Author: David Shaw
There are some lovely beaches down in the south west corner of Western Australia. Long stretches of pristine sand dividing the Indian Ocean from the dense forests of tall karri trees. Hundreds of kilometers of unpolluted and mostly unpopulated coastline stretched like a silver ribbon between rockbound headlands. Very nice – except when your idiot of an husband has bogged down the family four wheel drive on one of those deserted beaches. Believe me, there’s no better way of exploring the strengths of a relationship than sharing a shovel on a scorching hot December day, especially when all your joint efforts to dig large holes in fine sand are proving futile. Which was one of the reasons why our marital relationship was sinking even faster than the Suzuki. Not that any of it was my fault.
I hadn’t wanted to drive way out of town and down some bush track to go rock fishing. As far as I’m concerned fishing is an old man’s occupation. Jeff isn’t even thirty yet, nor am I, so I thought we could have found something more interesting to do on a Saturday morning. Still, fishing was what he wanted to do and the only alternative if we stayed indoors was having him watch cricket on the TV – and compared to watching cricket, throwing a fishing line into the sea is an epic adventure full of drama and excitement.
So here we were, bogged down before we’d even got to the fishing spot and with no way of getting somebody to come and help us out. The nearest sealed road was five kilometers away, five kilometers of bare dirt trail bulldozed through the trees. No other signs of life on the beach, not even a boat in sight anywhere and Jeff snarling at me all the time just because I happened to be driving the bloody vehicle when it sank down to the axles. He was the one who was telling me where he wanted to go! The most annoying thing of all was my job – I’m a nurse and I was scheduled for the evening shift in the local hospital. A fine fool I was going to look if I couldn’t even phone in and let them know I wouldn’t be able to make it.
Then something entirely unexpected happened. I was walking back from the tree line with an armful of old branches to push under the Suzi’s back wheels when I heard an engine. At first I thought it was a car and then I saw a small aircraft skimming along the shoreline so low it was well below the tops of the karri trees. It was the strangest looking thing I’d ever seen – not like a normal plane with a wing on each side. Instead there was just one wing that looked something like the sail of a yacht, with red and white patterns on it. Hanging underneath the wing was the rest of the plane, what there was of it.
Have you ever been to a fairgound and had a ride in one of those little plastic pods that hang down from the edge of a big wheel? If you can imagine something like that, only smaller, with the pilot sitting in it and a windscreen down around his knees, you’ve got the idea. The only other difference was a nose wheel at the front and two more wheels at the back with pointy hoods over them. Yes, and the engine of course. The plane was flying so low that I could easily see it mounted behind the pilot, with the propeller right at the back of the pod, pushing the strange little contraption along. I suppose it was travelling about as fast as a car would on a normal road and as it came level the pilot waved to us with one hand. The other one was resting on a bar – like a trapeze bar, I guess – which was the bottom piece of a triangle which came to a point underneath the wing. There were two more metal bars that I could also see, from the front and back of the pod and also joined together underneath the wing. They obviously carried the weight of the pod and somehow the pilot was steering himself around with the bar he was holding.
Anyway, whatever he was doing and however he was doing it, he seemed to be having a much more enjoyable morning than we were. As soon as the plane was past us the engine revved up and the plane climbed away at a steep angle until my eyes were watering from the strong sunlight as I tried to watch it. The show seemed to be over, although when I got back to the Suzuki Jeff was still scanning the sky with his hands cupped around his eyes.
“That must be what they call a microlight, or an ultralight. Strange looking thing, like an overgrown hang glider. That’s the way they steer hang gliders, with a bar attached to the wing, they push and pull against the bar to move the weight of the aircraft underneath in relation to the center of gravity.”
In case I haven’t mentioned it yet, Jeff is a teacher, a high school teacher. . . oh, you guessed, did you? If there were any teachers on the Titanic they probably drowned giving each other lectures on the way icebergs are formed. Anyway, since he was only wearing thongs, I dropped the tangle of branches on top of his bare feet as a means of self expression. He expressed himself back to me and the plane was forgotten about as we bickered at each other. Until we heard it again.
I was a little surprised to see it coming back again from the same direction as before and even lower and slower. It looked to me as if it belonged in a Star Wars’ movie, with its strange shape and the way it was hanging in the wind like a mechanical hawk. I thought it must be a hell of a way to fly, in a seat with nothing around it but empty air. Then the engine noise dropped off and I quickly changed my mind about even thinking about wanting to try it – the wing had dipped lower and it seemed the ultralight was going to crash. The wheels wavered around unsteadily a meter or so above the hard packed sand left by the ebbing tide, like a drunk trying to get his arse back onto a bar stool. Then the ultralight settled down onto the sand with the sudden deftness of a seagull dropping onto a morsel of food. Little gusts of water sprayed out from underneath the wheels as the pod’s weight fell onto them. The wet sand seemed to slow their rotation down very quickly, the plane wallowing to a walking speed about fifty meters away from us and the pilot revving the engine to keep his wheels turning until he was level with the Suzi. Then the high pitched yammering of the engine stopped and the propeller blades jerked to a halt. The pilot carefully tilted the wing over, keeping control of it with the steering bar he was holding until the wingtip nearest to us was resting on the sand.
Jeff and I were watching all this with surprise and interest. We kept on watching as a tall and slender man in tight fitting blue flying overalls unstrapped himself and climbed out of the pod. In fact it was only his figure – or his lack of it – which showed him to be a man because his head was completely covered with a wrap around motor bike helmet that had a tinted glass vision panel in the front of it. By God, I thought, I was right, not only does the plane look like something out of Star Wars but the pilot dresses like Darth Vader.
Before he even touched the helmet the pilot took something out of the pod that looked like a giant corkscrew, walked along the wing to the down-tipped end and drove the corkscrew into the sand before tying a lanyard at the top of the corkscrew to the wing tip. The intention was clearly to prevent the wing being blown around. At close range my first impression of it being like a yacht’s sail also seemed right. The whole thing was just a collection of aluminum battens wrapped around with colored fabric. It seemed incredible anybody would trust their life to such a flimsy support. Still, it wasn’t my worry, though as the pilot finally removed his helmet I watched with interest to see what sort of a madman he was. A pity there was no chance of him being Harrison Ford.
It was another surprise to see that he was pretty old. In his forties for sure, though very well preserved, with a lot of dark hair turning gray at the temples, a sharp angled face with a wide smile that showed off excellent teeth and crisp blue eyes with crinkles of smile lines around them. Behind the good looks there was confidence as well, self confidence and self assurance. If I’d seen this guy in hospital whites I’d have tagged him straight away not only as a doctor but as a highly skilled consultant. Success smells on some men like after shave, an enticing aroma which never fades away. And as we were looking at him he was looking at us: at Jeff, briefly, then at me, for a longer time.
“Hi, I’m Brett Reynolds.” A nice voice, sharp but well controlled.
Jeff introduced us: “Jeff Pearson, and this is my wife Sandra. You’ve caught us at an awkward moment. We’ve got bogged down and can’t seem to get out of it.”
“Yeah, I could see you were in strife. I can’t give you a tow but I thought you might want some messages passed on. I couldn’t see any antennas on your wagon and I guess you’d be well out of cell phone coverage in this neck of the woods.”
“That’s right. We tried to use the mobile but it was a waste of time.”
The pilot was still looking at both of us but I knew that most of his attention was on me. Not that I could really blame him for that because I wasn’t wearing anything underneath my sweat soaked tee-shirt and my shorts were cut about as short as they could be. In fact I felt quite flattered that I could get a guy like that taking a lot of second looks.
“Is there anybody around here who could help you out?” Brett asked.
“Eddie Turner would come out,” I said.
“Yeah, Eddie would be great.” Jeff turned to the pilot to explain. “Eddie Turner is a mate of mine, got a Land Rover with a winch on it. He’d come and pull us out if we could let him know where we are. He lives quite a way down the road though, in Kilkenny Ponds. Must be about fifty or sixty k’s from here.”
Brett smiled widely, showing off his teeth even more: “It’s rather less. It’s forty seven point two kilometers from here. Or at least it is to the Kilkenny airstrip as the crow flies. I suppose it must be another five or six k’s into the town itself. I’ve got it nailed down on the GPS because I flew out from there this morning. My car’s still there.”
“Oh.” Jeff smiled a little himself, clearly as relieved as I was at the prospect of being saved a lot of walking and a lot of trouble. “Maybe you could phone through to Eddie when you get back?”
“No problem. It’s a lovely day for a flight and I doesn’t matter to me which direction I fly in. I can go back to Kilkenny Ponds now and call in from the strip. With the wind blowing the direction it is I should be there in about half an hour. What’s your mate’s phone number?”
Jeff told him and Brett wrote it down on the back of his hand.
“Could you do us another favor and phone the local hospital as well? Let them know that Sandra won’t be able to come in for her shift tonight.”
Brett nodded and seemed concerned: “You’re a nurse, Sandra?”
“Can’t have the hospital short of nurses – you never know when there might be an emergency. Why don’t I give you a lift back to Kilkenny Ponds in the trike and then drive you into town?”
I didn’t quite realize what he meant by a trike until he nodded towards the ultralight and my stomach flipped over like a tossed pancake: “Me! Go up in that thing!”
The obvious fear in my voice made him shake his head in rueful amusement. “Sandra, it’s not like bungy jumping off Sydney Harbor Bridge – it’s fun, and safe. I’m a licensed and insured pilot and my passengers are all insured as well. I’ve got a spare helmet and a spare set of overalls on board, though you’ll hardly need them in this hot weather. Believe me, you’d be safer on board a trike than you would be on a 747.” His eyes crinkled up in another sudden smile. “And I should know, I fly 747’s for QANTAS for a living.”
It was an exciting idea and an attractive one in many ways, provided I didn’t find myself gripped in total panic once we were off the ground. Rather stunned, I walked over the ultralight and had a second look at it. True, there were two seats in it, one behind the other, but that was about all you could say there was in the way of accommodation. It was only at the front of the pod that the top of the plastic windscreen came up to about waist level. On either side of the front seat the bodywork was hardly ankle high, and barely much more than that around the back seat. I imagined myself looking straight down from one of them, down into a drop of hundreds of meters, and my intestines wriggled around like a nest of angry snakes.
“It’s just like riding a motorbike, only with a better view and without all the road hazards,” Brett said soothingly. “Why don’t we go up for just five minutes and if you don’t like it I’ll bring you straight back down again.”
“How would I tell you what I was feeling with all the noise?”
He held up a cable that hung from his helmet, showing me a plug at the end of it: “The helmets have earphones and a mike built into them. We can talk to each other as easily as we are doing now. Believe me, you’ll never want to come down once you’ve tried it.”
Then he sort of looked sideways, to where Jeff was standing a few paces away, and lowered his voice a little: “Or would you rather spend the rest of the day stuck here?”
I didn’t think Jeff heard that. Or if he did I’m sure he didn’t hear the insinuation in it that I did, a hint of surprise that somebody like me was wasting her time in this sort of situation. Or maybe I was hearing things which weren’t really there. While I was standing undecided Brett reached underneath the back seat and took out a helmet, then a neatly folded set of overalls like the ones he was wearing.
“I can adjust the headband on the helmet for you, Sandra – there’s not much I can do about the flight suit, I suppose. Normally, you’d need at least a jacket to keep the wind off but not now. A day like today, the only cool way to enjoy yourself is flying.”
Jeff came over and looked at the helmet and overalls I was holding: “You’re surely not going to try this, are you, Sandra? You’d be scared stiff.”
If he’d wanted to stop me flying then it was the worst possible thing he could have said. Of course he doesn’t really think of me as a weak woman – he often says that he’d faint if he had to deal with some of the bloodier situations that come along in my job. It was simply a typical case of a male opening his heart and his mouth without remembering to put his brain somewhere in the loop between them. And he knew it as soon as I did, hastily trying to back off without totally backing down.
“I mean I’d be frightened myself, to go up in one of these things. Anybody would be, to fly around hanging underneath a few strips of alloy and fabric. And the hospital can certainly get by without you for one day.”
It was too late though, my temper was up. “I’m not going to miss a shift if I can help it. Anyway, I’ll probably never have another chance to do something like this and I want to give it a go, just to see what it’s like.”
“Aww, come on, Sandra, people crash in these things. It happens all the time.”
“People crash in cars as well and that happens all the time.”
He was genuinely concerned about me, not simply trying to carry on the squabble we’d had before, I knew that. But I wasn’t going to let him stop me now that I’d made my mind up. After all it had been pretty much of a wasted day so far and here was a chance to do something I could talk about for weeks afterwards, something exciting. It would have been hard to live myself if I’d turned it down. The only real question, the one I was being very careful not to ask myself, was whether I was as excited by Brett Reynold’s obvious interest in me as I was at the idea of flying in his plane.
Adjusting the helmet was no problem: trying to get into the flying suit was. It was cut for a man’s body, a big man, and I’m a short girl, yet the seams around my hips almost reached breaking strain; I had to go behind the wagon and take off my shorts before I could wriggle into the suit. The real problem was in front though. As much as I tugged at the zip, I couldn’t get it up past my breasts. Like my hips, they’ve always been too large for easy packaging. Eventually I had to go back to the men with everything hanging out over the zip and only the damp material of the tee-shirt between me and them. Not only that, but carrying my shorts in my hand as well.
Brett’s mouth twitched a fraction before he looked away at the horizon as I held the sides of the overalls together while Jeff pulled the zipper together with brute strength. It was a minor demonstration of gentlemanly modesty which ended as soon as Jeff wasn’t looking at him, because Brett’s eyes immediately fastened on my squashed tits with frank interest. Like Sylvester eyeing Granma’s canary, I thought, and hoping to find a way into the cage. If that was really what he hoping for he was in for a disappointment.
I watched in surprise as Brett knelt down behind one of the back wheels. There were three protruding metal legs that attached the wheel to the pod and in between them was a piece of metal about as long as my arm curved into a ‘C’ shape. It was apparently held onto the top leg by a clamp at each end, which he undid. Then he stood up and reclamped the ‘C’ onto one of the support arms of the control bar. I asked him what he was doing.
“Just fitting extensions to the control bar so I can steer from the back. You’ll have to sit in the front seat, Sandra, to keep the weight distribution right. The control bar will be in front of you but I’ll have my hands on these extensions to do the piloting. That’s what I like about these ultralights, everything is very simple. A control bar and a foot throttle and that’s about it.”
He bowed like a courtier and stretched out his hand towards the pod: “My lady, your sky carriage awaits.”
After all the trouble he’d gone to I couldn’t refuse to give it a try however nervous I felt. I wasn’t any more nervous than Jeff though, who watched Brett strapping me into the front seat with a kind of desperate look on his face as if I was going up in a space shuttle. Mind you, I don’t think I would have felt much different myself if I had been about to blast off. It was hard to believe that I was really going to go up into the sky in this thing. Brett held the helmet over my head and quietly talked to me as I smoothed my hair back.
“As soon as this is on, I’ll plug in the intercom cable and switch it on. All you’ll hear is static until I plug in as well. Nod your head if you’re OK and then I’ll untie the wing tip and straighten the wings. When the bar is horizontal in front of you just hold it steady while I get in the back. All clear?”
“Yes, I think so.”
“Fine. I’ve pinned the front throttle so it can’t be worked. The only thing you have to worry about are the bars underneath your feet – they’re for steering the nose wheel, so don’t press on them when we’re taking off and landing. The rest of the time you can waggle them around as much as you like. OK?”
I nodded, and again after the helmet was on. It looked bulky but it was surprisingly light. I’d never worn one before, never even been on a motorbike because I thought they were dangerous. No wonder I held onto the control bar nervously when it settled over in front of me. I could feel my hands trembling on the rubber handgrips and then realized it wasn’t just me that was twitching but the wing as well, shivering and bobbing at the wind’s touch. I saw Brett speak to Jeff, and afterwards Jeff took off his own shirt and walked down the beach with it, off to one side on the soft sand. I wondered what he was doing. Then Brett came back with the corkscrew securing pin hanging by its lanyard from his wrist. He knelt down by the front of the pod, grinned up at me, put his hands on my knees and spread them wide apart.
I gasped in surprise, the noise muffled inside the helmet, and then found that he was bending forward to stow the pin away underneath my seat. Which was a totally innocent thing to do, maybe, but what wasn’t so innocent was where his knuckles brushed against me as he slipped the lanyard off his wrist. But again, it something that was over and done with before I had a chance to even let go of the control bar. It might even have been a genuine accident, but I didn’t think so. It was a clear message, as if I already needed one, about what Mr Brett Reynolds would like to do with Mrs Sandra Pearson if given even half a chance. Well, there was one thing about it, at least I was a lot safer from his advances in his plane than I would have been in his car. Uh!
I felt the pod settle down as he got into the back seat. The back ledge would probably be a better way of describing it, higher than the front seat and so close to it that Brett’s legs were stretched out on either side of me with my elbows brushing against his knees. Never again would I complain about economy class seats in passenger planes.
A moment later the engine started and everything began vibrating as though I was sitting in a massage chair. That wasn’t bad but even with the helmet on the engine noise was uncomfortably high. A hundred meters along the beach Jeff was standing still, holding his shirt up above his head. I realized that it was an indication of which way the wind was blowing.
My headphones clicked and I heard Brett’s voice very clearly: “OK, Sandra, I’ve got the control bar now. You’ll probably want to hold onto the sides of your seat to begin with. This damp sand will hold us back a little but we’ve got eighty horsepower pushing us and we’ll soon reach flying speed. We’ll take off about where Jeff is now. Is everything OK with you?”
I clutched the handgrips on either side of the seat and tried to swallow a lump of solid air down my dried out throat: “Yes, I’m fine.”
“Good girl. Feet off the pedal bars and hands off the control bar for a moment or two. Apart from that relax and enjoy the views. . . “
The engine roared even louder, the ultralight began moving, I held onto the arm grips with a death grip, we were moving faster, much faster, a small wave was breaking along the beach, toppling over into white water, Jeff was getting closer and closer, the vibration was getting worse – oh fuck, I must be mad to be here!
Suddenly the vibration stopped, the engine seemed a lot further away and I was looking down at Jeff’s upturned face. Then the control bar was pushed away from me and the nose of the pod lifted up towards the sky as if it were a rearing horse. I couldn’t help myself from looking down, to see the sea suddenly growing wider with the breaking waves along the edge of it like crinkled up tearings of white tissue paper.
“How are you feeling, Sandra?”
“Alright – I think.”
“OK, we’ll level out now, and fly straight on for a few minutes while you get used to things.”
Getting used to so many conflicting feelings was going to take longer than that. In one sense I felt totally exposed, with only the finger thick vertical support bar in front of me and the wind drumming against my overalls, yet behind the helmet’s faceplate there was a peaceful little world where I could talk to Brett without any effort at all. The wind seemed to be blowing away the noise of the engine as well, making a combined background noise which wasn’t really bothersome at all. I suppose it would have been a miserable experience on a cold day without thick clothing, but it had been a scorching forty degrees celsius down on the beach and the blast of moving air was as wonderfully cooling as Brett had promised it would be.
In another sense I was totally confined, by the straps, and by the control bar pressed close against my chest. In another way – a breath takingly marvelous way – I’d never felt so free in all my life. Who hasn’t been a kid dreaming of finding a way of flying like a bird? Not being shot through the sky miles high watching movies, but real flying, down around the tree tops and hurdling over hilltops with giant’s steps, being able to lift your eyes up to the distant horizons or down to something so close you feel you can reach out and touch it. Of course we’ve all felt like that, and most of us have grown up and forgotten the dream. And now, suddenly and totally without expecting it, I was living my dreams for real.
Out on my left were kilometers and kilometers of trees, and an occasional movement of something brightly colored scuttling underneath them. I was catching glimpses of the coastal highway between the tall trunks, or at least of the cars driving down it. On the right I could now see through the top of the sea, to dark patches with green stains behind them. It was puzzling until I realized that the dark patches were rocks just under the water with patches of seaweed growing where they were protected from the waves by the rocks. It seemed so strange that an area I thought I knew quite well looked so different from up here.
“How do you feel now, Sandra?”
“Pretty good.” I was surprised how calm I sounded.
I thought about how to answer: “Yes, but I’m too busy looking around to think much about it.”
His chuckle came through the earphones: “Good answer. OK, we’ll turn around now and fly back over your husband. Give him a wave to let him know you’re OK and then we’ll head for Kilkenny Ponds.”
The turn was indeed frightening, at first, with the wing dipping over and the pod skidding around. Then I forgot about it as we dived back over the Suzuki and Jeff and I exchanged waves. Then another turn, but not so stomach churning now I had some idea of what to expect.
Brett started singing over the intercom.
“Jingle bells, jingle bells, jingle all the way,
Oh, what fun it is to ride in a one horse open sleigh. . . “
“OK, Sandra, we’ll go up higher now and follow the coast for a while. There’s something on the other side of the next headland I saw just before I landed that might interest you.”
When we went over the headland I looked down the sheer drop of a cliff face to where the sea was continually slapping against the land, and felt only curiosity at the odd feeling of looking down at birds flying, the stiff winged gulls whirling and turning along the cliff as if they were scraps of paper caught inside a willy-willy. Somehow it seemed that the height wasn’t bothering me, which was the last thing I’d expected.
“There you are, Sandra, down on the right. That’s something you don’t see ever day, not even up here.”
We were passing over the headland on the other side and where Brett was telling me to look was down in a corner of the sea between the cliffs and the beach. Something was moving in the shallow water, a shimmering cloud continually changing shape and flickering with sudden sparkles. Running in and out of the cloud were dark lean shapes which seemed to cut passages through it by their mere presence, the tiny individual slivers of silver which made up the cloud constantly closing ranks again behind the intruders as they moved on.
“What’s happening down there, Brett?”
“It’s sharks feeding off a school of sardines. Is school the right word for sardines? Or should it be a can of sardines?”
I laughed and he laughed with me.
“Hey, Sandra, check out that boat ahead.”
There was a high topped cabin cruiser anchored off the beach, a kilometer or so ahead. I thought how odd it was that the crew should be so close to a bunch of sharks in a feeding frenzy and not even know about it, while we could see so much more merely by being a couple of hundred meters higher up. As it turned out, I soon saw more than I’d expected, because Brent put us into other turn over the boat, and kept on turning, so the left wingtip seemed to be pointing straight down at the deck while the boat looked as if it were slowly rotating underneath us. It was an expensive looking boat and a couple were lounging on sun chairs at the back. They looked expensive too, in their own ways, he with his big pot belly, her with her blonde hair and good figure. It was easy to see these things because neither of them had a stitch on. Not that it seemed to bother them. The man casually waved his hand to us without moving from his seat.
“I told you there was something interesting here,” Brett said. “She’s nice but I’ll bet she doesn’t look as half as good as you would stretched in the raw.”
I decided not to respond to that remark. I saw the woman stand up and look up at us, a glass in one hand, the other one also waving.
“Oh, dear, she’s drooping a bit now. What about the guy, what do you think about him?” Brett laughed: “A real hunk, hey?”
“He hasn’t got anything I haven’t seen lots of times before.”
The man reached out his hand towards the woman’s bottom and began stroking it.
“Yeah,” Brett continued: “I think the lady with the natural blonde hair could say the same thing. I suppose we’d better leave them in peace now.” The control bar flicked over to one side to bring us out of the turn and the boat was whirled away out of my vision.
“OK, Sandra we’ll go along the beach for a couple more kilometers, climb a bit, then turn right. We’ll be going along a valley with a lot of cleared land that’s used for grazing cattle. I wouldn’t want to be low over the forest if the engine suddenly quit for any reason. Even a trike needs a little bit of space to land in.”
Trike – he’d used that word before. I supposed it was because of the three wheels underneath the pod. Again I could see more rocks, some of them sticking up out of the sea in streaks of white water, and then a small figure on a blue and white motorbike driving along the beach. The trike’s nose twitched up, and when we passed over the motorbike it was dwindling in size as we climbed higher. So many times I’d heard bike riders talking about the wonderful feeling of the wind in their faces as they rode their machines and now I understood what they were saying, but in a way even they didn’t know. Compared to a sky trike, a Harley-Davidson as a freedom machine was just a very efficient device for turning fuel into noise.
“Sandra, Eddie, says he’ll be on his way in about ten minutes.”
“What? What did you say, Brett?” I’d been staring down at the coastal highway and a queue of cars held up on the twisting road behind a slow moving semi-trailer.
“Well, to tell the truth, I have my mobile phone with me when I fly, plugged into the radio communications circuit. There was no point in trying it down on the beach, it wouldn’t have worked any better than yours did. But we’re fifteen kilometers closer to Kelkenny Ponds now and mobiles use line of sight radio waves, so the higher up you are the more range they have. I got through to Eddie first try and told him exactly where your husband is stuck.”
“I didn’t hear anything,” I said. This all sounded pretty suspicious to me.
“No, I thought it would simplify matters if I cut you out of the circuit. Anyway, he said to tell you that he’d phone the hospital and let them know you wouldn’t be coming in today – oh, yeah, and he said he’d make sure he set his VCR up to tape ‘Red Dwarf’ for Jeff in case they were late back.”
I turned all this over in my mind. One thing was sure, Brett must indeed have talked to Eddie to know what Jeff’s favorite TV comedy program was. It certainly hadn’t been mentioned on the beach. On the other hand: “Why would Eddie tell the hospital that I’m not coming to work today? We’re going to Kilkenny Ponds, aren’t we?”
“Oh, eventually, yes. In the meanwhile though I’ve told your friend that I’ve got an engine problem and I’ve got to land on the beach again.”
I was bewildered: “Have you got a problem?”
“I don’t have a problem in the world. I simply thought I’d spend some time feeling your tits. As fair payment for the ride, you might say.”
“What!” he mimicked me. “Well, what you do first is to put your hands up on the control bar. Then I’ll put my right hand around underneath your right arm and grab your right tit.”
“OK, Sandra, then I’ll have to find another way of amusing myself.”
The next second the wing tipped over onto one side and the pod went into a horrifying spiral which convulsed my hands into clutching claws on the seat handles as I screamed in terror. It was far, far worse than being on a roller coaster. Finally, at long last, Brett stopped throwing the plane around.
“Now, Sandra, before I ask you again, I’d like you to look up to where the support bars are attached to the wing. You see that bolt there? That’s called the Jesus bolt, because that’s what both of us will be screaming if it breaks and we drop off the wing. Now, which would you rather have, some more strain imposed on the Jesus bolt, or my fingers around your nipples?”
It was not a decision I had to spend a lot of time making: “I don’t want the bolt to break.” I said breathlessly.
“Fine. An excellent career move. Now put your hands on the control bar and sit quietly like a good girl.”
I did as he wanted. Immediately his hand slipped around my body and touched the side of my right breast. It seemed to be as far as he could reach and it served him right – let him be as sick as a dog with frustration. I looked down at the pattern of fields and dirt roads below and practiced what I was going to say to the two timing shit once we were safely back on the ground.
“You know, you’re the first girl I’ve had in that front seat who’s got boobs so big I can’t reach them properly from the back.” Brett sounded proud of the fact. “I knew you were something special when I saw you from the air for the first time. I’ve just got to get my hands on them properly.”
“Brett, I’m a married woman,” I protested.
“That’s OK, I’m not going to steal you from your husband, I’m just going to borrow you for a bit, like a library book. What the hell, you must have acquired a few dirty finger marks on your virginal white pages somewhere along the line by now.”
“You’re a real bastard, aren’t you?”
“I’m sorry, Sandra, but this thing is bigger than both of us. Your things are, anyway. OK, what I’m going to have to do is to unfasten my harness and lean forward so I can really get a grip on you. It’s no fun unless I do it with both hands, so you’ll have to fly the trike. No matter what happens, you hold the control bar level and everything will be fine. Of course if you fuck it up I’m liable to fall out.”
I was as mad as hell at his insolence: “Well, fall out then, you prick, and get yourself killed.”
I could hear him chuckling through the background hiss of the headphones: “Sandra, have you really thought about that? I mean, if I do fall out, you’re going to have seventy eight kilos of desperate man holding onto your tits like they’ve been held before. And even if you eventually shake me off it still leaves you up here on your own. How do you think you’d go at your first solo landing?”
“Come on, Sandra, a nurse shouldn’t talk like that, a nurse should be caring and gentle towards those in need, and I need you. But before we start I want you to unzip the front of your overalls and then pull up that tee-shirt so I’ve got plenty of bare skin to play with. I know you’re not wearing anything else, I could see that on the beach. I don’t know how I managed not to get stiff just looking at you then.”
“Brett. . .” It was a forlorn wail of protest.
“Twenty seconds to get ready for me, Sandra. Otherwise we’ll give the Jesus bolt another strain test.”
“No, I told you, just Jesus. Come on, let me see you doing something – or better still, undoing something.”
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