Friday, June 17, 2011

"Launch The Revolution"

“Launch the Revolution”
© 2006, Paul Berge

By afternoon the crowd had grown to several thousand around the airport’s perimeter. Faces turned skyward with eyes shaded against the sun when an official worried, “He refuses to come down.”
Even the guards in the tower protected by concertina wire gazed at the small airplane overhead, unsure what to do. The tower chief ran up the stairs, her footsteps clanging against steel. Breathless, she demanded binoculars although it was clear she’d never see the truth. “How long has that been up there?”
“Ten hours,” a tower guard answered through a smile. “Maybe twelve.”
“That’s impossible.”
“So we thought,” he replied and then indicated the crowd below. “But word spread. This morning it was just a few. Now look at the cars coming from all directions.” Indeed, the roads were packed. More people arrived on bicycles and some on foot to see the man who flew without permission, refusing to come down.
Disgusted, the tower chief pressed the binoculars at the guard and demanded, “Have you ordered him down?” And before he could reply the crowd murmured as the tiny airplane, little more than a butterfly with yellow wings and a green tail, lowered its nose. “What’s he doing?”
“A loop, I think…Yup, it’s a loop.”
“Well, stop him, make him stop that illicit looping!”
The crowd applauded as the little airplane traced a perfect O. And in one voice they gasped when the airplane pulled into what appeared to be another loop but at the top did not dive. Instead, it hung in the air, its silver propeller slicing the blue. Its wings slowly rotated from the torque until they realized they could no longer lift and dropped into a spin. In turn after turn the airplane spun toward the earth. And then as crash trucks lurched and eyes peered between fingers, it climbed again bringing a shout from the crowd.
“I’ll take his license!” the tower chief spat.
“You’ve already taken all the licenses,” the guard noted. “Nothing left to take.” And he, too, silently cheered the pilot.
“That’s...that’s nonsense!”
“Isn’t it, though,” the guard laughed and then pointed toward the hangars where more pilots—without authorization—smashed locks and pushed little airplanes into the sunlight. The tower chief grabbed a microphone and tried to restore order, but her mouth only flapped like a bass sucking air in a fisherman’s net. Powerless, she watched engines start, and without any regard for her authority dozens of little airplanes taxied to the runway. She managed a gagging plea to “Stop…” but stared in disbelief at those who escaped her grasp and lifted into what she’d presumed was her sky, a sky to be jealously controlled.
Slumping into administrative oblivion she vanished amid the sound of airplanes twirling about her head. Soon the guards abandoned the tower to join the mob as it swarmed over the fence and spread blankets on the grass. And long past sunset they watched the power of lift wielded by revolutionaries who refused to come down.

©2006, Paul Berge
(First appeared in Pacific Flyer magazine, March 2007)

Sunday, January 16, 2011

“Old Gray”

© 2009, Paul Berge

Dawn slipped over the mountains and quietly extinguished the desert stars in passing. They didn’t seem to mind. Having kept watch all night it was time, again, for sunlight to rouse earth dwellers from bed. Chuck dwelled above the planet so was already awake and at the airport. After parking his Studebaker Lark he kicked the hangar door to chase out any snakes that might’ve curled beneath the rubber skirt. When nothing stirred, he slid the door open and smiled at the old Tri-Pacer waiting beneath a dusty skylight. She smiled back.

Painted the same light gray of his mothballed West Point uniform, she had pearl white wings trimmed in blue. Piper chevrons raked her tail. She looked as though she’d been awake all night combing the stars for dreams. And, maybe, caught a few. Chuck walked around the nose and patted her cowling. If Piper made Tri-Pacer biscuits he would’ve fed her one. And, yes—he’d tell anyone who didn’t understand—the Tripe was a she. Chuck didn’t give a rat’s butt who thought it inappropriate to think of his old gray beauty as female. Something this pretty couldn’t be otherwise. And he’d stare down anyone who claimed that Tri-Pacers were funny looking. Those same fools turned up their noses at Navions and Apaches.

With one hand on the strut, Chuck ducked beneath the right wing to open the cockpit door. Leaning inside, he inhaled that elegant blend of leather and butyrate dope with a hint of avgas. He wondered why it couldn’t be bottled so all women could smell as good: Eau d’Avion—$1000 per ounce. Chuck was a romantic and a rebel who couldn’t explain his attachment to this airplane. She wasn’t as sleek as those Mooneys that taxied by with their tails on backwards. Nor could she haul the load of a rumbling Skylane. “But so what?” he asked aloud. “I love her.” But mostly he loved the thought of her in flight.

Outside in the cool air with the throttle set, Chuck reached beneath the seat for the starter button. “TSA couldn’t confiscate you if they wanted,” he muttered. “They couldn’t find your starter with both hands.” The white hair on his neck bristled thinking of the country’s worst agency. He shook it off and looked toward the pink desert sky. And by the time they departed all thoughts of fools flushed from his mind, replaced by airplane dreams coming to life. It was their daily routine. Together, they’d wander about the morning sky, the short-winged Piper telling Chuck what she knew about flight. Despite their long relationship, each trip offered new insights into life beyond gravity. And returning to land, he’d let his companion find her way to the runway as she had for over 50 years. There was nothing he could teach her. She wouldn’t listen if he’d tried. And, later, he’d thank her for the visit while yearning for the next dawn when she’d reveal more dreams taken from the desert stars.


"Old Gray" by Paul Berge, first appeared in Pacific Flyer magazine in October 2009. All rights reserved by the author. Please contact author for reprint permission.