Friday, September 2, 2011

Jump Or Die? - Flash Fiction - RFW

Undergoing engine maintenance. The cowling
piece described is furthest back from the prop.
(Also missing in this picture.)
It has the air scoop attached which is crucial
for inducting air for cooling during flight.
Something flashed past the canopy, and then was gone.
"Did you see that?" I said into the mic.
"Yeah, what the hell...", and then the engine throttled back. "Can you see anything?"
I pulled back the sliding plexiglass housing and stuck my head out into the slipstream. There was a square of black where there should have been smooth yellow metal.
"We've lost a chunk of the engine cowling." My stomach was already knotting.
I heard my husband's voice over the radio. "Reading tower, Mayday, niner-three-tango requesting immediate clearance for landing." Perfectly calm, despite the fact that the engine temperature reading was climbing rapidly toward the red.
Back came the disembodied voice of the controller. "Niner-three-tango, cleared for landing. Active runway is 27. Alternate runway 36 is also cleared. State your emergency."
"We've lost a section of engine cowling along with the air intake. Possibility of catastrophic engine failure. Stand by for emergency landing."
"Roger, emergency equipment is on the field. Maintain current heading if possible. Godspeed, Bill."

I tightened my parachute straps and ran through the drill. Open the canopy. Elevate and lock the seat. Stand up; dive over the side and as far forward, toward the wing, as you can. If you jump straight out, you run the risk of the rudder clobbering you. Count. Pull the cord.

The airport had steep ridges to one side, and a town lay directly under the approach to the runway. We'd discussed it a dozen times; if there was danger of crashing into an inhabited area, he would guide the plane into the ridge and stay with it. No collateral damage. I was to jump for my life.

All very clinical, but how do you face that sort of decision? How do you save your own life, knowing that someone you love is going to certain death? I never wanted to make that choice, yet the possibility was now pouring its poisoned breath down my neck.

I didn't tell him that I loved him. I didn't see my life flashing before my eyes. I didn't make any vows of undying love and devotion that would last through all of eternity.

"Can you set this crate down?" I asked, watching the duplicate controls moving in my backseat cockpit. Stick, rudder pedals, trim wheels, all seeming to move of their own accord.

A moment of silence. "Of course. It's your turn to pay for lunch. And it better not be McDonald's, you cheap wench."

His confidence. My trust. An equal,and silent, exchange of I love you.

We stuck together.

Later, I opened my moth-filled wallet and bought him a steak dinner.

FCA (ending obviously shortened due to word count restriction of 400)
Offered for both Friday Flash and Romantic Friday Writers: Heart Stopper!
Based on a true story.

To read more or join, click here


  1. Wonderful to read and excellently written.


  2. I loved the line: 'pouring its poisoned breath down my neck'. Glad they landed safely together :O)

  3. ooooh. the ending gave me chills. Well done!

  4. @Yvonne, Madeleine, Corinne - thank you. Glad you enjoyed it! I'll be away for the holiday weekend but hope to be around to visit at some point :-)

  5. Hi,

    Nice one, Lisa. It felt like a real-life heart-stopper moment! Fantastic read... ;)


  6. Ah, my cheap wench...the skies are alive with your writing.

  7. That came close to heart stopping for these too all right. Cool that you didn't need words between the two.

  8. This made me smile. Very well written.

  9. Oh that was great... I got to the end and realised I'd been holding my breath!
    Would love to read the longer version too!

  10. Hi Li. My heart was definitely stopping! The longer version would be good to read! D

  11. nice read Li - brings back memories of all those old Biggles books I read back in the day...

  12. Ooh! This has me wanting to confess my love over and over again to my partner before it's too late. =) I think we need moments like this sometimes, as drastic as this or not. It helps us realize how much we have to be thankful for! =) Thanks, Li!

  13. Thank you for not leaving us hanging! So glad that Bill made it after all, but what an exciting story. You demonstrate very well that much love can be expressed without hearts-and-flowers language.

  14. Thanks for all of your great comments!! I try to answer individually, but I'm behind this week - still a book to read and review, short story to wrap up and submit, family obligations...

  15. Dear Li,
    What a heart-stopper! (I was holding my breath.) Excellent use of the theme! I agree with Beverly, that love can be expressed without the usual flowery language. This text really makes you think about what is important!

    Sorry that I am so late with my comments.

    Best wishes,
    Anna's RFW No. 17 'Heart-Stoppers'

  16. Perfect, Li, just prfect - and love the way I believe it should be, period.

  17. I felt a little lacking when faced with the plane-lingo of the general situation but I felt much better at the end when I realized I understood it all. A humorous and loving ending after the heart-stopper.

  18. Hi Anna! I am perpetually late with comments/responses myself, as you know, but as I've stated before I don't worry about such things.What matters is that people do what they enjoy, whether it's reading, writing, or both, and I never want to think that a follower is stressing out because they didn't read or comment on a post of mine!Thanks for stopping by :-)

    Hi Kwee _ I'm glad you agree. For some people, verbal communication is a wonderful and necessary thing; for others, not so much. but the feeling is there just the same.

    Hello Ms Queenly - I wondered about the use of "the lingo", but sometimes I try to immerse the reader in the situation as fully as possible. I'm glad that you were able to keep with the story and get the message from the context; it shows that I pulled it off. So, thank you!!