Monday, May 18, 2009

Love and Ground Rush

I'm late with last week's Three Word Wednesday post, but here it is. The words are bicker, nervous, and trajectory.

She awoke to the feeling of a pillow soaked with tears. Oh my God, what a dream. He was there, and he'd said such wonderful things. He'd told her how much he loved her, how he was blessed to be married to her, and about how she was the most passionate woman he'd ever known. He finished by saying, "Thank you, and please find happiness again."

She put her feet to the floor. The sun would soon rise. Bo the bear dog looked at her from his corner. She looked at his brown face, which really did look more like that of a bear than the Lab-and-something the folks at the pound had claimed.

"What? It was just a stupid dream."

Ben had only been gone a week, and Bo had hardly moved. But he moved now. He walked to her feet, and looked into her eyes.

"It was just a dream, Bo," she said again.

A Stellar Jay lit upon the bedroom windowsill. He looked at her too. They were doing a tag-team on her heart. She motioned at the jay with her hand. "Shoo." The jay would have none of it. He looked at her, insisting. Bo the bear dog looked at her, not backing down.

She smiled, and the tears flowed again.

"Okay," she said to Bo and the jay. "Okay."

Ben had been nervous while driving to Minden that day. He thought for a moment about turning around and going home. But the draw of joining the big boys at the soaring center beckoned him, and steeled his resolve. It would be his first try at mountain wave flying in a glider, and he'd dreamed of this day for years.

He thought about how Sylvia would react if he showed up at home earlier than expected. She'd see it as an opportunity to go to work on him again, to convince him to give up flying those airplanes without engines. She'd tell him to take up golf or tennis or skeet shooting like normal people.

He continued driving toward Minden. He wasn't about to give up his dream, and he wasn't in the mood to bicker with Sylvia.

Don, his instructor, sat down in the classroom with him. He told Ben about the time he'd entered a mountain wave so rough that he'd been turned upside down, nearly colliding with the tow plane. They met with the tow pilot, and briefed more on emergency procedures. Ben was reminded of the glider pilot's mantra: Keep the slack out of the tow line.

They launched in the Grob 103 sailplane for their hoped-for encounter with a mountain wave. They caught a gentle one; Minden was known for that. Then came the rotor, and it was not gentle.

But after he rode through the first wave of terror and shock that came with what happened, he knew that the mountain wave rotor hadn't done it.

"Something hit us," he thought. He felt surprised that he barely felt the cold of the rarefied air.

It had happened at 24,000 feet. They were climbing at an exhilarating rate when the bang happened, and he found himself falling, the oxygen mask still attached to his face. He looked for Don, or Don's body, but saw nothing of him. He saw no parts of the sailplane, either, and thought that strange, even as he plummeted to what would almost certainly be his death.

He wasn't just giving up, though. If he could alter his downward trajectory to something with a more horizontal component, he might land on the snowy, northern face of the ridgeline ahead. The mountain face was steep, and if he hit the slope just right, it was possible that he'd live. It had happened.

At the same time, he'd accepted that it was very, very likely that he would die.

The terror and shock had largely left him, but now, as he plummeted toward the ground, he felt overpowered with remorse. The last words he'd said to Sylvia had been cross ones; he hadn't even kissed her goodbye before leaving the house.

He thought about the time they'd met. It was at her cousin's wedding reception, and he was quickly smitten with the half-Irish, half-Mexican girl with the flaming red hair. The problem was that he was drunk as hell, and he'd made a first-class ass out of himself. He realized that when her father interceded and not-too-gently suggested that he go sit at his own table. Ben was drunk, but not so drunk that he couldn't remember that her father had been a Golden Gloves boxer.

He'd felt fed up with her temper leaving that morning, but now, with the clarity given by doom, he grasped that her temper was just one part of her passion. My God, that woman was so passionate that it scared him, and not just when she was mad. Even a kiss on the cheek from her was so utterly passionate, so utterly there.

He'd been one lucky man. He'd always known that, but he wished he could have believed it half as fully as he believed it now.

He saw the beginning of ground rush, and knew that he didn't have much time left, even in his present mental state. Time would only slow so much, even when a guy was about to die. He saw that his effort to change his trajectory was futile, and that he would land in a narrow valley between ridgelines.

His last thought was, "Please let me tell her how I feel."


Bo the bear dog woke in the middle of the night. He looked at the woman, and exhaled with relief. There was no moaning, no thrashing about. Her face looked peaceful, and he felt no turbulence about her. She'd exited the path to hating life, at least for now.

He felt so sorry for people. They could do so much with their big brains and their thumbs, but there was so much about life and the after that escaped them. What would they do without dogs?

Bo drifted back to a blissful sleep, the kind of sleep enjoyed by a dog with a mission.


  1. There is so much to like in this, Hal. There's a dreamy quality to it, full of heartache, but hope, too. Thanks for contributing.

  2. Yeah, a well thought out and powerful little story.

  3. this was a terriffic story. I felt the anguish and the love that lived even after death, such struggle, moments that linger eched in memories of passion.