Sunday, June 24, 2007

"Betty Bounce" ©, Paul Berge

A romance story about a boy and his love of a Cessna 195

It’s impossible to forget your first love. The time, the place, and especially the aroma of obsession embeds itself inside the brain and never leaves. Years later, you can be on another planet and a mere whiff of fragrance will trigger the sweetness of memory and, in my case, a memory lost.

Her name was Betty, a Cessna 195, and I fell in love with her on the ramp one cold Saturday in late November. I’d ridden my bicycle out to watch airplanes take off and land. My friends thought me just shy of nuts for wasting a weekend staring at flight, but they hadn’t yet felt love. They didn’t know its velvet grasp. At 14 I was captive.

It had begun innocently enough. I'd slipped through the chain link fence at New Jersey’s Teterboro Airport to walk the rows of parked aircraft--back in a time when an airport kid could wander beneath the wings as private pilots swaggered past. I’d just ducked beneath a Twin Beech 18 when I saw her parked at the end of the row. She hadn’t been there yesterday and judging from the long-dried bugs on her wing’s leading edge, she flew a lot and would be gone tomorrow—just the sort of love you don’t need but can’t resist.

Her fuselage was slender, her cowling round and full of the promise of horsepower. A thin trickle of oil dripped from her cowl and into a crust of snow below. It fell the way a drop of red wine might run down a woman’s chin if she laughed at something you’d said over dinner.

Uninvited, I wiped at the oil with my fingers and then paused to stare up at her narrow windshield, beneath which was her name in flowing cursive--Betty Bounce. I said it aloud to feel it on my lips—"Betty Bounce…"

Her strutless wings invited me to look inside. Slowly I put my hand to the glass in the door and peered at her dark instrument panel where strange dials and knobs told me she had class. The black radios and an artificial horizon cocked to one side bespoke of a spirit born to travel. Betty could never stay in one place—she’d invite you along, but if you hesitated, she’d laugh and depart.

Overwhelmed with passion, I did what no respectable airport kid dared do—I opened her door and eased my face deep inside. The intoxicating smell of avgas, oil, and cracked leather rushed through my sinuses and drilled deep into that part of my brain where love flares for a moment and never quite dies.

Quickly, I shut the door.
I’d gone too far.
I ran off—knees weak, heart pounding with lust for this goddess of flight. Reaching the fence, I turned and she laughed ever so gently. We both knew I was too young, and we parted.
Decades later as I opened the door to another Cessna 195 at Blakesburg, Iowa’s Antique Airfield the aroma of oil and avgas with a hint of cracked leather rushed over me. I looked up and smiled, because Betty was back. She wouldn’t stay, of course, but at least we had time to reminisce.
Betty Bounce was a real airplane. If anyone knows what happened to her, please let me know. This story appears in the short story collection, Ailerona © by Paul Berge, all rights reserved. "Betty Bounce" ©, the short story, first appeared in the Minnesota Flyer (Richard Coffey, publisher) and later in the Pacific Flyer (Wayman Dunlap, publisher). The author reserves all rights to this story. Please contact Ahquabi House Publishing, LLC for reproduction permission.