Short Stories – Flights of Fancy – By Geoff and Cruz Burrowes

 – By Geoff and Cruz Burrowes

Fancy Moore loved flying. Her father, Bill, was a big man, tall and with broad shoulders and a roughish twinkle in his eye  He was so big he almost had trouble fitting into his gleaming F35 fighter but he’d passed his love of soaring into the ‘wild blue yonder’ the white clouds, the deep blue sky to his daughter Fancy.

His old yellow Piper Cub plane, which normally slept in the old barn, at the edge of the farmer’s field behind their house, was meticulously serviced and Bill would take Fancy for flights as often as he could so she could savour the smell of old leather and oil and Avgas, could thrill to the roar of the old Continental engine as it pressed her back into her seat as her Dad accelerated down the worn strip of grass.     

The climb into the sky, the earth and all troubles falling away below her, the swooping turns, dives and climbs. None of these caused Fancy a fleeting moment of fear or uncertainty. She had complete confidence in her dad Bill and the thrill of flying caused in her a wild exultation and she couldn’t wait until she was at the Piper’s controls herself. And Bill promised her that he would start teaching her soon! She rejoiced!

Two days later Bill returned to duty and the next day the family’s life ended as they knew it. Fancy’s  mother Dena answered the front door to reveal two officers in uniform with solemn expressions and her heart stopped. Bill had not returned from his last mission and was presumed Missing or Killed. Dena couldn’t bring herself to tell her happy daughter for two days., but then decided that she had to know. Fancy’s low howl followed by an inconsolable flood of tears made her doubt her decision but, deep inside, she realized that they both had to deal with their grief.

The deep sharp sharp pain they at first experienced over time dulled to a deep, ever present ache. The normally happy little girl always now always had a haunted look about her, particularly when she realized that her Dad would now never teach her to fly. Maybe, to honour him, she kept maintaining the old yellow cub hidden away in the barn so that it stayed in pristine condition even as it aged.

One day the doorbell rang, later in the afternoon. A tall man in a uniform introduces himself and tells them he was Bill’s  wing man and he gave them his number. and told them if they needed anything at all to call him  He also gave Fancy a little padded container. As Fancy opened it she saw the Medal of Honour that he said her Dad had earned. She was amazed she gave the man a big hug and went up to her room to think things over.

Hank, her father’s wing man became a regular visitor and one day Fancy took him to the barn and introduced him to the old yellow Cub and told him of her shattered dreams of learning to fly. A gleam appeared in Hank’s eye. Hank checked the Cub out and congratulated Fancy for her maintenance.

The next week  Hank spent some time alone with Fancy’s Mum Dena before he visited with Fancy and together Dena and Hank came downstairs together came downstairs. With an uncertain look on her face Dena told Fancy that Hank had offerred to teach her to fly if Dena agreed. Dena confessed that she had some misgivings But Hank told her of the look of excitement that had lit Fancy’s face up when she talked about flying and Dena had relented “If Fancy really wants it she would agree.”

Fancy babbled “Thanks Mum, Hank would you? I’d love it – Yes please!”

The following Monday something else happened that changed Fancy’s life for the better. A new boy, Martin, came to their school from out of state. He was in the grade ahead but for music, their music teacher, Mrs Kennedy paired him up with Fancy who loved Music and who she hoped would pass on her love of Music to Martin.

Fancy was a little shy around boys but she found she enjoyed talking to Martin and soon they both looked forward to Music class!

Fancy and Martin became friends and Fancy’s green eyes sparkled as she talked about her love of flying. Martin blurted out “I love planes! Particularly the sleek, fast fighters, and if I can make it I intend to be a fighter pilot!” Fancy then said “My Dad Bill was a fighter pilot!” As she said it two bright shining tears rolled down her cheeks. She tried to wipe them off, but Martin gently pulled her hands away and said “Tell me about it!” and she found herself telling him about the  tragedy of her Dad’s death and the wonderful offer that Hank had made her of teaching her to fly and said “I will introduce you to Old Yellow this afternoon if that works for you!” He replied ” Thanks Fancy!” as he realized that he was being given a great gift by this odd girl with her mercurial personality.

Like Hank he was impressed with the care she had taken of Old Yellow and offered to help with the conversion work that would be necessary to have Fancy fly it!

When Hank met Martin they quickly took to one another and when Fancy delicately asked if he would be prepared to train two pilots instead of one! Hank thought about it and before the unshed tears could force their way out of her eyes he said “Why not?”

It took about two weeks for the blocks to be put on the pedals and the seat moved so that Fancy could reach the controls comfortably.

If either Fancy or Martin expected to zoom up into the air on their first flight they were to be disappointed. They had to learn the principles of flight, the theories of flight, dealing with air traffic control, basic weather, basic maintenance, basic mathematics and a number of other ground related routines that Hank insisted that they get passing grades on. He was a hard taskmaster but very good at explaining concepts that they had difficulty with. He was also very good at taking them up in the Cub and demonstrating practically lessons they were learning in theory.

During this time Fancy and Martin, without realizing it, were growing closer and enjoying being with one another more and more, Hank could see it but said nothing, only smiling quietly to himself. He mentioned it to Dena who had also seen the smiles of her daughter and the life coming back into her daughter’s eyes as she sometimes forgot her dad’s death and reverted to the happy child she was supposed to be!

At last the great day came. Martin had hardly slept the night before, but Fancy fell fast asleep with a smile of happy anticipation.

The next morning was made for flying. The sky was blue and just a few tiny white clouds slowly made their way across it, high up!

Bill arrived right on time and Jenny and Martin were waiting for him, dressed and ready!

They walked through the gate and into the barn. The familiar smells of the Piper Cub met them and an excited smile spread across Fancy’s face. They pushed Old Yellow out of the barn and Fancy could have sworn that the old Cub winked as she rolled out on to the grass, creaking as she rolled over the end of the concrete barn floor and on to the grass at the edge of the field. Hank then had them walk around the plane and check the ailerons and the rudder a number of times until it became second nature, to them both. He then had them sit in the cockpit until the were familiar with the switches they would need to check before taking off. He patiently went over these drills time and time again, until they could do them with their eyes closed. When they could, he quizzed them again on the drills they had learnt in ground school. When he was satisfied it was already starting to get dark. Hank said “Okay that’s enough for today. I’ve checked the weather tomorrow and you’ll be up in the air for your first flying lesson.”

Both Fancy and Martin were pretty tired by this point and were glad that the day’s lessons were over.

The next morning they were at the barn early. Fancy was almost humming with excitement while Martin was hoping that he wouldn’t make a mistake when they went up. Hank took Martin up first and had Martin take the wheel and coached him to  use the  pedals to keep the altitude steady and the wheel to keep the plane on the right heading. Martin found it took all of his concentration but he caught on reasonably quickly and was soon flying the little yellow Cub at the right height and in the right direction, He felt a thrill of exultation when he realized he had control over the bird, that he was actually flying!

All too soon Hank took over the controls and landed. He commented to Martin “Pretty good for the first time! ” Martin’s chest nearly burst with pride. Not only hadn’t he not messed up but Hank had complimented him. As Martin switched places with Fancy Hank said “Well let’s see what Bill’s girl can do!” Fancy grinned and said “Yeah let’s!”

When they were high over the waving wheat fields and Hank handed over the controls to Fancy, after explaining them Fancy wiggled the wheel slightly and started to fly as though she was born to it. She kept the Cub flying straight and level and the plane seemed to be an extension of the little girl. Hank let her fly the upwind leg and line Old Yellow up with the field before taking over the controls and landing smoothly. He grinned at his old boss’ daughter and said ” You’ve got your daddy’s touch!” Mercy beamed and blurted enthusiastically  “Can we go again?” Hank replied “You’ll have plenty of time with Old Yellow before this month is out!”.

Later he told Dena when they were alone together. ” Fancy’s a natural pilot – you won’t ever have to worry about her when she’s flying – she’ll be always in control of any plane she’s in.”

To his old boss he said “Skipper, she’s a natural – you spawned a pilot there!” Events were to prove him right.

But that’s another story!

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