Off They Flew

Tommy and Jake knew they were going to fly. Someday. They made a pact last summer and swore on each other’s mother that they are going to be pilots. Or maybe astronauts. Somehow. They would explore exotic lands or distant stars. Somewhere.

They went to the carnival that rolled in every year and parked itself behind the community college. It sprawled out over packed down grass and waited for their airborne dreams. Or it was the tightly packed fair in the parking lot of the church demanding their prayers as they whirled through the heavens. The orphanage would bring them as a special event.

The boys didn’t care for the chewy popcorn or the sno-cones that drained their juices out of the cup and left only a bumpy hunk of ice. They had no time for funhouse mirrors that warped their self-images or plywood mazes with only one way out. They were going to fly.

So Tommy and Jake waited in line. They studied the greasy gears and hydraulic pumps. They watched in fascination as motors turning clockwise launched screaming children upwards, then sideways, then round and round. They marveled at the creak and strain of the central axle, the thin whistle of the chains spinning with their own wind.

When it was their turn, Tommy and Jake rattled the seats. They tested the flimsy looking bar held secure by a simple nylon strap. It reminded Jake of the swings at the school playground, the ones for the smallest kids who didn’t know that they could lift that useless thing and shoot right out like so much flaming tar from a catapult bombarding a castle. He and Tommy were thrilled at the idea. Maybe if they went high enough they would never come down.

That summer, Tommy turned thirteen. Jake would be twelve in the fall. They cherished these seasonal amusements but knew the distraction was quick to fade. No one wanted these older boys. So they made a pact. They were going to fly. Someday. They would speed, zoom, soar, so fast and so far. Somehow. Jake and Tommy would escape this place. They would go beyond the known horizon. They would find their families out there. Somewhere.

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