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The plane was unharmed, or at least not any more harmed than it had been before the unfortunate fall to the concrete beneath the tree. Jack blew on it with relief, dislodging a leaf from a wheel, and then spit on it to rub out an especially dirty spot on the intact wing.

He loved the way the wings were shaped and he was crushingly disappointed over the missing one. He thought it was a much more interesting sort of shape than the remote control Boeing 747 he had at home. That one looked just every other plane; this one had character and magic. He liked the bumps and the grit and the old fashioned appeal of it.

Jack glanced at his watch. 4:25. He glanced back at the Sopwith Camel and wriggled the tiny door. He was hoping it would open so he could fit one of his toy soldiers in there, or one of his Star Wars action figures, but either it was sealed shut with grime, or it hadn’t been designed to swing open and shut. He poked his finger through the window and then yelped as something sharp pricked him.

Jack sucked on his sore finger and peered closer into the tiny compartment of the toy.

**

Lottie,

I cannot believe you sent the whole, roast chicken! You really are a goddess. Every man in the hospital wants to steal you away and make you theirs. I said no, she is mine forever. And you are.

G.

**

Lottie,

It is time to come clean with you about why I am really here; back at the hospital again. Although it’s true I have the same cough we all have and it’s a damn nuisance, it’s really my eye that put me here. Will you still love a one eyed man? Can you?

Graham, ever hopeful.

**

My wife,

Well, if I had any worries about you leaving me for a two eyed fella, you accusing me of being vain and conceited answered the question! I humbly beg forgiveness for thinking either of us could be so shallow. Then again, you haven’t seen me yet.

My patch, combined with my whiskers, make me look like a Long John Silver of sorts. All I need now is a peg leg. Since this blasted war isn’t coming to a close, maybe I’ll get my wish.

(Another chicken would help my spirits).

Graham.

**

4:33.

“Ta-da!” Jack burst through the front door with all the grace of madcap seven year old boy determined to make an entrance.

“Nice job, buddy!” His mom peeked around the kitchen door and beamed at him. “Way to go. Now go wash up; you’re filthy. What’d you bring that home for?” she sighed, as she spied the toy airplane in Jack’s hand.

“I want to show Dad.” Jack cradled it protectively.

She sighed, and wrinkled the upturned nose that she had passed on to her son. “He’s outside. And leave it out there after you’ve shown it to him, okay? I don’t want it in the house. It’s probably full of bugs. And, it looks like it’ll be the cause of someone needing a tetanus shot.”

Jack ignored whatever it was his mom was going on about and raced through the back door. “Dad! Dad! Look at this!”

His dad was “organizing the garage.” Organizing the garage was man-code, he had explained to Jack once, for getting out of the house and pretending to be busy. Usually it was when Mom was arguing with Maddie, Jack’s older sister.

“What’s up, pal? Rootbeer?” His dad rifled through the sodas in the old, stinky refrigerator they kept as a spare. The one in the house was neatly arranged by Mom: this one was all Dad’s territory. It smelled like defrosting ground beef and beer all the time, and nary a vegetable or fruit was ever in sight. Sometimes it also held Girl Scout cookies, and Styrofoam containers of worms for fishing.

“Yeah!” Jack accepted his soda, gratefully. He guzzled with gusto, and belched as loudly as he could. Jack’s dad high-fived him. “Hey, look what I found at the school!” He held out the Sopwith Camel proudly.

“Hey now, pretty cool.” His dad put on the appropriate appreciative face. “What you got there?”

“It’s a plane, and I can keep it cuz I found it.”

“Well, what if someone lost it and goes back to the school to find it?”

Jack frowned. He hadn’t thought of that. He had left his best action figure once at a fast food restaurant and that had been a really bad day. He wasn’t entirely unsympathetic. “Nah. It’s mine. Want to hold it?”

“Um, sure. It’s a little busted up, huh?” His dad peeled off the Captain America Band Aid. “Maybe we can fix it with a popsicle stick or something.”

Jack curled his lip and narrowed his eyes. “Uh, no thanks. That’d look stupid. This plane has been to war; it’s supposed to look broken and beat up, Dad.”

“Oh, okay.” Jack’s dad winked at him. “What war was it in, buddy?”

“World War One. He was shot down over enemy lines though. That’s how he got this busted wing, see?” Jack turned it over. “They captured the pilot and spent like, almost two years as a POW. Do you know what a POW is, Dad?”

Jack’s dad raised his bushy brows. “Yep, I do, but I didn’t know you did.”

“Course I do! But he got out and did some patrollin’ stuff in France.”

“Oh, really?”

“Yep. And he lost his eye when he threw himself in front of his friend, Henry. A shell got him. Right in the eye! Boom!”

“Hmm. How do you know all that?” Jack’s dad popped the tab on a can of beer.

“He told me. You can see him in there if you look real hard. I didn’t see him at first but I do now. Pew pew pew! Boom!” Jack went racing around the garage with the plane held high above his head. His mom entered the garage.

“Dinner’s ready! We need to eat early so we can make Maddie’s violin concert.”

“MOMMMM!” Jack grimaced. He hated Maddie’s violin concerts. They were almost as bad her dance recitals. “I’m not hungry. I wanna play with my plane.”

“Tough. Get in the house and wash up, pronto. You too, big guy.” Jack’s mom swatted his dad with the kitchen towel she was holding.

“Did you know Jack learned all about World War One in the first grade?” Jack’s dad asked as they walked back towards the house. “I gotta give that teacher props. I don’t remember learning much about it till high school, and even then it was dry old textbook crap. I’m impressed.”

She bumped him with her hip. “Told you that school wasn’t all bad. Jack Wyatt Gibson! I said no to the plane in the house!”

“But Mom!” Jack spun around, a heart broken look on his face. “He can’t stay outside all night!”

“Hey, bud,” Jack’s dad dropped to one knee. “If your pilot survived this long, I think a night in the backyard won’t be a real big deal to him. Not a brave guy like that.”

Jack looked doubtfully at him, then at the plane. “What do you think?” he whispered to the toy. He set it down on the porch. “Okay. It’s all right. He wants to get home to his family but it’s taking kind of a long time. He’s been really patient. I gotta go to the bathroom.” Jack raced inside and slammed the door shut.

Jack’s dad picked up the plane and peered inside.

“What are you looking at, babe?” his wife asked.

“Just seeing if I can fix it. Jacky seems real attached to it. It’s cute to see him doing something besides video games.” He squinted and held the plane up. “You should have heard this whole story he concocted about the pilot.”

“What pilot?” she laughed. “There’s nothing inside that old thing but dirt.”

“Yeah. He’s got a good imagination. Didn’t your great granddad fly something like this in the war?”

She shrugged. “I’ve never been good with planes. Might have been. Come on; spaghetti’s getting cold.”

They entered the house and sat down to dinner.


~ THE END ~


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