Short Story – First Flight.

I have just finished a week long course on short story writing at the Circle of Misse.
It was a fantastic experience, which I intend to write about in another post, when I get my breath back.
I wrote some of my first short stories there, and received a very positive feedback from my fellow course members.
Here is one I wrote, based on my blog post French Country Living.
Please feel free to comment!

FIRST FLIGHT
Bernard closes the door before the door setting down the box of tools and associated clutter on the bland lobby floor.
He wants to put them away , in their special reserved place before he goes to bed, but he is too tired. He decides to do it in the morning. He will be getting up early so it will be the first thing he will do to set his counter back to zero, which pleases him.
He locks the door, and turns towards the stairs, surveys the adjoining rooms for lingering evidence of light and domestic activity. Satisfied that order is restored at least in part, he goes up and for the first time that day, realises how old he feels.
He enters the bedroom, his wife is sleeping, her opened book discarded amidst the poppies and leaves onthe coverlet.
He undresses and folds his clothes over the chair at his bedside and gets into bed. He removes his glasses, cleans them and places them in the case, closes it and placing it between the lamp and the edge of the bed. He switches off the light and feigns an attempt to sleep.

The box now sits on the shelf next to neatly labelled coffee jars containing nails and screws. He decides the floor is dusty and pulls down a broom from its rack and moves over to the far right corner of the room and moves methodically backwards urging the dust into a thin, grey line before him. The brush is replaced, and he picks up a large cool box and goes through the door into kitchen.
He pulls out packets,boxes and bottles from the fridge, and then placing them inside the box. Then two freezer blocks that fit in perfectly. He brings down the lid on top of them, entombing the treats inside.

His wife is waiting in the car as he walks out with it and places it in the boot.
He drives off, and five minutes later he is outside his mother’s house
She is waiting in the garden sat on a plastic chair under her favourite tree.
Her sun hat is beside her on the table.
He gets out and goes to her, and dutifully kisses her twice on each cheek.
They do not talk as they return to the car.
He drives off, a growing sense of dread coalescing in the pit of his stomach.
Thirty minutes drive and they will be there.
En route, his mother talks of the previous days’ events. His brother had called before they arrived to say Bernard was a good man, giving up his day off to move his niece into her new apartment. He is ill, and the work is too much for him now.
His wife agrees and there ensues a shallow exchange about tupperware and colour schemes.

They arrive at the crossroads and stop to let a small tractor pass, which takes an age.
He hesitates, to re-affirm his decision, and swings the car to the left, accelerating more than is his usual custom.
Like missiles, the questions come. What is he doing? Where are they going? The Lac D’ Argenton is in the other direction, and if they are late, the picnic tables will all be taken.
Bernard offers an appeasement by saying that today they were going to a new place, a surprise. They will love it, he promises.
They play along and joke that he should wear his hat in the garden more often, as the sun must be affecting his judgement.
This turn off piste has left them both uneasy, as Bernard never fails to deliver on expectancy.
To date, he has not set any land speed records, saved any lives or visited exotic places – in fact, he has never left his native France.They become quiet and reflect on why.

The airfield sidles up on their left and he pulls into the rough gravel parking area, gets out, and unpacks the car. A rug hides the folding table and chairs which lie behind the cool box, and he opens it out before laying out the picnic.
It is deserted, save the lone building covered in fading posters that are ribboned with age, advertising all manner of Aerial activity.
Another car arrives. It is his brother,his wife, and their daughter, who is driving. More gasps of disbelief. They flock together and exchange kisses and rearrange the picnic yet again. Bernard is now standing some way from the group as he has moved to the small watchtower to inspect the posters, to glean a crumb or two of comfort from them.
His niece is watching him and he smiles at her and nods. She knows his secret.

Wine is poured and the entrenched ritual of breaking bread commences.
It is a leisurely affair,as is the custom, and care is taken to revere each mouthful.
A tarte au citron is conjured up by his sister in law, amid gasps of appreciation. It is his favourite.
It is shared out and he toys with his slice. He finds a small paper plate and covers it for later.
Engine noise, getting closer.
Hands are shading eyes and necks crane skywards. A plane. A small plane. It’s going to land here.
Murmurs of curiosity ripple between the wine bottles and the party gravitates, slowly towards the runway’s edge.
It lands, and comes to a stop. A man gets out. Murmuring morphs into shrieks of delight, as the features of his nephew are painted onto the lone pilot’s face.More kissing and entreaties to eat, buying time for them all to ingest this fragile reality.
Bernard waits for his cue. His mother asks what is happening, and he shows his hand.
Today, they will all get their bapteme de l’air – a first flight in his nephew’s paper plane.
He is relieved by the enthusiasm that this news instils. His mother, at eighty one seems particularly happy.
Turns are decided and one by one they file off for the ride.
Everyone else lines the runway clutching a camera or staring on at the unfolding extravaganza, uttering cries of awe like children awaiting a turn on a fairground ride.
The pecking order moves along, his mother, his brother, the wives and then his niece.

So, the time is here now. It is him.
He realises that despite the elaborate ritual that he has enacted , he is frightened, and wishes he had stayed at home, and tended his garden. As he walks toward the plane, the other players are huddled together over a camera attempting to regain the thrill of the moment he had so selflessly created for them.
It satisfies him to see that at least he had got that part right.

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3 Comments Add yours

  1. Carl says:

    I dont normally read but I was tempted by the title and author. Delightful short story, it could have been me.

  2. Chapeau, Helen! Excellent insight into a modest, but generous man.

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