickly regained sight at the thought of the other
options available at the time.
The flight south.
The airplane flew south well.
"You two need to watch out for other aircraft," said Henry. The
two eager soon-to-be pilots performed this request well.
"Wo-o-w," Jimmie shouted, "I...ahh...we are almost pilots, darn
James we are flying!"
"Darn yes we are flying, Jimmie you bozo! Heck, just look out for
other airplanes, like he said."
There was a tremendous silence aboard.
The craft sailed undetected, above the grass lands below. Jimmie
broke the silence. "When can we fly the airplane, Henry?"
Henry, well settled in his qualified pilot's seat, gave no
immediate reply, but with a slight grunt, almost like an
indistinct complaint, uttered "Okay, let's teach you guys a thing
or two about flight."
The instructor enlightened his students in the basic laws of
flight and the mechanics of his old bird. Henry let Cody control
the plane first, then Jimmie.
As the trio slowly flew south, several things unfolded.
"Hey guys, we got to land this bird soon, I can't stay up here
much longer. I drank three bottles of water and I...""Dammit
Jimmie," Cody let loose. "You dumb... I can't believe you would
"Hey," Henry blurted, "I got to land this bird and have a walk
around, so we will drop down on Willis Airfield. It's right down
there."His finger pointed to the landing strip. "I know some
Being two thousand feet above the ground is never something one
wants to deal with when walking on a tight rope. The sound below
is not welcoming or inviting, yet I prance on my bare feet at
this height, inviting disaster.
As the southbound aircraft rolled to a stop on the populated
field, the passenger with a full bladder leaped out of his former
aluminum prison and bounded forward and backwards with both legs,
unsure of the correct direction. Finally settling on the forward
motion, he trotted towards the buildings where he might relieve
his discomfort and soon disappeared behind an old yellow hangar.
Henry and James wandered over to the hangar where two guys had
their heads buried deep in the bowels of a dusty old red biplane
with flat tires.
"Hey Henry, how's the bird running? Who's this? How come that
other guy was running around like a chicken with its head cut
off? How the heck are ya?"
After Henry satisfied his questioners' inquiries and introduced
his new friends to his old friends, it was established that the
old friends would buy the intrepid trio lunch at the airport
J and J ordered the lunch special as did everyone else. The group
had selected a picnic bench with a good view of the landing
strip, it being a favorite sport of pilots to critique other
As the hot dogs and beans were served, a buzz was heard from
above, a sputtering buzz, then no buzz.
Henry's two friends jumped up in unison and sprinted towards the
field. The trio followed without delay, as did the entire snack
bar's patronage. Above the observers, a small airplane's silver
wings bounced up and down in a violent fashion.
The silver craft careened towards the landing field with
diminishing speed. As the troubled craft approached, someone
yelled, "The prop is not turning." There was utter silence until
someone else shouted, "The damn thing is going to crash! Call
911!" The aircraft then appeared to drift slowly to the ground,
"almost in slow motion" Cody would later say.
The small plane hit the grass just short of the tarmac. The
landing gear collapsed upon impact and sent the silver craft
tumbling over and spinning around in an uncontrollable chaos, all
the time advancing in the direction of the observers. At this
point Cody yelled "RUN!" and before he started his sprint to
safety, realized he was the last fool left standing in harm's
way. As Cody ran for his life, the airplane flipped over again
and ground to a stop just short of flattening him to a pancake's
The smell of AV gas, twisted metal and freshly uncovered earth
filled the air. Henry and his friends jumped into action and
converged on the twisted wreckage.
The mess did not resemble an airplane. One wing had ripped loose
and lay in the wreckage's path several meters away. The cockpit
was flat and the rudder was lying close by.
Jimmie grabbed Cody's arm with his cold sweaty hands and yelled
"Holy shit, Cody, that, you, you were almost killed! That
friggin' airplane almost ran you over, I mean, holy shit! Ooooh
damn..."James, still stunned, just stood there watching Henry and
his friends dig through the wreckage, searching for signs of
The rescuers stripped away at the carnage, pulling the smashed
cockpit canopy off in one attempt. After a brief view of the
contents of the silver craft, Henry backed away and approached
the boys in a slow stride.
Jimmie feared the worst and started to tremble in his shoes.
Cody, still numb from his close encounter with death, just stared
at the wreckage with half open eyes. "They are both dead," Henry
Stunned but alive, Cody said "Let's get the heck out of here. I
don't like it here anymore."
Jimmie's shoes were full of sweat and his feet slipped and slid
inside their enclosures, making walking difficult. This produced
an unnatural walk best described as a shuffle. In silence the
trio made its way to Henry's plane.
"Let's go now," declared Henry, and a pull of the prop spun it in
the humid air, and with haste he propelled the small craft up and
away, with J and J grasping and pulling with white knuckles.
"We could have done no good staying there," Henry said. "Those
two were gone and no one could help them. I just wish...you two
did not see that crash. I have been flying for thirty years, and
never witnessed anything like that. Dammit, I wish I
hadn't seen it." Henry didn't mention that one of the crash
victims was responsible for their being at the airport to witness
the crash in the first place.