they turn deep indigo blue.
All right then, let's begin. The aircraft was waiting on the concrete
This is a Cessna 150 high-wing monoplane. Barney began the walk-around
check with David following attentively, but when he started a brief
explanation of the control surfaces and the principle of lift and
wingloading, he became aware that the boy knew more than he had owned up
to. His replies to Barney's rhetorical questions were precise and
You've been reading, Barney accused.
Yes, Sir, David admitted, grinning. His teeth were of peculiar
whiteness and symmetry and the smile was irresistible. Despite himself,
Barney realized he was beginning to like the boy.
Right, jump in. Strapped into the cramped cockpit shoulder to Shoulder,
Barney explained the controls and instruments, then led into the
starting procedure.Master switch on. He flipped the red button.
Right , turn that key, same as in a car.
David leaned forward and obeyed. The prop spun and the engine fired and
kicked, surged, then settled into a satisfying healthy growl. They
taxied down the apron with David quickly developing his touch on the
rudders, and paused for the final checks and radio procedure before
swinging wide on to the runway.
Right, pick an object at the end of the runway. Aim for it and open the
Around them the machine became urgent, and it buzzed busily towards the
far-off fence markers.
Ease back on the wheel.
And they were airborne, climbing swiftly away from the earth.
Gently, said Barney. Don't freeze on to the controls.
Treat her like, he broke off. He had been about to liken the aircraft
to a woman, but realized the unsuitability of the simile. Treat her
like a horse. Ride her light Instantly he felt David's death-grip on
the wheel relax, the touch repeated through his own controls.
That's it, David. He glanced sideways at the boy, and felt a flare of
disappointment. He had felt deep down in his being that this one might
be bird, one of the very rare ones like himself whose natural element
was the blue. Yet here in the first few moments of flight the child was
wearing an expression of frozen terror. His lips and nostrils were
trimmed with marble white and there were shadows in the dark blue eyes
like the shape of sharks moving beneath the surface of a summer sea.
Left wing up, he snapped, disappointed, trying to shock him out of it.
The wing came up and held rock steady, with no trace of over-correction.
Level her out. His own hands were off the controls as the nose sank to
find the horizon.
Throttle back. The boy's right hand went unerringly to the throttle.
once more Barney glanced at him. His expression had not altered, and
then with a sudden revelation Barney recognized it not as fear, but as
He is bird. The thought gave him a vast satisfaction, and while they
flew on through the basic instruction in trim and attitude, Barney's
mind went back thirty years to a battered old yellow Tiger Moth and
another child in his first raptures of flight.
They skirted the harsh blue mountains, wearing their mantles of
sun-blazing snow, and rode the tail of the wild winds that came down off
Wind is like the sea, David. It breaks and swirls around high ground.
Watch for it. David nodded as he listened to his first fragments of
flying lore, but his eyes were fixed ahead savouring each instant of the
They turned north over the bleak bare land, the earth naked pink and
smoky brown, stripped by the harvest of its robes of golden wheat.
Wheel and rudder together, David, Barney told him.Let's try a steep turn
now. Down went the wing and boldly the nose swept around holding its
attitude to the horizon.
Ahead of them the sea broke in long lines of cream on the white beaches.
The Atlantic was cold green and ruffled by the wind, flecked with
South again, following the coastline where small figures on the white
sand paused to look up at them from under shading hands, south towards
the great flat mountain that marked the limit of the land, its shape
unfamiliar from this approach.
The shipping lay thick in the bay and the winter sunlight flashed from
the windows of the white buildings huddling below the steep wooded sides
of the mountain.
Another turn, confident and sure, Barney sitting with his hands in his
lap and his feet off the rudder bars, and they ran in over the Tygerberg
towards the airfield.
Okay, said Barney. I've got her. And he took them in for the
touch-down and taxied back to the concrete apron beside the hangars. He
pulled the mixture control fully lean and let the engine starve and die.
They sat silent for a moment, neither of them moving or speaking, both
of them unwinding but still aware that something important and
significant had happened and that they had shared it.
Okay? Barney asked at last.
Yes, sir, David nodded, and they unstrapped and climbed down on to the
concrete stiffly. Without speaking they walked side by side through the
hangar and office. At the door they paused.
Next Wednesday? Barney asked.
Yes, sir. David left him and started towards the waiting Cadillac, but
after a dozen steps he stopped, hesitated, then turned back.
That was the most beautiful thing that has ever happened to me, he said
shyly. Thank you, sir. And he hurried away leaving Barney staring
The Cadillac pulled off, gathering speed, and disappeared round a bend
amongst the trees beyond the last buildings. Barney chuckled, shook his
head ruefully and turned back into his office. He dropped into the
ancient swivel chair and crossed his ankles on the desk. He fished a
crumpled cigarette from the pack, straightened and lit it.
Beautiful? he grunted, grinning. Crap! He flicked the match at the
waste bin and missed it.
The telephone woke Mitzi Morgan and she crept out from under her pillows
groping blindly for it.
Hi, Dad, are you coming up? She came half-awake at her father's voice,
remembering that this was the day he would fly up to join the family at
their holiday home.
Sorry, baby. Something has broken here. I won't be up until next week.
Oh, Dad! Mitzi expressed her disappointment.
Where's Davey? her father went on quickly to forestall any
You want him to call you back?
No, I'll hold on. Call him, please, baby.
Mitzi stumbled out of bed to the mirror, and with her fingers tried to
comb some order into her hair. It was off-blonde and wiry, and fuzzed
up tight at the first touch of sun or salt or wind. The freckles were
even more humiliating she decided, looking at herself disapprovingly.
You look like a Pekinese, she spoke aloud, a fat little Pekinese, with
freckles, and gave up the effort of trying to change it. David had seen
her like this a zillion times.
She pulled a silk gown over her nudity and went out into the passage,
past the door to her parents suite where her mother slept alone, and
into the living area of the house.
The house was stacked in a series of open planes and galleries, glass
and steel and white pine, climbing out of the dunes along the beach,
part of sea and sky, only glass separating it from the elements, and now
the dawn filled it with a strange glowing light and made a feature of