Poem: To George

The faint image through snow of the fuselage

and lingering odor of fuel led me to my steed this

evening. Freshly shined, dusted with a light

layer of snow from the nor’easter moving across the

state. The weather, dangerous. But the mission,

noble.


Climbing into the cockpit, the mechanic tosses up

the stiff leather bag. In it, my cargo, the precious

packages and letters, bound for New York. Through

rain, sleet, snow, I had promised to do my

duty. Tonight, that oath was put to the

test.


In the bag, a letter, lilac envelope, black script,

stares up from my lap. Addressed “To George,” whiffs

of expensive perfume rise and withstand the salty wind.

“Harriet,” the return name, probably a love letter, written

by husband and wife, torrid lovers, or a long distance

crush.


The rotor of my biplane buzzes to life, and a final slap

upon its ribs from the mechanic, I’m off. Wind smacks

my face, glad for goggles this evening. Snowflakes, like

miniature razors, leaving my cheeks red and numb.

Flickering lamps show me the runway, my steed lifts into the

night.


Maryland shrinks under me as I head north, my cargo

awkward upon my lap. Hard to move joystick, but

I’ll manage. All sound of civilization disappears, drowned

out by obnoxious buzz of my rotor, the whistle of the wind.

No stars to light my way tonight. I could use the

company.


Many have made this run, but not in this kind of hell,

most never returned, regardless. Other guys scoffed

at the assignment, but I needed the cash. New baby

on the way, wife needing the finest cloche hats and stockings.

Gotta keep her happy, it makes me happy to know she’s

waiting.


Wings shudder as a gust crashes from the northwest. My

hands steady on the stick, I keep her in line. Nothing I’ve

not seen before, just a larger degree. Over the coastline

now, lights only to my left. Darkness, stillness, to my right.

Feeling has left my face, the only warm parts were my

eyes.


Steed rocks forward, rotor stutters. Ice most likely. Peril

of flying in snow. Push forward, fly lower, hopeful

the ice will break. Ice is worse than I expected.

Blood rushes back to my face, now acutely

alert. Gauges say I’m dropping fast. This is nowhere near

good.


Rotor stops. Engine whines to a halt. I yank on the stick,

mail bag gets in the way. Panic sets in. Wind, engine, all

sound ceases. Only thumping of my heart fills my ears.

Moonlight breaks out from behind a cloud, I see waves.

I’m plunging for the water, stick won’t move. No, can’t happen

to me.


Stick breaks free, I yank hard. Nose pulls up, but not

before ribs slap the water’s surface. I’m jarred forward,

padded by the stiff leather bag. Crunching of package and

letter between me and the panel. I skip across the water,

a weathered pebble over a creek. Still have time to save

this.


Steed leans right, wing clips the waves, sending me into

a somersault. Dizzying views of sky and water, revolving

and alternating. Crack of the wing is muffled by searing wind

and snow. Holding on, knowing George will never know how

much Harriet loved him. No cloche hats, no stockings, no more

waiting.


Finally comes to a halt, upside down in chilly seawater, my

breath taken from me. Clutching the bag for dear life,

it’s my life now. No more energy to swim, no breath

to get me to the surface. Eyes close, grip tightens, maybe

she’ll meet someone who will buy her those hats, “To George,”

from “Harriet.”