India, the heroine of the story, is trying hard to get her mojo back after her 30 year marriage ends. Her best friend Eva, suggests India try new things, and arranges a flying lesson with a guy named Red. Things go a little sideways after that. Here's some of the story:
If the flying lesson or, more to the point, the flight instructor,was supposed to help my self-esteem, it didn’t work. I was afraid of small planes. I’d told Eva as much, to which she’d said that I’d told
her I always wanted to fly.
To Paris, I told her. In a jet plane. First Class with those little wine bottles. Eva can be pretty convincing, though, and a few Saturdays after school let out for the summer, I found myself in a hangar at the Tamsett Municipal Airport with Red Lansing.
Red looked like an older version of Alfred E Neuman. He had bright red hair speckled with gray and tonsured along the top of his head, a spate of freckles that would have made him cute if he were ten, and ears that probably could have flown the plane. He had a broad Texas accent and he called me little lady. He also informed me, straight away, that he’d already had four wives and wasn’t planning on a fifth. “Just for the record,” he said.
“Well, little lady, you ever been on a small craft before?”
We were standing next to Red’s Cessna. It could have fit in my garage. “No,” I said, both an answer to his question and also, no, I didn’t particularly want to hop into a small craft with Red or anyone else.
“Well, little lady, climb on in and we’ll show you how it’s done.”
He stroked the wheel as though it were an aphrodisiac. And I gathered from the way he explained all of the other doohickeys that he did have a strong affinity, an attraction, to the Cessna. They were
all just doohickeys to me. I told Red as much.
Red chuckled and ran his fingers over what I think was the altimeter. “Don’t you worry, little lady, you’re in good hands,” he said.
Soon we were soaring through clouds stacked like houses of cards, darting in between the layers. I could get used to this, I thought. Maybe there is something to this flying stuff after all. Maybe I’d even ask Red if I could take the wheel, or whatever the steering thingy was called. Maybe…Then the plane stalled.
The engine went dead. My thoughts dropped from high cloud fluttering to thudding doom. We were plunging through the air like a wet rock. I have never been fond of plunging. My stomach did a tango with my toes.
The engine hummed again and we began climbing. “Got to learn how to stall, little lady,” Red shouted over the blessed loud din.
“You did that on purpose?” I asked. I was just a tad hysterical, but Red didn’t seem to notice. He looked downright pleased with himself.
We swooped over the Tamsett River. Red dipped the plane sideways, making me grateful for the window glass because it was the only thing between me and oblivion. There were two men fishing
in a row boat. We dipped close enough for me to read the Orvis brand name on the boat’s side.
Red whooped. “How you like it so far?” he shouted.
The Cheerios I’d had for breakfast were sloshing around with the coffee I’d drunk to chase them down. It must have been terror that kept it all in check, because as soon as we hit the tarmac, I
felt the gorge start to rise. I made a bee-line for the hangar bathroom.
I’d like to say that I made it to the hangar bathroom. But the truth is another matter entirely. Not only did I not make it to the hole-in-the-wall that passed as a bathroom at the back of the hangar, in my haste I also managed to slip on some oil near the bathroom door. I landed on my right arm. A terrible shock of pain went through me and my already compromised stomach gave itself up all over the front of my crisp white blouse. I sat in the grease stain. My ruined clothes seemed beside the point. I wanted to board a real plane to Paris and start life anew on the Left Bank. I didn’t want Red Lansing to saunter over and wrinkle his freckled nose at me.
Red handed me a dirty rag and pointed the way to the bathroom as though I hadn’t understood that it was right behind me. I got up, my wrist throbbing, and hobbled through the threshold. I did
the best I could to clean off my blouse left-handed, using borax and rust-colored water. Then I threw up in the sink for good measure.
Red stood at the door. “Little lady?” I was busy examining my wrist, which had turned an interesting shade of purple.
“I think I might need to go to the hospital.”
Red eyed my arm from the door. “Hospital?” he asked as though he’d never heard of such a thing. He shook his head. “I can’t leave. I got another lesson coming in.” I looked at my arm, and then
at Red. My horror must have shown, because he flushed the color of his thinning hair. “I’ll call you,” he said. “Make sure you're okay. It’s probably nothing. Just a ding. A little ding.”
I walked out of the hangar without saying goodbye
Thanks so much for stopping by on day one of my intrepid journey through the alphabet.