It begins with a hum, a rushing of wings.
She heard it in the wind ripping off the bluffs, blowing wild across the Missouri. Red Tails rode the summer thermals, gliding, hovering like small, tethered kites. Cottonwood seeds took to the currents. Spiders swung high ‘n’ low off the barn’s weathered eaves to the splintered corral, spun their way across road and prairie grass. Seemed the whole world flew, cavorted, stirred in every direction, while the crush of gravity nailed her soles to the ground.
‘Wasn’t right,’ she muttered. Even as a skinny girl she had an eye for fairness.
Then a bright red plane flew overhead. The leather-capped aviator tipped a wing close to the house, cut loopy circles, a chug-a-chug whirl. Better than a trapeze artist, the pilot manoeuvered with a keen agility. She tipped her sunglasses, telling her sister Pidge, ‘Stunts do not impress me.’
She lied. Her heart skipped to the engine’s first putter; the spinning blades set her mind afire. The spark, the yearning that would drive and haunt her was a private churning. For now. This moment forward, her longings would be simple, constant: a plane and the wide-open sky.
Endings and Beginnings
A billion heartbeats later.
She never planned to vanish. She never intended to run the Electra to ground or sea, or chance a Japanese capture. The stories were legion—peculiar bones, a disappearing briefcase, the discovery of a wrong-sized shoe. She was not a castaway. She was not a spy or the lilting voice of Tokyo Rose. Not beheaded either or cleverly ensconced at the Jersey Shore.
On the last flight, the moon danced in the Pacific’s dark ripple. The plane shuddered and bucked and fuel ran low. The sound, a joyous rushing, grew loud, more persistent. Pulling back on the yoke, she guided the plane high, higher to where time loops in never-ending circles, stars dazzle and wonder is the one true compass, the only way home.
Pidge shrieks and covers her ears. The red biplane surges towards them. It comes in low then shoots up, a flaming arrow. Disappearing in cloudbank, the plane chokes, rattles, falls back to earth, only to reignite with a heart-juddering rumble.
Cheering, Pidge shouts out a hip hip hooray. ‘Have you ever seen such a thing? Have you ever dreamed of anything so wondrous or grand?’
The skinny tomboy shrugs and feigns indifference. Time bends and the future unravels. Even then, she hears the rushing, the hum, the great whooshing of time settle inside her. Even then, she knows.