A few days later found the `A' shift finally on Catalina Island.|
"I can't believe the time flew
so fast!" Marco remarked. "I really
thought we were never going to get here!"
the men laughed and nodded their agreement.
Roy spoke up, "It was really getting tough around
the station. I
guess we just really needed a break from it all."
Johnny backed out of the
tent he had just finished setting up and
chimed in, "I'm sure glad we're here but I'm even happier
the hang gliders worked out. I'm really looking forward to learning how to soar through the sky."
The Phantom had remained quiet until this point, deep in plotting
revenge on Mike. He couldn't
resist taking a jab at his favorite
pigeon and taunted, "You know,.. it's just as well we're all
With your luck we'll end up having to rescue you and take you to
we're supposed to be on vacation. Maybe with all of
us, you'll manage to stay out of trouble."
Johnny gave Chet a glare, then uncharacteristically dropped the
subject, instead grabbing his canteen,
camera and backpack.
Inspecting his backpack to be sure he had snacks, first aid supplies
a spare pair of socks, "I'm going to head up the west trail. I
want to get some pictures of the
lake from the viewpoint."
Whistling, he headed up the trail, Mike and Marco falling in behind
leaving Chet open mouthed in shock.
Captain Stanley looked at the departing trio then he turned
and said with a saucy grin, "Well, Chester B, you've been put in your
going to have to..."
From : Roxy Dee <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Sent : Friday, May 26, 2006 2:50 PM
Subject : Catalina Charms~~
"...bite the bullet
this trip and content yourself with being
just Plain Jane for while. They're onto ya." Hank winked.
Chet froze, where he was fussing with assembling his
orange and white hang glider. "Oh, so you
think that, huh.." he
murmured blandly. "Well let me share something with ya, Cap.
a prankster born who can outfox me for long. Yes,
Stoker christening my turnout jacket got past my
and defenses. That was only because his illness was real, Cap.
A touch of the truth always
catches people by surprise and yes, I
fell for it. It wasn't like I hadn't been warned ahead
time that he was going to sick up real soon. Stoker was
cement slurry gray, sweaty, and to go along
with those, were
full blown shivers. It was my own fault that I chose to ignore those
nausea signs in favor of emotionally worrying about a
pal of mine instead." he shrugged mildly.
Hank's mouth fell wide open. "Kelly, do my ears deceive
me? Are you admitting to having made an actual
G*d, I wish the others were here to witness this." he crowed
here.." said Roy, poking his head out of Johnny's
tent. "And I heard every word he just said. Booga
he said monotone, splaying lame spooky fingers at Chet
in mock jest.
"Oh, Roy. You
don't count. You never gossip about someone's
failings. You're too d*mned honest for your own good."
"Ixnay on the wearsay ordsway." DeSoto hissed through his|
teeth, pointing at a mound pressing against
the rainfly of his
tent as a flaxen haired head emerged into the daylight.
"I heard that.."
said Chris DeSoto, his voice newly deepened
into a light baritone with growing puberty. "Yeah, Chet,
swear words. I still don't like em, even though my ears aren't
nearly so young any more
these days." he said, crawling out
of his father and Johnny's four man tent.
mouthing an apology to Roy silently before
saying his next retort. "Ah, from the mouth of babes. Er,
me, let me formulate a correction here.. At least from one with
some very first time sprouting
peach fuzz.." Kelly said affectionately,
rubbing a few fingers under Chris's barely hair bristling
"Aw, Chet. Cut that out. I'm thirteen. Dad says I'm finally a teenybopper.
somewhere where I'm not a child anymore but not
quite an adult." said the blond haired Chris DeSoto.
"Then what are you...?" asked Chet in a spooky voice.
"Hungry. Who got the short end of the
toothpick this morning and
earned first cooking of the chow? I'm still growing like a weed
Christ said, dragging out a first aid pack to inventory its
contents carefully. "And I'm feeling every
growling roll of my
poor bile and acid filling stomach."
"Eeooow.." teased Chet, curling up
into a look of disgust.
"Do sons of paramedics always become so gifted with the
graphic turns of phrase. Yuck. You're spoiling
"Oh, so I guess that means you're
'Cook' today, eh, Mr. Stanley?"
smiled the teenager, correctly guessing the one so stuck.
Chris. Call me Hank or Cap. Everybody else does."
"All right. Guess I'm just
used to being polite all the time.
Especially out in public." replied the junior DeSoto.
can fix that trait in a jiffy. Just start hanging out with me, kid."
Kelly's arm meaningfully. "Not in a million years.
He's going flying with his grandfather this morning,
stuffing some food into that fuzz growing face of his."
"Dad...." Chris frowned
with a blush. "I did try to shave it all off
like you showed me."
"You're doing better. I'm
not seeing any nicks I gotta treat on you
this time." Roy teased.
"Grandpa let me use his
straight razor. It works a lot better than
those cheap plastic Schick things you like to use.." said
Roy cleared his throat self consciously, "Yeah, well, I'm
not a fan of antiques like
your grandfather is, son. I
happen to like a lot of speed and convenience for my dollar."
Ian says 'Waste not, want not.' " chimed the half teen,
crossing his eyes at DeSoto.
a face right back at his first born. "My way doesn't
need a whetting strip of cloth..."
answered the teen in challenge. "Well, your way needs
a sink. Mine doesn't. A straight razor's perfect
"You got a point there. Guess I lose." sighed Roy.
Stanley choked down a
snort of laughter. "Ian DeSoto? Where's
he off to? I didn't see him at all this morning after I got
"Oh, my dad? He usually gets up before the sun to putz with
his airplane. I think he took
a shuttle to the landing strip at
first light." replied Roy with a shrug.
"Oh, then I'm late!"
startled Chris, shooting to his sandled
Roy grabbed his son by the arm. "Not so fast..
accounted for in the emergency jump bag?"
Chris was quick with his reply. "Everything
but the oxygen key.
I think Uncle Johnny left that clipped on his backpack by mistake.
I saw it
hanging off a zipper tab last night."
"I'll get out a spare." planned Roy. He let go of Chris's
shirt sleeve. "Ok, you can go. Mind your grandpa."
Chris snatched up
his handheld radio from the picnic table
along with a canteen and rain gear and started up the long
rutted trail leading up to the Airport in the Sky five miles up the
called out after him. "Hey, what about breakfast time?"
The freckled boy who looked a lot like his firefighting father, grinned.|
"Flying is flavoring, Mr.
Stan-- uh, Captain. How can you feel hungry
looking at such a stunning sunrise as that, sir?" he asked,
at the brilliant dawn spreading out over the ocean waters stretching
far below their pinetree
strewn ranchland campsite. "There's not a
single solitary speck of smog in the air. And I wanna absorb
second of it from deep inside a Cessna's cockpit at a thousand feet.
Gotta go!" and with
that, Chris was gone in a stirred up cloud of dust
left behind by his running feet.
at the same time as a coffee sipping Roy who tended
the black and white flecked western enamelized
tin pot still simmering
on the fire grill. "Now where is that crazy partner of yours dragging Lopez
and Stoker off to?" asked Cap.
"Off to the 'lake.' Well, actually, it's more like a desert rock
pool in a cave system just over the hill. It's deep enough for swimming,..
at the top of the gorge along the flat sand dunes--" Roy broke
off as Stanley got the picture and
"...it's great for learning how to hang glide using the land/sea breezes
down to the beach. Outta sight." Hank said contently. "Say,
can you pour me a cup of that Folder's?
Kelly looked up from a finally completed glider assembly. "Let them
I don't care. My butt's gonna be the first one in the air.. Last
one to the cliff tops is a rotten
fireboot!" he shouted, hefting up his finished
hang glider in a triumphant display. He hooted all
the way up Johnny's
trail catching up to the others who were heading for the slit in the
which led to the swimming hole.
"Bring your radio.." Hank Stanley shouted, throwing a bit of
gruff which turned his reminder into a sharp edged order.
"It's in my windbreaker,
Cap. I'm not that dumb.." Chet shouted back.
"See ya on the next airport shuttle back up here. My
that beach you're gaping at, directly below us. My guide promises
I'll make it
"Let's hope so." Hank countered.
"I KNOW so.." Kelly shot right back. "See ya.."
From: "Cory Anda" <email@example.com>
Mon May 29, 2006 6:37pm
Subject: Payback's a b*t*h
"Ah, this is the life, fresh air, pine
cones.. It's gonna be great."
sighed Lopez at the edge of the swimming hole.
chewing on a blade of grass taken from a niche in
the rock..." What is it? It's a.. It's a...."
Stoker piped up, sleepily from where he napped in the sun.
"It's a thing of beauty."
of beauty?" grunted Chet as he made a sudden appearance
from the crack hole in the rock which served
as the tourist's entry
into the semi-secret red stone grotto framed around the deep green
and spring fed pool.
"Yeah, a thing of beauty.." insisted Marco in a glare, part reminder for
Chet to stop the scuffling noise he was making. He eyed the harness
around Chet's torso. "So,.. you're
going to go do it after all."
"And why not?" Kelly straightened up selfconsciously on the shelf
he had deposited his trail sweaty rear on. "Johnny's hang gliding
idea was the best one he's ever
come up for a vacation plan
since Santa Rosa County.." he beamed happily, rubbing some island
off of his nose. "That is,..if I ever get to cool off first. I didn't know
June out here gets so darned
hot. And windy. I had to leave my glider
tied to a tree to keep it from blowing out to sea on me."
"It is a desert climate, Chet. Don't you know your California island
meteorology?" Lopez retorted.
"Enough to know that today's a good day for flying." Kelly said.|
"Oh?" Gage sniggered. "Who else
bought your fly like an Catalina
osprey invitation besides yourself?"
"Chris and Ian DeSoto.
Only they're doing it by cessna." he
said. "Both should be at the airport right about now, making
"Yeah, well, I'm doing another kind of takeoff." said Marco, peeling
out of his Los Angeles Raiders jersey and jeans shorts down to
his swim trunks. "Who's up for some
good wholesome cliff jumping?
The water's deep enough. You can see all the way down to the bottom.."
Stoker, Gage, Lopez and Kelly curled their toes on the rock ledge they perched
down distastfully. "You first.." said Gage. "That way, if you
don't make it, the rest of us can climb
down and rescue you long before
you start drowning."
"Ok." said Marco in challenge. "This spot's
not so high. What?.. It's about
eighteen feet up?"
"More like twenty.." grinned Stoker in a
gray tank top and navy baseball
cap, plying his hose distance measuring skills easily.
can't leap off from way up here.." said Chet, growing disconcerted.
"This cliff's not a nice safe
diving board. You'll shred all the skin off
your legs and bare feet for sure."
Lopez shot at him.
"Oh, believe me, I will.." Kelly fired back. "And I'll be anticipating just
how long Cap'll shred you verbally too, if you go and hurt yourself for
doing such a crazy stunt."
"Marco's all right, Chet. The water depth's just fine.There aren't
any rocks jutting up from the
bottom." Mike offered.
Kelly fell silent, casting a still half worried look down at the sun glistening
pool below them.
Then Mike inserted a jokester's expert priming with one stylishly cool
"Pollo Pequeno.." said Stoker smoothly. "Bet you can't do the same
dive.." he dangled. His words
hung in the moist steamy air and echoed off
Gage began to chuckle.
did it. Chet's mouth set in a firm line. "Ok, Stoker. You're on. Ready to
rumble? Let's do this then.."
and he mock spit into his hand pointedly,
"..mano a mano. Marco, you be our height tester, but don't
jump off. Just
let us know where the safe places are so we can complete this little contest
killing ourselves horribly in the process or getting unfairly reassured
by having someone else jump
down before us."
"You're on.." Marco crowed with excitement. "Stoker versus Kelly. On the high
dive.. Has a nice ring to it, doesn't it? Say you two dive up to.... " he cast his gaze
red sun glowing grotto.."that little gnarled bush up there as the top
most challenge. Ready? Line
up your toes on the mark, boys." he said, scuffing
a sneaker in the sand on the ledge hanging over
the water. "May the best
Stoker neatly swan dived from the second to the last shoe Marco had perched
on a fold in the ribboned
cliff face. His body sliced into the water like a knife and hardly made any splash on the way in.
The gang leaned over semi fearfully from the newest height to make sure he|
surfaced once more.
Mike's head broke the surface. "Ok, Chet.. Your turn. Are ya gonna do
the ninety foot leap off or
not? I'm tired of waiting for ya."
Kelly licked dry lips from where his lily white toes gripped
ledge he was leaning for dear life on.
Stoker taunted in good humor once again.
"Are ya gonna let me pull
one over on ya once again like that day I stared down a gun? I'm
laughing about that, Chet. No longer blushing.." he said, squirting
mirthful water out of his mouth
playfully as he treaded water.
"I'll do it. I'll do it. " said Chet. "Just to shut your yap. Don't
he shouted punily down from his great height.
The rest of the gang began to catcall
and jeer with the rest of the tourists
in the grotto who were watching with shivering can't-watch
Gage shouted up one more time. "I can always swim out there and
catch ya!" he
gestured at Chet.
"I'm not a cheater..." sputtered Kelly from up where he was. Marco and
looked like ants to him from his perspective. "All right, I'm going.
If only to shut you up once and
for all.." Then he lost his balance
before he could leap away from the ragged rock face as his foot
Johnny shouted. "Look out, Chet! Turn yourself! Turn yourself.. you're
in the wrong
position to hit the wat---!"
SPLASH !!!! !!!! Kelly went, landing fully on his stomach, his
and arms splayed stiffly. Then his head and body disappeared beneath
the alkaline surface
and his leap's violent ripples started to die away.
"Oooo.." Lopez grimaced, grabbing his own midsection in empathetic|
sympathy. "What a belly flop..."
"Stoker, do you see him?" Johnny shouted down. "Is he ok after that one?
been taking longer and longer for you guys to swim back up to the
Mike circled in a three
sixty right where he stationed in the pool, eyeing
for movement from below. "Still seeing a bubble
column. I think so."
Seconds dragged out into a full minute.
The gang became increasingly
anxious until finally, even Mike began
shouting. "Chet? Where are you?!"
Johnny and Marco both
leaped into the water after Mike to begin
Thirty horrifying seconds went by while
all of them started to hyperventilate
for frantic search dives.
Then... a curly mop broke
the surface. "...OwwWWWww. That one smarted
Gage frontstroked over to Chet quickly
and took him by the shoulders
and gripped an arm across his chest in a hold. "Chet, are you ok?! You
the sh*t out of us. Mike's still down there diving after ya.."
"I'm fine." Kelly said drolly with a shrug. "Whatever gave you the idea|
that I wasn't?"
delay underwater.." said Marco.
"Geesh, guys. What do you think I was? Born yesterday? My sister
and I used
to intentionally belly flop when we were kids to see how much water we could
out of the swimming pool. We used to laugh at the lifeguards
while they yelled at us for doing such
a dangerous stunt.
I know how to fall that way without ripping my guts open.."
"Well, he doesn't
know that.." Johnny gasped, letting go of Kelly, pointing
down to Stoker's bottom sweeping underwater
"Perfect.. Guys, I'm gonna hide. Keep on pretending to look. Let's
scare him real good.
Remember, I got some payback time coming for him
puking on me last week."
Gage broke into a
grin. "Guess that's true. Ok.. go back down there.
Pop up again after a longish minute or so. He
should be good and riled
up by then enough to satisfy honor."
"Cool beans.. If Mike doesn't
laugh after this, then I know he's still messed
up from that gun call. It'll be our daily psych check
on him. Thanks, guys,
in advance." And with that, Chet took a huge breath of air and returned to
depths beneath the ledge to wait it out.
When the joke was sprung in the end, Johnny and Marco
both sighed in relief
when the shy trademark smile spread over Stoker's face when he realized
he'd been had most thoroughly.
"You got me, Chet. Ha HA!" he said, shaking water out of his eyes
catching his breath back. He let the others haul him out of the water to
recover. "Man, guess
we're even now on the joking oneupmanship.
I didn't know you had it in you.." he crowed. "I never
thought you'd pull your
revenge out on me while we were still on vacation.."
"Yeah, well live
and learn.." Kelly said, holding out a hand of apology for
Stoker took it warmly
while he shivered in the beach towel
Marco piled on top of his head. "You know what this means though."
"No, what?" said Kelly.
"It means I get to pull another joke on you now, too, during vacation.
Watch your back, then, Chet. Because I just might be right behind you
when you least expect it."
The smile wiped clean off of Chet's face.
From: Patti or Jeff or Cassidy <firstname.lastname@example.org> |
Date: Fri Jun 2, 2006 4:15 pm
Subject: Here's To Chips and Wings..
"Aw, don't take it so hard, Chet." said Marco, patting
the curly haired
fireman on the back. "It's not like it's the end of the world, you know."
but it's the end of me being able to completely relax myself.
I won't be able to let my guard down
for even a second now." sighed
Chet, staring at Mike Stoker's sunburned back as the engineer dried
himself off with a beach towel.
"Poor baby. Here, have a coke." said Johnny. "The sugar in it'll
nerves down." Gage nudged an icy glass bottle against Kelly's
shoulder in emphasis.
Kelly jumped at the bone aching chill branding his reddened
skin and he snatched the bottle out
of Johnny's hands in irritation.
"So who won? Me or him?" Chet grumped.
Lopez shared with
"It was a draw. You both leaped off at the ninety foot mark."
Chet wilted in fatigue,
letting water droplets drip down off his hair and
onto the cold stone beneath him. "Aw, man.... really?
I put everything I
had into beating his smug little a---"
"Now, none of that. Why don't you
go warm yourself in the sun at the
top? It'll loosen you up a tad. I'll walk up your lunch as soon
and I get it ready. And I promise I won't let him get any opportunity
to lace it with
jalapenos from Marco's provisions pack." Johnny
"Thanks, I'm counting on you, Gage.
Don't mess up here or I promise
you, you'll never hear the end of it." Chet warned quietly as he painfully
buckled his sandals and put on a hawaiian shirt.
"Geesh, what a grump.." Johnny frowned as he
and Lopez watched
Kelly stiffly make his way up the narrow path leading out of the swimming
Then Johnny started laughing. "Maybe I should slip some aspirin
into his potato salad for all those
sore muscles of his." he chuckled
to the other two.
Mike piped up as he pulled a T-shirt on
over his goose pimpling skin.
"Let him suffer until sundown. Then tend to him. He scared the sh*t
me by staying underwater like that for so long."
"All right. Makes sense to me. He's
only gonna get even MORE sore after
getting in that hang gliding session today." Johnny nodded.
Chet Kelly was almost dozing. Almost...
One eye was sealed shut and the other was scanning the
pure blue skies
morphing clouds overhead.
He could hear Sonoran bumblebees and smell California
full bloom on the breeze. The spicy scents of toyon and oak intoxicated
him where he
snugged face down on a hot boulder to ease his still
smarting stomach. He knew that he'd have one
h*ll of a bruise there
He lazily surveyed the canyon and near distant Mount
Orizaba, until his
hand brushed something coarse and very sun warmed by his feet. He
up and studied it. ::I wonder what this rock is? Lava? It's so
A scuffling on the
trail behind him made Chet scramble to his feet and
get under a mesquite bush. He held his new found
soft rock cocked
in ambush while he waited for Mike Stoker to appear....
A firm, strong nose
on his shoulder made him fly forward in complete
surprise and Kelly fell onto his back, facing the
'Snort!' huffed a truly massive animal. Kelly scattered like a crab away
from the shaggy
beast, still hefting his tan rock pathetically until his head
impacted against a leather boot. Chet
looked up, rubbing his scalp with
a free hand.
It was Johnny. And he began to laugh. "What's
the matter, Chet? Haven't
you ever seen a buffalo face to face before?"
Chet shot to his feet.
"That's a... a... buffalo? H-Here? But ..but ..but, this
is an island, Gage. Who'd ever release and
leave those monsters to fend
for themselves way out here?"
"The Conservancy, Chet. Catalina's eighty eight percent wildlife land now.|
Don't worry. I don't think
he's gonna charge. He's not jaw chomping nearly
enough." reassured Johnny, who seemed expert on that
kind of thing.
To Chet, Johnny seemed even more Native American right then to him
ever had before in recent recollection. ::Maybe him being
near that buffalo, wearing those chaps,
helps with the effect.:: Kelly guessed.
Johnny thought Chet was still petrified with fear so he
pointed to the ground.
"Didn't you see all of their footprints around here? This is perfect bison
Kelly didn't answer him. He still stood frozen, eye to eye with the
cud chewing bovine standing only thirty feet away from
the two firemen. It was well concealed by
natural camouflage in the heavy
mesquite scrub. "Nice, big cow.." Chet soothed the placid bison
'Snort!' it answered, sending up a cloud of desert dust from
boy.. I'm not gonna--" Kelly started to say.
Gage interrupted him.
Johnny looked down and
eyed up Chet's geological curiosity, noticing
it for the first time. He gripped Kelly's wrist and
turned it over, studying Chet's
odd rock with a growing amusement. "Hmmmm. I didn't know you
to collect buffalo chips to go along with your western era barbed wire
collection, Chet. This one's
Chet gagged with a cry and dropped the crusty lump instantly.
in disgust while he immediately began wiping
both of his hands off onto his equally dusty shorts.
Johnny smiled even bigger when Kelly went running back to the
swimming grotto to wash the dried
buffalo dung off his palms.
DeSoto was as excited as he could be. He had found
Ian DeSoto just in the nick of time.
grandfather had completed his walk about his airplane,
paid the tie-down and landing fees, and now
he was on the radio
with the local coastal air control tower situated in Long Beach.
tower, this is Alpha Tango Charlie 11795, requesting
clearance for take-off on runway 22 with two
souls on board."
said Ian with a wink at Chris, belted in the front passenger seat.
clear for take-off, ATC11795. Note your MSL approach
is North 33 by 24.30 and West 118 by 24.95.
Altimeter ground level
is 2602 feet. Nearest traffic is 7 nautical miles due SSE
at 1120 feet.
Current weather shows a building but weak
low pressure 40 miles west into your direction. Wind is
20 knots WSW.##
"Confirmed, Unicom. My transponder is actuated. Thanks for the update."
smiled in wonder as the older man put on his helmet after hanging
up the radio receiver mic. "What
was that all about? That sounded like
LAX. It's seems so remote here on the mountaintop, grandpa.
I didn't know anybody was even watching us."
Ian laughed out loud. "We're still too close
into the coastline
to not be worried about the other ten thousand and six airplanes zooming
the skies over our heads." he explained. "You're forgetting
that all the airliners loop out over the
ocean on takeoff from Los Angeles.
And that puts a plane into a trajectory that clips Catalina Island's
airspace once every minute and a half."
"Really? Where?" said Chris, pressing his nose
against the windshield
of his side of the little white cessna in a careful search.
said Ian, pointing down towards the ocean.
Chris's mouth flopped open when he saw a red tailed
angling out over the sea in a turning arch to gain altitude away from
skyscrapers of Long Beach, L.A. and Torrance. "They're
"Yep. The approach end of
Catalina's runway 22 begins at the edge of
a 1500' cliff. This gives the airport some characteristics
similar to landing
on an aircraft carrier that is 1,602' in the air." said Mr. DeSoto.
Needle in a haystack! What else is weird about this airport?"
asked Roy's oldest.
said Ian, taking his aircraft into a taxi mode ahead of the other
tourist planes, idling with spinning
props for their turn to use the runway.
"This runway's first 2000 feet slopes up and the remainder
of it is level.
Pilots can't see aircraft on opposite ends of the runway due to its
been plenty of accidents on this course. On landing,
that strange upslope creates the illusion of
being higher than you really are,
tricking inexperienced pilots into flying its approach too low.
encounter the steep dropoff at the end of the runway which always
downdrafts and turbulence, often exceeding some of
the smaller aircrafts' ability to climb."
that dangerous?" frowned Chris, adjusting the radio mic over his
mouth around his bulky blue helmet.
"Nah. Unschooled pilots are never allowed to fly to Catalina, Chris.
That optical illusion's
overcome by using the altimeter, and some focusing on
only the first few hundred feet of the runway.
And you can back yourself up
using VASI during the approach. Most pilots only see half the runway
aligned with it in takeoff position, See us right now?" he asked, pointing
out ahead of them.
"Pilots on their first time here have induced a takeoff
stall as they panicked by pulling up near
the mid-point of runway, thinking it
was the end."
"Well that's dumb.." said Chris, turning his head. |
"What is?" asked Ian, keeping his eye on
the jumbo jet's comtrail he could
see climbing out over the ocean nearly at their same elevation.
"There are no mid-field or distance remaining signs for the runway."
said the teenager.
know. This airport's private, Chris. Hard to raise funds for aircraft services,
FBO, fuel, and maintenance
if you don't have airfares. They've just
the landing fees to rely on." said Ian. "A cute reminder
of that is the fact
that we find rocks fallen on the runway all the time. Makes me glad sometimes
that they have their full stop landing ordinance absolution. Are you ready?
Get set for a strong downdraft
at the approach end of the runway. It's
caused by the prevailing winds falling over that monster
cliff out there that
we can't see yet. Be prepared for a dive, Chris. Catalina's downdrafts are
We might suffer a loss of altitude during our short final."
"I'm set, grandpa. Let's fly.." smiled
Chris. "I trust you."
The small airplane soon launched herself into the great big blue
surrounding them, heading out over the longest width of rugged,
high peaked Catalina.
It was about three hours before sundown. Kelly had convinced Marco
to fly for the first time with
his morning hang glider guide, Kip.
"All right, I think that's it. I think we got everything.."
said Chet, growing
Cap frowned as he eyed the row of cloth and aluminum framed gliders
lined up on the highest dune of Ripper's Cove. "What's all this stuff?
I thought we were just going
Kelly looked at Marco. "Oh, you didn't tell him?"
Marco said. "I thought you
Hank narrowed his eyes suspiciously. "Tell me what?"
Chet fidgetted under his captain's
withering look. "Well, we're
going camping. But we also thought we'd do some hang gliding."
grinned warmly, adjusting a wire's tension on his glider.
"Oh, you mean 'we' as in you and Lopez.
Because I tried this craziness
once and I'm not gonna go do it again." Hank said, looking uncomfortable.
"Aww, don't be such a bab-- uh, stick in the mud." said Johnny to Stanley.
"It's gotta be a lot
"It's a great sport, it's a..." Kelly said, trailing off as struggled to think of
expression that covered what he was feeling about flying.
"A thing of beauty.." piped up Gage
as he saw others circling gracefully
in the clouds above them over Avalon. "Wow.. just look at them!"
"A thing of beauty, huh.." parroted Cap doubtfully, shaking his head in
gonna be thanking us come Monday." Chet reassured him.
"Ah,..after a surprise like this, I doubt
I'll be talking to either one
of you guys." Stanley grumbled.
"Don't worry. I thought ahead.."
said Gage. "Just in case you change your
mind, Cap, I brought you a glider."
Cap laughed in
his face. "John, there is no case, no possible scenario
that will EVER... get me to jump off a cliff
again without a rappelling rope.
Honestly? I thought you guys would try to pull something like this.
on, come on, let's go. Let's get back to the campsite and get Roy. I wanna
grab another drumstick
or two off the barbeque. I'm still hungry."
An hour later, Kelly strapped himself in with Johnny's help.
"Cap, are you sure you won't change
Hank chuckled from his portable camper's chair. "I was about
to ask you the same
Chet was eager to talk about how his morning flight lessons had
gone. "Ah, there's
nothing like the rush of leaping off that cliff, Cap.
Get this for me, Johnny, will you?" he asked
Gage, pointing to
his radio helmet's strap.
Hank was thoughtful. "Listen, uh.. If you guys
really wanna die so
bad, I got assigned a golf cart rental with no brakes."
Kelly, Chet, Johnny
and Roy laughed at the invitation.
"Then don't drive it." DeSoto smirked.
Hank nodded in instant agreement.
Kelly wove his story about his lesson with the artistry only
time hang glider could create, eyeing up Cap especially.
Johnny merely listened in with
"You take off a cliff, drop for a couple of seconds, the wind takes hold.."
Chet grinned. "It's a.. what is it?" he gestured gimme fingers at
the eager listening Marco.
a thing of beauty.." said Kip, the hang glider guide strapping
Marco into his harness attached to
his own in a tandem knot.
Hank was beginning to see the attraction. "A thing of beauty.." he
mumbled finally in a quiet admiration.
Chet picked up his solo glider's wings by the flight bar
stepped away. "Come on. Get out of the way, Gage." he shouted
impatiently, grinning like
a banshee. "Kip. Marco.. I'll see you
up there!" he shouted, running for the dune's high edge.
he was airborne. "Yeah.. wooo! " he said as he
drifted away on an uprising thermal. "I'll catch up
later!!" he shouted back down to the ground at Cap.
Once Lopez got over his fright of being strapped like a mummy to|
something without an engine to keep
it in the air, he actually found that
he reveled in the silence of cloth winged flight. And then he
bubbling out nervous questions at Kip, tandem tied above him in
the same glider.
two firemen had fun radioing to each other in the air and they challenged
one another in trying to
match a soaring osprey's rise inside a warm ocean
thermal. They could see all of Santa Catalina spread
out beneath them. Its
crystal blue cove waters amazing visibility and the orange flecks of garibaldi
mingled with the brown blades of giant kelp.
Marco grinned. "Hey, Chet..." he said over
"What, Marco? Can't you see I'm busy banking corkscrews?" shouted Chet
from his own solo hang glider.
Lopez smile right back as he looked at the crazy antics his coworker
was swooping out just above him. "I havenít seen a car since we launched off
the dunes at Two Harbors."
"That's because they're aren't any. Well, not many, anyway. The locals
and tourists mostly use
golfcarts because it takes twelve years to get
a permit to own and drive an automobile." shouted Kelly
the wind in his transmission.
"Far out.." said Marco. "My kind of town. Just like the
Prisoner series on TV.
You are number 6.." he said in a mock english voice.
Chet shouted gleefully,
high on flying. "I am not a number," he crowed "I am
a free man."
Lopez was reflective in
his helmet as Kip banked their hang glider
in for a better view of the two small towns built on the
"Yeah, up here, we both are. And doesn't Avalon look like the Village
from that show?"
"Yeah, spooky. I'm just glad we won't be finding Rover on the beach
when we land anytime soon."
"Chet? Kip wants to take me over the west end to see the Isthmus|
up close. Meet you back in this
area in five?" asked Lopez through
his helmet frequency.
"Ok, in five and counting." said
Chet, setting his watch. "I'll coast
inside this thermal while I wait for the two of ya to show me
home. I really wanna go higher than that osprey, man. It's become
a matter of pride."
"Good luck." said Kip from his own radio set. "Osprey won't tolerate
anything over their heads. Makes
them chatter something fierce.
I've never been able to do it."
"First time for everything..."
said Chet, gaining altitude.
"See you soon.." said Marco as he and Kip leaned onto their
glider's guide bar and swept out of sight into the setting sun.
Chet smiled when he realized that
he finally had some real solitude
to savor on his own. ::Ah, aloneness.:: "You got the right idea
feathered friend." he said to the osprey gliding around in the thermal
above him. "I love
it." Kelly stretched in his harness. "Cap, you
don't know what you're missing by keeping those cold
feet of yours.
This is pure heaven on earth. Marco's learning that, too."
From: Patti or Jeff or Cassidy <email@example.com>
Date: Sun Jun 4, 2006 6:13pm
Subject: Moments of Gravity..
Lopez had just begun
relaxing when it happened. A sharp
upwelling gust jolted their wind sails, lurching both Kip and
himself upwards in a nauseating violent jerk. Kip yelled.
"Hang on. We've hit a dust devil! I'm trying
His words were ripped away as another slap of curling wind
twisted around their glider unexpectedly.
Lopez, ever the alert fireman, started talking immediately on
his headset to the others at the
campsite. "Hank, Roy! We've
hit an off-thermal..." he grunted.
Kip struggled to right the craft,
falling into swoops and dives,
trying to find his way out of the narrow monstrous downdraft.
didn't speak, so intent was his concentration.
There was no reply from the others.
Roy, Johnny and Stoker were too engrossed in
eyeing up the sights on the beach below them with binoculars
to even pay attention to Marco's frantic radio transmission
echoing out of all the other upturned
hang glider helmets
parked on the picnic table on the other side of the camp fire.
hear him either, he was currently dipping into a low
canyon in a bid to beat the osprey at his own
Marco gasped, sharp grains of whirling sand getting into his
eyes. "Guys! We're in trouble!"
he screamed into the helmet
radio's mic over the roar of the invisible whirlwind toying
Kip's chin hit him on the back, making him grunt in pain at another
lurch. "Keep ... talking!"
grunted the guide, forcing the flight bar
up to try and gain more altitude. But the force of the mini
was too strong to resist.
Marco gasped as the tips of tall pine trees hurdled up towards
"Guys.. we're going down!! Guys, can you hear me?!" Lopez
yelled. "Chet, eye our position!
We're going d---"
CRASH!!! A main beam of torrey pine cracked off the left wing of
Marco's hang glider, sending them dropping dozens of
feet towards the ground and into a thick stand
of a small forest.
Both men fell like rocks, helplessly tethered to the craft as it tumbled
and destroyed itself in violent snaps and shrieks of aluminum.
Marco opened his eyes at the soft tink of metal pipes banging into
each other above him. He was
still in his harness. But he was
also hanging thirty feet above the ground from a treetop where
luckless glider had embedded itself.
He gave a start when he twisted around in place to check
The guide was impaled fully on a branch through the chest next
to him and his face was
blue. He was very dead.
"Madre Dios..." Lopez muttered, crossing himself. Closing his eyes,
inwardly assessed his status. ::No broken bones. Not
bleeding from anywhere except my left cheek.
At least that's
something.:: he thought. Then he remembered his radio.
Reaching painfully up,
he groped until he found the mouth mic that
had been bent and twisted upwards and tried to use it.
"Chet? Do you read me? Chet?" But there was no power left in it.
None at all from what he could
see. Its speaker light was dark.
::D*mn it. This'll never work again.:: Marco thought when he found
the back of the power unit thoroughly crushed.
He shoved panic aside and worked to free himself
he hung. Struggling, he undid his helmet strap to be able to
breathe a little better.
It slipped off his head and Marco watched
with some horror as it took a fairly long time to thud to
after crashing through the tree boughs swaying underneath him.
Then Lopez's unfamiliarity with the harness releases tying him to |
Kip's body proved his undoing.
The main buckle opened suddenly
and dropped him out of the tangled glider wreckage and into a
Marco yelled in startled surprise. His momentum was slowed only
slightly by some
thick pine branches as his body fell towards the
ground. Pieces of his hang glider and some of its
down with him, striking Lopez painfully on the head, arms and legs.
he hit bottom, landing on his back in a thick bed of pine needles
with his right leg folded awkwardly
beneath him. The large bone below
the knee instantly snapped like a twig.
Marco and he folded up double over it and
gripped the fresh, closed break with both of his hands in
He threw up immediately, losing his late lunch. Soon, he found he could
as the wind that had gotten knocked out of him, returned.
When the bout was over, he was left
suffering retinal stars and gagging
at his intense pain.
Then some of Kip's blood began to
drip on his face from far above
and he fainted into oblivion.
Ten minutes later, Marco
was ready. He had bound his leg with
aluminum struts and glider cloth in a tight splint and he had
himself a makeshift crutch using a piece of debris from one of his
glider's overhead beams.
"Ok..." he grunted, psyching up to
try and stand. He knew he had to get to a trail or at least get
the open so Chet would be able spot him or the crashed glider still
hanging partially in
He eventually got onto his good foot and began the long way
back to the duneside
campsite that lay a few miles downhill from
Hank was beside himself. "Come on, Chet." he said into one of
the helmet's microphones. Gage,
Stoker and Roy were sitting
next to him on top of the picnic table, also wearing glider gear
that they could hear the conversation. "He crashed didn't he?"
##No,.. no.. he's fine. He's just
ah, ...he's just up to some kind of
funny business.## sighed Chet from where he was in the air.
"Then why aren't you laughing?" Cap growled. "And why can't we
pick him up on his radio?"
got defensive. ##Because these radios have only got a range of
ten miles!## he decided. ##If I'm not
back in fifteen minutes....##
"Just find him." Gage said, holding onto their portable VHF radio
receiver in case they needed outside aid. He had already dialed
over to frequency sixteen, the emergency
##I will.. ## gasped Chet with worry as he flew his searching sweeps.
Quiet waves of wind rustled his glider's wings as Kelly focused
his gaze on the ground
as he swept over the arid landscape and
steep cliffs which descending in deep ripples all around
the surrounding ocean. On an instinct, he followed the osprey, still
above him. It was headed towards a thick wood
a few miles away.
Marco was getting tired, fighting his way through thick scrubland using
the clumsy crutch. Then
another root seemed to snag the end of
the aluminum pole under his arm and he fell heavily to the
Lopez took the wave of pain from the jarring tightly, waiting it out.
he opened his eyes to see where the crutch had tumbled to.
He was stunned when he heard the buzz
of a snake begin behind
him from under a bush. It was very nearby. ::Rattler!:: Marco quailed,
in place so he could locate where the sound was coming from.
He found it camouflaged in a snarl of
branches and roots. It was a fat
rattlesnake only a yard away. The snake was very angry. Marco's
good foot was lying directly on a rabbit it had just killed.
Marco breath quavered as he tried to will the snake to stillness where it|
lay inside the tangled
knot of its body. He became acutely aware of the
quiet-full-of-sound; quail and other birds, waves,
wind, insects and the
bite of poison oak beginning to form a rash over all the exposed areas
his skin. A trickle of sweat stung his eyes but he didn't dare wipe it
away. Slowly, his eyes located
the metal bar and he reached for it in
slow motion until he gripped its sun warmed weight. Scuffling
softly in the
clay, he moved it back under his arm until he could roll his body inch
away from the snake.
But then, an untied shoe laced twitched an ear on the dead hare. The
struck.. driving both fangs deep into the calf of Marco's good leg.
Jerking in panic, Marco threw
himself over backwards in fright and in doing
so, fell over a dropoff which sent him hurtling down
into an uncontrolled
tumble down a cliff. His broken leg's splint slammed painfully into rocks
bushes as he rolled, making Marco scream as he tried to arrest
his violent fall helplessly.
he hit bottom in a deep arroyo and landed face down onto some moist
dirt by a small bubbling creekbed.
Violated, bumped and bruised, Marco took one big stunned breath as he
tried to rise back
onto his hands and knees, but then overwhelming shock
took him deep into blackness.
Captain Stanley spoke again by helmet radio. "Any signs, Chet?"
##Not yet.## Kelly answered,
turning his flight bar into another turn to the
left so that he'd arch into the next canyon. Then
he spotted a sudden white
and orange flash in between some pine trees. He gasped. "##Cap,
a visual. Looks like they're down.##
Gage broke in using his own helmet mic. "Are they ok?"
Chet replied. ##I don't know. I don't see em. There's some broken branches.
Looks like they hit hard.##
Hank sighed. "Let assume those boys have gone and broke something. I'm
gonna take the golf cart
down the mountain to get a chopper."
"Cap, you can't. It'll be dark soon. Too dark to navigate
the drive clearly
without good brakes." Roy said to him.
"What choice do we have? It'll be
night soon." Cap spat.
"Give Chet a chance to find them. They may be ok and walking out
there as we speak." Roy suggested.
"Twenty minutes.." Hank agreed.
Johnny offered another
option. "Guys, I can raise help right here.." he said,
holding up Roy's portable hand held that he
had dug out of a backpack.
"Do it." ordered Stanley. "Chet, Johnny's radioing on VHF 16 for assistance.
Hang tight and keep circling over that spot."
Johnny began his hail for help while Cap and Chet
conversation while Roy and Stoker listened on.
Kelly spoke up again. ##Gage's
out of range down there, Cap. I just flipped
over and I can't hear him at all. He's transmitting nothing
"Then I'll walk to a higher elevation." Gage said.
"You can't get any higher
than this, we must be getting blocked by
Mt. Black Jack's leeward side. It's higher than we are."
Hank eyed all three of his men. "Then what's left for us to do, huh?
tell me that?"
Roy, Stoker and Johnny looked at him but couldn't offer anything.
to the dune's edge and hailed Chet once more.
"Kelly, what's going on? Talk to me."
Chet was straining his eyes to the utmost to see past the growing|
shadows falling on the land below
him. Then, he saw a small figure
lying on the ground with a bent leg. ##Cap, I see something. I'm
taking ...*static crackle* ..a closer look. *crackle spatter*##
"Chet, you're starting to break
up, you're almost out of range."
said Stoker into a mic.
##I found Marco. He's at the bottom
of a rocky quarry.## Chet shouted,
growing scared. Lopez was lying absolutely still, partially tangled
a bush with a leg splint half undone. ##Cap, I'm about ten
to twelve miles east--- ## The frequency
fizzled into immutability
into all their ears.
Hank shouted. "Chet!"
going in for a landing...##
The radio comm whistled and then cut out completely.
pulled off the glider helmet and threw it onto the
ground in disgust.
Gage shot to his feet.
"Time's up, Cap. I've got to leave."
"How?" Roy asked him incredulously. "We can hardly see
terrain around us."
Cap said, "And you're not taking that golf cart. Not until we fix those
Johnny rubbed his face. "I'm not talking about taking the cart.
I'm talking about using one of
those.." Gage said, pointing at
the waiting hang glider that Chet had set out for Cap to try.
"You must be outta your mind." Cap told him. "You've never
flown one of those things before. You'll
end up like those two
did and wreck yourself on a hillside somewhere."
"No I won't, Cap. Haven't
you noticed? It's nearly dark outside.
The wind's died down an awful lot from what it used to be.
just glide into Avalon and land on the beach. How can I miss
it? The whole village's lit
up like a Christmas tree. I can't
possibly hurt myself.." said Gage, pointing towards the tied
hang glider's large silhouette looming nearly over them.
The three of them just stared back without
"All right. Ok. All right. I admit there are no guarantees here.
But I can't
think of anyone else but me who'll actually dare
to fly out of here. Can you? Besides, I can't be
something I can't even see. It'll be too dark for me
to know how high up I am." Johnny
insisted. "Ok, Stoker, are you
gonna get up off your stunned butt long enough to help me
into this thing or am I gonna haveta get into this harness
all by myself?"
Hank saw the look
of sweaty determination in his paramedic's
face and found that he couldn't counteract his decision
out for help. He just nodded once at Mike, tersely, without
ran off into the darkness, followed quickly by Roy and
Stoker at his heels.
Click the sleeping Cap|
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