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 away...
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 up.”
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 owner’s grip.
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 ball game.
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 train, cursing.
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 eighteen."
"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 correctly...
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 airplane.”
Jimmie and Cody had always dreamed of flyingairplanes. All of their living years, almost Forever. Now the dream was about to become real.
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.
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 possible.
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 arrived.
“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 donut-filled office.
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 very nature.
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 brother.
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 boys’
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 friend.
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 was
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 away.
“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 around.”
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 upwards.
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
“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
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 do that.”
“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 people
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 snack
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 pilots’
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 size.
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 life.
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.
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