Friday, 14 December 2012

Memories of my Father's Musings...

After Jack received his mother’s letter, he felt homesick.  She had evoked awareness in him that he was not actually immortal.  He had no idea why as she hadn’t been morbid in her correspondence, in fact she’d hardly said anything unusual at all.  Only to take care and to watch out for those German guns, which all the lads joked about, yet he suddenly recalled his uncle, his mother’s brother who'd been killed in the first war.  He’d been his age, just twenty and he had never come home.  Jack was lost in thought, his parent’s house in Glasgow, the smell of his father’s pipe, his mother’s bland cooking and her occasional soft hugs for all three of her boys.  The house was always strictly quiet, with too many rules and curfews, his father demanded it, being a sea captain saying he needed the peace, but this frustrated Jack, he wanted noise, action!  He wondered now, where his older brother, Bob was and regretted that he hadn’t asked after him in his last letter.  He only knew he was in the navy, nothing more.  Frank, his younger brother was safe at home, working at the local post office and ladding about with girls two and three years older than him.  He smiled to himself thinking about it. Lucky bugger.

“Jack”, his mate Alistair was calling.  “We’re away shortly, we need to run through the route and do some engine checks.”  Alistair was tall, blond and over twenty-five.  Jack continued to stare out the window of the runway office that overlooked the windswept tarmac.  Spitfires, Hurricanes and Mustangs grouped in order of reconnaissance missions.  He thought of them as dream machines, anything and all became possible when he was flying one of them. It was like running with wild horses, flying with albatrosses, dancing through hillside glens with ancestral highlanders, and it was so bloody blue and beautiful up there past the grey clouds of Britain, arousing a feeling of paradise. The drone of the flying engines was a song wild in his heart. Yet, just now without knowing why, he trembled.  Not that he ever felt particularly brave, on the contrary he realized he didn’t feel much of anything before, only that it was all fabulous fun, on the wing through the wild blue yonder, pubbing it at night with the lads, all an exciting adventure.  Even the flights over enemy territory were merry jaunts, he never ever thought, What if?  So why was he thinking this now?

“Jack, what’s up mate?  Are you coming or what?"   Alistair stepped closer.  "Did you receive bad news from home?”  
Jack looked up and felt re-assured, “Och no Ali, everything is grand.  Just day dreamin, let’s away then.”  And he smiled trying to force his trepidation back down his throat.

Jack leaned back on the throttle and an exhilaration prickled through his bloodstream as the hum of airplane engines and wheels lightly kissing tarmac in the impossible attempt to take to the air.  The first time Jack soloed, he didn’t think it would happen, the Spitfire ran like a spotted leopard giving chase to some prey through grassy fields, how could this beast take flight?  But then the ghosts of ancient highlander's pipes started up and the rhythmic tempo of Celtic drum, the aircraft lifted towards grey scattered clouds and dull hilly ground, teetering on the wings of wayward Gaelic fairies.  Jack thrilled as the un-seen voices elevated him into another world, a world of dazzling blue light.  He expected to see Zeus snoozing amongst the shining velvet clouds and below lay the world of mortals and their war seemed inconsequential, he was not a part of this, he was a flying god in an ethereal machine above them all.  On that first solo flight, he laughed, he smiled like a madman, tumbling and tossing over the earth like a barn swallow on a midsummer’s evening above geometric farms, he’d found his rapture and refused to return to the mundane again.

So why now, on this day, months later, did fear crawl into his bloodstream like an invisible serpent stealing his joy for no apparent reason?


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