Firebird Fly Short StorySandy Flynn fiddled impatiently with her seat belt. She was stuck in a traffic jam caused by a car accident. She was starting to grow irritated. Sandy needed to be in Pennsylvania that night. Her best friend’s wedding was the next day. She was the maid of honor. She couldn’t be late.
Sandy was near the front of the jam, and she could see that nobody was hurt. But the officer at the scene appeared to be questioning one driver relentlessly. Anybody could tell that the man was drunk, why had the officer kept so many people waiting for so long?
Despite all the traffic, the night was quiet. Sandy could hear a Night Owl hooting in the distance. She could also hear the drunk man claiming that he was Sober.
The officer handed him something- a breathalyzer. The man’s eyes lit up at the sight of it. He snatched it up and made the motion of taking a drink from it. The officer raised his eyebrows. Several people in cars began to laugh. The officer finally handcuffed the man, put him in the squad car, and drove off with him. A tow truck came by soon afterward and removed the wrecked vehicle.
Sandy sighed with relief and continued to the airport.
Howard Palmer was having a horrible day. First a drunk man had run into his truck on his way to work. The officer had let Howard go right away, but there was now a fairly large dent in the back of the truck. Now he was being told that he would have to fly to Philadelphia when it was well-known that a large storm was forming over the state of Pennsylvania. He knew that he would be able to do it, he had before, but why should he be forced to do this All Over Again?
Howard met with the flight attendants to be sure everything on board was working properly. His copilot, Robert Darden did the walk-around, checking the tires pressure and condition, the oxygen status in the cockpit, then the brakes and finally, the engines. The plane was in perfect flying condition.
Howard stared at the red lettering on the side of the plane. It read Firebird Fly. Howard was very proud of this plane. He had helped build it a few years earlier. He had even given it its name. It was a fairly small plane, it only held 30 people. This would be the farthest flight that the plane had been on. Since it would also be one of the most dangerous flights it had been on, Howard was extremely worried about the plane.
Howard and Robert went back to the cockpit to program the flight plan into the plane’s GPS. Done. They tested their oxygen masks. Good. Each of them drank a cup of coffee. Because the plane would be leaving early in the morning, they wanted to make sure they had plenty of caffeine in them.
“You ready?” Robert asked Howard.
“I suppose so,” answered Howard.
“Something’s gonna happen. I can feel the storm in my Bones.”
“You mean your knees?”
Howard checked the weather in Pennsylvania one last time. The storm was only beginning to form. If this report was correct, the route they would be taking would be just outside the edge of the storm. Damn. Howard remembered the last storm he flew in was supposed to be the same. He ended up having to land the plane at an airport nearly a hundred miles north of his destination. But Howard had no more time to worry about the weather.
The passengers were now climbing onto the plane. It was nearly time for take off.
Jody Schroeder was terrified of planes. Actually she was terrified of heights, but how high did planes fly when they were in the air? She didn’t understand why her brother couldn’t drive out to California to take her to Philadelphia. Sure, it would take a long time and cost plenty of money. But he knew that she was terrified of heights.
At eighty-five years old, Jody was too old to be doing things that scared her like this. What if she got real scared and had a heart attack? Unlikely, perhaps (Jody was in perfect health), but this what she had told her brother.
“Jody, I guarantee you won’t have a heart attack,” he had said.
“How the hell do you know what’s going to happen? Besides our father died of a heart attack. It could happen to me. Either one of us.” Jody always had a Mean Streak. She knew that her brother had heart trouble in the past.
But as much as Jody had complained, Ernie wouldn’t drive out to get her. She understood that his grandson was very ill and that he didn’t want to leave the boy. But really? He could have even gotten her a train ticket. It was cheaper, to begin with. But he had insisted on her taking the plane.
So now Jody stood in a line of about 30 other people, waiting to board a small passenger plane called Firebird Fly.
Michael Yeager was an extremely happy man. Extremely happy- and now extremely wealthy. All he needed to do was travel to Philadelphia and collect the inheritance that his uncle had left to him. It was so much money. Even a house. All of it was his.
Michael’s father’s family had all been extremely wealthy. All of them except for Michael’s father. He had been disowned by his parents nearly fifty years earlier after marrying a Jewish woman. Michael’s grandparents had been Catholics and didn’t approve of his mother. But Michael’s uncle had always kept in touch with his oldest brother.
Old Mr. Yeager was gone now, and so was his brother. He didn’t have any children himself and had left the entire estate to his only nephew.
After growing up in a different home every few months, Michael was by far ready to settle down in a nice home. He might even move his family to Pennsylvania after he checked out the house. He didn’t like airplanes much, but who cared when you’re travelling to a new home and millions of dollars?
Michael pulled his wallet out of his pocket and stared at the photograph of his twenty-three year old son, Mason. The boy was overseas now, a soldier. Michael smiled as he thought of the boy. He was the best thing that ever happened to him. Mason was the exact same as his father. He was smart, brave, handsome, and honest. Michael could barely believe him when he made his decision five years earlier to join the military.
There also was a small, tattered photograph of Michael and his wife on their wedding day. Merrily looked so beautiful in the picture, even with the long scratch on the paper went across her face. He remembered the day well, not only his wedding at that Little White Church, but also how they had gotten pulled over for speeding afterwards on their way to the airport. The officer had gone easy on them. Who in their right mind would give a woman wearing a wedding dress a speeding ticket?
Michael slipped his wallet back into his pocket. He turned to smile at the flight attendant, who was telling people to put their phones away. When she moved away, a young woman caught his eye.
She looked so much like his wife did when she was that age. Her red hair and dark eyes matched perfectly. She was busy writing something down. A young man with brown hair and haunting green eyes sat beside each other. They didn’t seem to know each other. But, Michael thought, they would make a real cute couple. Not that he would ever say something like that out loud.
“Please fasten your seatbelts,” the pilot’s voice announced. “We will be taking off shortly.”
Michael sighed, fastened his seatbelt, then leaned back and closed his eyes.
Peter Kavanaugh sat in his seat on the airplane, trying to ignore the gorgeous woman that he was sitting next to him. She was obviously nervous about something. But finally Peter gave in.
“Are you okay?” he asked. She looked at him and her mouth literally dropped open.
“What- oh! No, I mean yes! I mean, oh I’ve just never been on a plane before!” she giggle nervously.
“No, and my best friend’s wedding is tomorrow! I’m the maid of honor. I’m so nervous. What if the plane crashes? Oh, God,” she cried.
“WHAT!” An elderly woman sitting in the seat in front of them flipped her head around, “What about the plane crashing?”
“Oh-oh no, that’s not what I mean! Surely the plane won’t crash!”
“Of course the plane won’t crash,” Peter said calmly to both the girl and the old woman.
“How the hell do you know? What if there’s a storm and we fly into it? I heard there’s a storm over Pennsylvania!” said the old lady. Peter just smiled at her.
“They don’t fly planes into storms, they fly around them.”
“Well, what if the plane runs out of gas?”
“They always make sure there is enough fuel for the plane to get to its destination,” Peter told her.
“What if if there’s a leak in the engine? And they can’t find A Place To Land the plane,” the old lady said.
“Are you really that afraid of planes?” asked Peter.
“Heights, actually. But mostly, I’m just trying to scare the girl,” she said.
“Oh, that’s horrible! Why would you do that? I don’t even know you!” cried the younger woman. The old lady cackled with glee.
“Just ignore her. She doesn’t mean it,” Peter said sweetly.
“Oh, yes I do!”
“I’m really scared,” the girl whimpered.
“You’ll be all right. What’s your name?”
“Sandy,” she answered.
“Flynn. I’m Sandy Flynn.”
“I’m Peter Kavanaugh.”
“And I’m Jody Schroeder,” said the old woman.
“Well, if we’re all introducing ourselves,” said another man, sitting across the aisle, “I’m Michael Yeager.”
“Oh, and this is Kenneth,” Jody said, implying the man sitting beside her. “Kenneth, what did you say your last name was?”
The man, couldn’t hear her, he had on a large pair of headphones, but they weren’t plugged into anything. Jody tapped his hand eagerly.
“Huh- what?” asked Kenneth, pulling the headphones off his head.
“What’s your last name?”
“Oh!” cried Sandy. “I used to have a parrot.”
“Could he talk?” Kenneth asked her.
“It was a girl. And she loved to talk. She would even argue with me!”
“See, now we’re all friends. And we can all agree that the plane is perfectly fine, right?” said Peter.
“Nobody here is my friend,” announced Jody. “Except for Kenneth. You’ll be my friend, won’t you sweetheart?”
“Uh- okay. Why not?” Jody clapped her hands happily.
Peter smirked at them. Then he turned back to Sandy.
“So are you from Pennsylvania or California?”
“Pennsylvania. But I moved to California a few years ago. Where are you from?” asked Sandy.
“My Home’s In Alabama,” he stated. He reached out and touched her hand just as the plane began to speed down the runway.
She looked up into his shining eyes and smiled adoringly.
Sandy hadn’t felt so happy in years. Peter was the sweetest, most understanding man she had ever met. He had even let her hold his hand for nearly ten minutes, while she sat terrified over being the plane. Now that he had convinced her to look out the window with him, they were taking turns pointing things out.
“Oh look at the lake! It’s shaped like a heart!” Sandy squealed.
“And look. I can just make it out,” said Peter.
“Right in the middle of the lake. There’s a Pontoon.”
“Peter! You can’t see a boat from here!”
“Sure I can. Look closely,” he told her.
Sandy pressed her face to the window and squinted her eyes.
“I can’t see it,” she said.
“Well, maybe it’s my contacts,” he answered. Sandy looked at his eyes closely.
“You’re not wearing contacts!” she exclaimed. They both laughed.
So far the flight had gone according to plan. But as Howard and Robert flew closer to Pennsylvania, they could tell that the weather was getting worse.
“You gotta backup plan, Howie? What’re we gonna do if we can’t land in Philadelphia?”
“Right now, we just need to focus on getting these people to Wings Field. But if that isn’t possible, I should be able to go as far north as Van Sant Airport.”
“And if that doesn’t happen?”
“The radio’s on. We’re keeping tabs on the weather. If it gets real bad, we’ll land before we even get into Pennsylvania.” Suddenly a wave of turbulence hit the plane and Howard immediately got on the intercom.
“Please fasten your seatbelts.” He took the plane off autopilot and grabbed the Yoke.
“Just need to get a bit lower. Then I’ll raise the plane above the wind, if I can,” he told Robert.
“Just Lean Into It, old man. Keep the plane Still,” Robert said.
“I’m Tryin’, but we’re getting awfully close to this storm.” Howard said.
“Think we oughta land?”
“What’s the nearest airport?”
“Cleveland Hopkins International,” Robert told him.
“Get them on the radio,” said Howard.
Jody yelped as the plane began to shake and shudder. She didn’t need to fasten her seatbelt, she never had unfastened it in the first place. Her right hand found Kenneth’s and she grabbed it and squeezed it tightly.
“OW! Mrs. Schroeder, what are you doing?” he cried.
“I’m scared,” she told him, but loosened her grip on his fingers. “And my name is Jody. I’m not married, and Mrs. Schroeder was my mother.”
“I’m sorry, ma’am.” Jody smiled at him. Kenneth smiled back, but there was a hint of mischief in his eyes.
“Do you think we’ll get Lost?” he asked her. Jody glared at him.
“No, I’m scared we’ll fly straight into a Tornado!” she exclaimed.
“Oh, yes, Jody. I believe we’re as Good As Gone,” he said.
“Oh, no. Oh, God,” Jody mumbled. She could feel tears filling her eyes, and tried to blink them away.
“Oh, dammit. Don’t cry. I was just kidding, we’re gonna be okay. I promise,” Kenneth said. He patted her shoulder gently. She pulled him into a hug.
“Dammit,” said Kenneth.
“Your hair smells good,” Jody told him. The man’s eyes grew wide and he struggled to free himself.
“Peter! What’s happening? What is this?” Sandy cried. The plane was shaking wildly. And so was Sandy. A flight attendant with a cart tumbled forward, knocking a tray of drinks to the floor.
“It’s okay. We’ve just hit some turbulence. We’ll be okay,” he told her.
“Turbulence?” she asked.
“I hate planes,” Sandy said.
“Whenever I fly, I try to focus myself on something other than the plane. Because if I do, it doesn’t seem quite as bad.
“You don’t like planes either?”
“Why were you in California, Peter?” Sandy questioned.
“I was visiting some friends,” Peter clarified.
“And why are you going to Pennsylvania?”
“Visit some more friends.”
“You have a lot a friends,” concluded Sandy.
“I have a few,” he said.
“And you live in Alabama?”
“That’s Where I’ll Be,” he said.
“Are you going to Stay there? You must move around a lot if you know so many people,” said Sandy.
“I might. Or maybe I’ll move to California,” he said with a smile. Sandy giggled.
Michael smiled at the sight across the aisle of the plane. In one pair of seats, Jody was practically drooling over Kenneth. It was quite humorous, watching the ancient woman clinging tightly to a man at least fifty years younger than her. He had seen sitcoms shows with people like that, but in real life?
In the pair seats directly behind him was a much sweeter sight. Peter and Sandy weren’t being pushy with each other- they didn’t have to. It was obvious they like each other. It was obvious they were a perfect couple. They were flirting, yet Michael highly doubted that they even realized it.
The plane had hit some turbulence earlier, but it seemed to be out of danger now. Michael was glad for that, there had been quite a few screaming woman when it happened. A couple of men, too.
As they flew closer to Pennsylvania, Michael became more and more excited. He was only hours from receiving what he had dreamt of since he was a little boy.
Howard knew that they needed to land the plane as soon as possible. The Fury of the storm was impossible to ignore. A tornado had been reported just miles from Wings Field. The airport was closed due to debris that had blown into the airstrip . There only chance was the airport in Ohio. At the moment, Cleveland Hopkins International Airport was preparing for their landing.
“Please fasten your seatbelts,” Robert said into the intercom. “We will be landing shortly.”
“You think anyone knows how bad this storm is?” Howard asked.
“I doubt it, otherwise they wouldn’t be on the plane. This storm has been on the news for several days now, though. You’d think someone would realize how dangerous this is.”
“The plane’s full, isn’t it?”
“Merrily said it was, but you know how she is. There could three people on it, and it would still be full,” Robert said.
“How close are we to the airport?” questioned Robert.
“Were directly above it. I’ve been flying in circles for nearly five minutes. You haven’t noticed?” said Howard accusingly.
“I haven't been paying much attention,” Robert said.
“It’s your job to pay attention.”
“Yes, sir. When are we going to land?”
“As soon as airport comes back on the radio.” Just as the words came out of his mouth, a voice said,
“All right. Bring her down.”
“Let’s land this thing,” said Robert.
Peter sat in his seat, confused as to what was happening. The plane couldn’t be over Philadelphia yet. The flight should have taken five hours, but they were nearly an hour early.
“Oh, we’re there already?” said Sandy.
“I don’t think so,” he said. He stopped the flight attendant.
“Miss, can you tell me where we are?”
“Directly over the Cleveland Hopkins International Airport,” she answered.
“We’re supposed to be in Pennsylvania,” Peter stated.
“The storm over Philadelphia is too large to fly around and safely make it to the airport.”
“How long will we be at this airport?” asked Sandy.
“No one knows for sure. It could be tonight, it could be next week.”
“Next week?” Sandy squealed. Her best friend’s wedding was the next day!
“I’m sure it won’t take that long Sandy,” said Peter as the flight attendant walked.
“Oh, it better not take that long!”
Howard and Robert were finally able to land the plane. They went through the entire checklist before starting to bring the plane toward the runway. All The Way Down, Howard prayed that the high wind speed wouldn’t affect his landing.
When the plane hit the ground, he sighed with relief. They were finally safe.
Jody, dragging Kenneth behind her, practically flew out of the airplane after it landed. Never again was she getting on another plane. She would take a bus or something the rest of the way to Philadelphia. Hopefully she would be at her nephew’s home within the next day.
Michael walked out of the plane calmly. His trip to Philadelphia would have to wait. It really wasn’t a big deal, nobody was going to take it from him. The only thing that upset him was that he would be away from his family a few more days than he expected. But they would be okay, he could call them. It wasn’t like he had been away for weeks. He had just left that morning.
Sandy and Peter stepped cautiously away from the plane. They were still holding hands from when the plane landed.
“That was not fun!” Sandy articulated.
“No?” Peter asked blissfully.
“Well, I need to go get my things. I’m not standing in an airport during this storm,” said Sandy and marched off to the baggage claim. Peter followed her.
One Year Later
Michael Yeager and his family were out in the swimming pool of their four story mansion outside Philadelphia. He was happy in their new home. Yes, there was a few problems with being rich, but he was able to fix everything that came about. His daughter was now eighteen and going off to college, his son had returned home after an injury. Both of them were doing great. Michael had gotten a new job that made him feel good- he was a teacher at an elementary school.
Howard Palmer was now retired. He enjoyed taking his own plane out in the Alaskan wilderness, which was where he had moved to a few months earlier. He was still in touch with Robert, the young man had some problems with airplane at times, but with Howard’s help, he was able to solve most of them. Howard and his wife now spent most of their time fishing, hunting, or flying together. Alaska was a much better choice for a retirement home than Florida or California.
Jody Schroeder moved in with her brother to be closer with him and his family. Her nephew was now much healthier, and enjoyed playing Scrabble with the old woman. She still enjoyed scaring the younger generation. The best part of her moving to Philadelphia was that Kenneth Parrott lived only a few doors down the street. The bad thing was that Kenneth was married and had two children. Dammit.
And Peter ended up moving to California a few weeks after the flight. He and Sandy were now engaged and were looking forward to a long and happy life together.