First Flight

Jack R. Davenport

Copyright 1999 by Jack R. Davenport

Photo of toy cardboard wings.

First Flight came to me as I was reminiscing about my childhood. This story was just one of my fondest memories. I have always loved my sister and, thinking back, I wonder how she manages to still love me after some of the mean stunts I pulled on her. Bravo for sisters!

Here I stood, facing my mother and knowing the beatings would soon begin.

Growing up as part of a poor family of four children, I found that being inventive was a real means of entertainment. I was the oldest of the four children. My sister Diane, the closest to my own age and naturally inquisitive, was usually my main entertainment. You see, I was the inventor in the family and Diane, well, she was kind of the guinea pig. She wasn't always a willing subject, but I had a way of convincing her that everything would work out okay.

On this fine summer morning, I had just finished watching cartoons and I had a great new idea. I was going to build a set of wings and fly among the birds. Being only seven years old I had no concept of aeronautics, but that hardly mattered at the time. I gathered my material--a cardboard box and some scissors and string--and headed for the barn. Climbing into the hayloft where I would not likely be disturbed, I began construction of the wings.

A short time later I had a wonderful set of wings with strings that ran through them at two places to fasten to my arms. It was time to check out the launch pad. At the west end of the loft was a large door, which was about ten feet up from the ground. A six-foot concrete slab lay directly below the door. That would be no problem. I would need to get a running start. If I could clear the slab, there was a small pasture of two-foot-high grass beyond to provide a safe landing. There was a slight breeze, and the smell of a freshly cut wheat field filled my nostrils. This was a perfect day to fly.

As I strapped on the first wing I ran into a major problem. With the wing attached to one arm I couldn't reach the other arm to complete the operation. I was just pulling off the first wing when, as luck would have it, Diane came up to the loft.

Now Diane was naturally inquisitive and that was sometimes her downfall. Keep the word downfall in mind.

"What are you doing?" she asked.

"I'm getting ready...," I stopped in mid-sentence. " I'm getting ready to take another fly around the pasture."

"You didn't fly," she sneered at me.

Now, if I had had any doubts about setting her up for the first test flight, they immediately vanished. Besides, if I could get her to take the flight then I, the inventor, could watch to see if anything went wrong. It had also crossed my mind that if there was an accident, I would feel better offering her condolences than personally wearing Band-Aids.

"Sure I did. I got a running start and sailed right out over the pasture and back into the hay loft just before you came in." I tried to sound convincing.

"You did not. You’re lying!" she snapped. Perhaps she was becoming skeptical, since this summer I had already persuaded her to eat half of a mud pie, which I had passed of as chocolate, and to jump out of a tree with an umbrella.

"Okay, if you don’t want to fly, then help me get these wings back on and I’ll do it myself." I sounded very convincing. Captain Kangaroo would have been proud of my acting job. As usual, she took the bait.

"Are you sure this works?" she asked cautiously.

"Oh yeah. This has to be the most fun I’ve had this summer." I tried to hide a smirk. After all, if I could convince her to try it, it might well be the most fun I’d have all summer.

"Okay, I’ll give it a try. But if I get hurt, I’m telling Mom and you’ll get yours," she warned.

Giving her my reassurance, I fitted the wings on her and aimed her at the open loft door. I am sure to this day I didn’t want her to get hurt.  However,    I needed a good test flight to see if this would work.

"You have to run like the dickens and jump as soon as you reach the edge of the door. And don’t forget to start flapping the wings." I instructed. The excitement in her eyes almost made me want to stop her and tell her the truth. I had felt that way before though and had managed to ignore the feeling of sympathy. I was an inventor and, as such, I knew that discovering things came at a price. I just wasn't too enthusiastic about paying it myself.

I got her lined up at the rear of the loft facing the open doorway.

"Now remember, you have to jump real hard and start flapping. Got it?" I asked.

"Yes! Now let me try it," she commanded. Well, whatever you want, I thought to myself.

Diane started running toward the door at full speed. Just before she reached the opening, she stopped.

"I can’t do this. I’m too scared." Tears were welling up in her eyes.

"Take your time. I was scared too. It will be okay." I tried to sound convincing. I guess I did feel a little sorry for her, but I still needed to see if the wings would work.

She lined back up at the rear of the loft and got ready. I could see the fear in her eyes had been replaced with determination. She ran full speed toward the doorway. Then she began to slow down again. However, this time I was right behind her. As she slowed down to stop in the doorway, I gave her a helping hand and shoved her out the opening.

As soon as she left the loft, she began flapping her arms. What a trooper! I thought to myself. As she descended toward the concrete, I became worried that she might break something. To my amazement, she cleared the concrete slab by four feet or so. The problem was that with all the flapping, she had not maintained her balance and landed in the pasture headfirst.

She lay there on the ground for what seemed an eternity. Slowly I began to hear a mixture of sobs and moans. Then, without warning, she sprang to her feet and tore the wings from her arms. Looking quickly up at the loft, she spotted me. There was no sorrow in those eyes now, only the revenge of a woman scorned.

"I’m going to tell mom that you pushed me out of the loft. You creep! She’s going to beat you to death and I’m gonna dance on your grave, you puke!" she screamed as she began running for the house. I thought my only hope was to catch her and convince her that I had not intended to push her from the loft. It was all a terrible mistake.

I climbed down out of the loft as fast as I could, but I was well behind her in the race for the house. I knew I was too late as I entered the living room through the front door. My mom was standing facing the door. She had that look, the one I had come to recognize that indicated the beatings would soon begin. At this point, explanations were of no use. There was enough evidence to convict me. Diane had a knot on her head and there were the cardboard wings in the field.

I wasn’t wrong about the beating. It came with the swiftness that only a mother can deliver. But I hadn’t figured on the two-week detention that followed. It gave me time to consider my actions and apologize for hurting my sister. I decided that I would change my ways.

The next time I felt inventive, I would make sure that I could get to the house before Diane so I could get my story told before she could tell hers.

Jack Davenport has been an aspiring writer since grade school. He has always enjoyed writing short stories and essays. He was born in 1957 in Portland, Oregon, USA. He has spent his whole life living in the state of Oregon and loves it there. Married in 1976, he and his wife Janice have had two wonderful children who have been inspirational in their lives. They have lived in the city of Portland for the last 15 years. Jack has worked as a Chemical Machinist since 1977 for an aerospace parts manufacturer. He would like to devote more time to writing. "Time is like money. You think you have enough to get by but when you look it seems to have slipped away. "

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