Warning Miracle

 

 

 

 

 

  by John Klee

the beginning of...

 

Chapter 1

 

 

 

             “Roger that, Skycrown seven-victor-bravo…you are number two to land behind the Falcon now turning base.”

 

            Dexter had been rummaging through his flight bag, oblivious for the moment to the controller’s instructions.

 

            “Skycrown seven-victor-bravo: do you copy?” said the controller again, a little louder this time.

 

            “Huh?  Oh.”  Dexter keyed the mike and sat upright.  “Roger that, OSU Tower.  Landing on Runway Niner.”

 

            “Do you see traffic?” asked the controller.

 

            Dexter glanced out the right side of his Skycrown and saw a Beech King Air turning off the runway.

  

            “Roger, traffic in sight.”  Dexter flipped the visor down but was still having trouble seeing the runway because of the sun in his eyes.  “That sun is a pain in the butt!” he muttered under his breath.  “I might have to land on five.”

 

             He was just about to call the tower when out of the corner of his eye he saw a white shape rapidly approaching from the left.

 

            “Skycrown on final!” the radio blared.  “Immediate right turn--NOW!”

 

            Dexter rammed the control yoke to the right and instinctively pushed in the throttle, his stomach feeling like he had been kicked by a hippopotamus.

 

            The Falcon business jet broke to the left, its left wing pointing at the ground, as its engines also spooled up to maximum power.

 

            “How the heck did that happen?!” shouted Dexter to the empty cockpit.  “Holy heck, that was close!”  He leveled off at a thousand feet and flew due south, awaiting instructions from the tower. His heart felt like the repeated recoil of a shotgun blast in his chest.

 

            “Skycrown seven-victor-bravo, report to the tower after landing.  You have some serious explaining to do.  You are cleared for landing runway niner.  There is no other traffic in the pattern.  The Falcon will land after you.”

 

            “GOT THAT RIGHT!” said the captain of the Falcon, breaking into the radio transmission.

 

            “Roger that,” said Dexter meekly.  “Cleared for landing runway niner.”  He let out a long sigh, still holding down the mike button.  “Sorry,” he said.

 

            Ten minutes later, Dexter was sitting in the base of the control tower at the Ohio State University airport.  A door marked “Stairs to Tower” opened and a portly middle-aged man entered the lobby.  He said nothing as he pulled up a chair in front of Dexter, sat down, and handed him a copy of the FAR/AIM Handbook.

 

            “Why don’t you read Section 91.13?” he said tersely to Dexter.

 

            “Out loud?”

 

               “Right.”

 

            Dexter fumbled through the pages, then put his finger on the appropriate paragraph.  “Okay…uhh…all right, well, it says:  Careless or reckless operation.   (a) Aircraft operations for the purpose of air navigation. No person may operate an aircraft in a careless or reckless manner so as to endanger the life or property of another.”

 

               “Stop right there, Dexter.  Did I or did I not--”

 

            “How do you know my name?” asked Dexter.

 

            “I know a heck of a lot more about you than you would care to imagine!” said the controller, his voice rising.  “Now, tell me, are you ready for The Warning?  Did I give you permission to--”

 

            “Huh?” said Dexter, tilting his head to one side.  “Sorry to interrupt you, but did you say ‘morning’ or ‘warning’?”

 

            The door to the airplane ramp swung open and the Falcon captain rushed in.  “Which one of you is the IDIOT?!” he said loudly.

 

            Neither Dexter nor the controller said anything.

 

            “Oh, right!” shouted the pilot.  “It’s obviously YOU!” he said, pointing at Dexter.

 

            Dexter averted his eyes and shifted in his seat.

 

            “How long you been flyin’, boy?”

 

            “Just about four years.”  Dexter swallowed and cleared his throat.  “I’ve got two hundred hours.”

 

            “Two hundred hours!” said the Falcon captain derisively.  “You shouldn’t be riding a bicycle, much less flying an airplane!”

 

            The door opened behind the captain and his first officer walked in.  The captain turned around to face his crewmate and pointed at Dexter.  “Can you believe it, Larry?  This kid’s got 200 hours!  Isn’t it amazing?”

 

            “He definitely needs some help, that’s for sure,” said Larry.  “Anyway, we have to move the Falcon.  We’re blocking the taxiway.”

 

            “I’ll be out in a minute,” said the captain.  He turned to face Dexter again.  “You just listen and listen good, bud.  You almost killed us both up there today, and I’ve got a wife and kids to think about.”  He shook his index finger.  “You never--never--come that close to another plane in the pattern again…got it?  I don’t know what distracted you in the cockpit, but you darn well better never let it happen again.  You want to kill yourself, that’s your problem, but you aren’t going to take anyone else down with you.”  The captain glared at Dexter for a few seconds, then swiveled around and walked out the door.

 

            Dexter met the gaze of the controller briefly, then cast his eyes at the floor.

 

            “I don’t know if I need to say anything else…that pilot summed it up pretty well,” said the controller, standing up and moving his chair back to its original position.  He turned to face Dexter, opened his mouth, then stopped, pursing his lips.

 

            Dexter glanced up, but said nothing.

 

            “I think I’m going to have to--”  The controller brought his hand up to his chin and thought for a half minute.  “All right, Dexter.  I’ll tell you what I’m going to do.  By all rights I should ground you for a few months, but I looked at your record before I came down and it’s clean.  So, you’re going to get off with a warning this time, but--”

 

            “There!  I knew you said ‘warning’!  I thought I heard that.”

            The controller shook his head, his eyes drilling into Dexter’s.  “I choose to ignore your insolence!  Do not interrupt me again.  You’re free to go, just watch your step from now on.”

 

            “Sweet!” said Dexter, a wide grin spreading across his face.

 

            “Not so fast, my friend.  One more violation like this and I’ll turn you over to my boss--and he won’t be so kind.”

 

            “Yes, I understand,” said Dexter respectfully.  “It was entirely my fault.  I should have requested another runway.  The sun was in my eyes.”

 

            “Consider yourself lucky, Dexter.  That’ll be all.”  The controller took the FAR/AIM manual back from Dexter and disappeared through the door to the stairwell.

 

            As soon as he was outside, Dexter pumped his fist in the air.  “Yes!” he said in a loud whisper.  “Heck, yes, I’m lucky!  Chalk one up for the Dex!”  He walked over to the plane, tied it down and sauntered to his car.  A note on the dashboard reminded him that he needed to pick up his dry cleaning in Dublin, an up and coming suburb to the northwest of Columbus.  Twenty minutes later, the shirts were in the trunk and he was motoring down Riverside Drive.  Dexter had a penchant for the scenic route when driving around Central Ohio, and with the trees in their peak fall colors, the road along the Scioto River was worth the extra time it would take.  The maple trees glowed in their reddish hues and the birch trees added to the festivities with their golden yellow leaves which sometimes happened to outdo themselves and shine forth in a glorious burst of orange.  As he passed under Route 161, he was greeted by a phalanx of purplish-red dogwoods that seemed to salute as he drove by in his royal carriage.

 

            Dexter opened up the sunroof and looked up at the mix of golden sunlight, blue sky and scarlet leaves that filled the opening in the car’s roof.  This is why I don’t live in California, he thought.  Who could pass up such natural beauty that presented itself once a year, free of charge?  Sure, it could get cold in the Midwest, and hot too, but, as he liked to tell his friends from college it really was bad for only six weeks in the winter and six weeks in the summer.  Other than that, Columbus was idyllic when you thought about it.  Heck, he smiled to himself, “C-town” had just been rated the number six best place to live in the country.  Yeah, I should thank my ancestors for settling here.  There were worse places in which to find oneself.  Dexter turned on a CD of Vivaldi, the Four Seasons, and followed the road as it turned with the curves of the river.

  

            Before he changed lanes, Dexter glanced in the rearview mirror to check the blind spot.  He caught himself admiring his brownish-blond hair and “California-handsome face” as one girl at Stanford had dubbed it.  I have to admit she had a point there, Dexter thought to himself.  Standing six-foot, two and weighing in at two-hundred-ten pounds, Dexter looked all the world like the typical “All-American Boy.”  Even in image-conscious California, where he had attended college, Dexter stood out as particularly attractive to the opposing gender.  His blue eyes had the intensity of an October sky and his high brow gave him the look of the landed gentry.

 

            He turned off at Fifth Avenue and thought about work.  Is it fair to call it ‘work’?  He smiled to himself and looked over at his satchel.  Shouldn’t I be a little more miserable about heading to the office?

 

 

*********************************

 

 

            “You don’t respect me, Jeff—you never have,” said Cheryl.  She propped herself up on one elbow and turned to face her boyfriend.

 

            “What was that, hon?”  Jeff asked, putting down the book he was reading.  “The surf’s a little loud today.  Could you speak up?”

 

            Precisely what I’m talking about!”  Cheryl enunciated every word and slapped her beach towel with her free hand.  “We come all the way to Hilton Head for a vacation and you don’t even listen to me!”  A man carrying a surfboard glanced at her, but couldn’t match the glare she gave him back.  She pushed her platinum blond hair over her left shoulder and considered giving the surfer some witty insult.  Why bother?  He’s probably all happy with himself because of the waves we’ve had today.  She glanced down at her bare left fingers and clenched her teeth.  When she looked up again the surfer was standing at the end of her beach towel.

 

            “Look, this is probably my bad,” said the surfer, “but has anyone ever told you that you look like a cross between Taylor Swift and Marilyn Monroe?”  He tried to smile at her but ended up examining his feet.

 

            “Why don’t you just--!”  Cheryl started to get up, but slipped and fell on her side, crushing the bag of food lying next to her.  She laid there, counted to ten, and rolled onto her stomach.  “Not exactly, guy...thanks for the compliment.”

 

            “So, like, great!”  The surfer started to put down his board when Jeff stood up and brushed the sand from his swimming trunks.

 

            “Surf’s up, my man,” Jeff said, gesturing toward the water.  “Why don’t you go hang ten, if that expression is still used by your type.”

 

            The surfer looked at Cheryl, who was rolling up her towel.

 

            “I guess I’ll, uhh,” said the surfer.  “Right.  Catch y’all on the flipflop.”  He shifted the board to his other hand and turned toward the coastline.  “Nice talkin’ atcha.”  By the time he was ten feet away, Cheryl had her towel and lunch sack in her beach bag and was fumbling with her car keys.

            “Take a look at that paraglider!” said Jeff, pointing toward a man being towed behind a red speedboat.  “Awesome, eh?  Whaddya say we catch a little of that smack tomorrow?”

 

            “Unbelievable, Jeff, simply unbelievable,” said Cheryl in a low voice, shaking her head.  She took a few steps toward the parking lot.

 

            Jeff scrunched his face up and let out a cackle.  “What the ‘h’ is this all about?  I truly did not see this coming.”  He walked over to Cheryl and put his hand on her shoulder.

 

            “Timeout!” said Cheryl sharply, pulling herself a couple feet away from him.  “I need to let you…”

 

            Jeff waited for her to finish, then dipped his head a little.  “Ookaayy.”

 

            “Jeff, for the past two months of our relationship, I’ve grown increasingly distant from you and I think I need some time.”

 

            “Which is, logically, why you agreed to go on this vacation with me just a month ago.”

 

            “I thought we could work it all out,” said Cheryl.  “I really thought by getting away from Columbus I would see everything differently.”

 

            Jeff hesitated a moment and bit his lower lip.  “There’s gotta be some little thing I did just now, right?  Or in the last day.  Look, I’m sorry, just tell me.  Really…there’s no need for this.”

 

            “It’s not just the last day!  It’s been a long time.  Jeff, you just don’t—I don’t know.  When I’m around you, I just don’t feel—I don’t feel—respected!  That’s exactly what I mean.  It’s like that song or whatever.”

 

            “Cher, now c’mon, I like your body and your brains.  You’ve got a good job.  We can work this out.”

 

            “Just yesterday I heard you talking to that professor friend of yours on the phone.  It was in the hotel lobby and you didn’t know I had walked up behind you.  I heard it myself.  You said: ‘That girl isn’t smart enough to be a homeless woman.’”

 

            Jeff tilted his head back and stifled a giggle.  “Cheryl, nonsense…nonsense!  You went to Brown University…of course you’re intelligent.  You did great on the SAT.  Don’t mind me, I was just sharing a laugh with Pete.”

 

            “I know you think I’m book smart, Jeff.  You just don’t respect my innate ability to accomplish anything!  Remember you said to me once that if I were to ever drive a taxi, Googlemaps would have to open a special call center just to handle my questions?”

 

            Jeff tried, but couldn’t bring his hand up to his mouth in time to silence the guffaw that blew past his lips.

 

            “I’m taking the rental back by myself, jerk!” said Cheryl, practically spitting the words out and jingling the car keys in her hand.  “Good luck finding a ride back to the hotel.”  She walked toward the car lot.  “And I’m changing flights back to Columbus too!” she said over her shoulder.  She climbed into the car and merged into the traffic on North Sea Pines Drive.  Wow, that felt good!  She patted herself on the shoulder and smiled.  As a matter of fact, I feel really good right now.  I feel good…I feel great…I feel awesome.

 

            She drove to the hotel and stopped at the front desk to change rooms.

 

            “And don’t tell him which room I’m in,” Cheryl said to the clerk at the desk.  “It was bad enough that I had to be in a room just down the hall from that idiot!”

 

            After moving all her items to the new ocean-view suite, she closed the door and plopped down on the sofa.  She slipped off her sandals and leaned back.  It wasn’t till that moment that a little voice  whispered ever so softly in her subconscious:  Just how am I going to get a man to respect me?

 

 

 

 

 

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