The war was over; Hitler, Tojo, and Mussolini were taken care of. Daddy
bought a battered training plane at a government auction, a tandem-seat, open-cockpit,
Steerman bi-plane, khaki green. He patched the holes in the canvas skin, replaced the
broken cables that linked the pedals to the flaps, and flew. He didn't take lessons.
One day, he took me. I was five. Daddy was God.
swooped me into the front seat. I could see the skeleton of the plane. The pedals were
way far away from my feet. Round gauges would show me how high and how fast we would go,
he said. I had to be tied to the canvas seat bolted to the plane's ribs. The straps
were too big, so he looped them around me twice to hold me in tight. He got in the back.
Someone yelled something outside, and Daddy called back, "Contact!" and the motor, right
in front of me, the loudest thing I'd ever heard, pulled us shaking and rattling along
the dirt strip and up into the sky. I couldn't see anything but the inside of the
cockpit and blue sky above me.
couldn't hear me. There was nothing I could do but watch the spiky hands on the dials
in front of me quiver and jerk from number to number.
My stomach flew
up, and then fell down. I almost floated. Only the straps held me down. We leaned hard
to one side and then, abruptly, to the other. I wished
that I could see down,
Then I wished that my wish hadn't come
We leaned hard, harder and then tipped
I screamed. "Daddy!!!!"
I grabbed the metal
frame of the seat as I went over, upside down. I jammed my
eyes closed and screamed
and screamed. The wind took the sound and the breath
out of my
I was surprised. I didn't fall out.
hanging like a parachutist in the safety straps, free of the seat, the
earth. Below me the world spread out – farms, orange groves, skinny roads, cars creeping
along, a tractor trailed by a cloud of red dust in a field.
Daddy had fallen out. Maybe he wasn't even in the plane any more. Maybe I was alone.
He liked to play jokes. Maybe this was the biggest joke.
But he was
flying the plane. He finally rolled her over to fly right side up, then took us down.
We bumpity-landed. He laughed and laughed as he freed me from the tangled straps.
"That's my girl," he shouted, taking a long gulp from his pocket flask. "Don't worry,
I'll take you up again."
I didn't die, but I didn't believe in God