Dot listened as the older man and the teen-aged girl, Dot guessed to be in her middle teens, went through their spiel. Dot asked them a few questions because she was genuinely interested. The man and the girl seemed to be mostly going through the motions, a bit like two Jehovah Witnesses standing on a porch in Vatican City.
“Why don’t you just have Ed announce that you are looking for...what was it...drones or planes or sailplanes or hot-air balloons?” Dot asked.
Dot appreciated the human contact. She rarely had visitors after Jack, universally known as “Dash” by his many clients in the insurance business, had died. Dash had been seven years her senior. She thanked God that he died shortly before the Ebola wrecking ball collapsed everything that was normal.
Oh, her Dash was not perfect. His mid-life crisis was that he wanted to become a bush-pilot in Alaska. He got that wild look in his eye whenever anybody mentioned Alaska or the Yukon or northern Quebec.
But he didn’t start chasing skirts like so many of his peers. Nor did he start boozing or driving expensive sports cars way too fast in an effort to convince others, and themselves, that they were still young.
Nope, he just had that fantasy. He even went up to Alaska for seven years-in-a-row. Dot went on half the trips. Cutting up a moose were not her thing. Other things were.
The man who looked to be a little bit older than Dash would have been, maybe his late seventies, cleared his throat. Dot sat up straighter. “I am sorry. I was wool gathering. Can you repeat that?”
The older man said “We would have Ed or Peppermint Candy ask for them on-air but we don’t want the hostiles to know about it. People behave differently if they think they are being observed. They get much sneakier.”
“So why are you asking me?” Dot asked. “I hardly look like the kind of person who would have one of those gizmos.”
The man looked sheepish.
The teen said “You can’t judge a book by her cover, now can you?”
Then she elaborated. “You live between the old air strip and Columbia Highway. We plan to get to everybody but figured that somebody who bought property next to an airstrip might either have a plane or know somebody who does.”
Dot took a good look at the teen. She seemed to be a bit of a late bloomer, but that was more common now that children carried little excess body-fat.
Dot had long held the opinion that eleven year-old-girls were one of the high points of humanity. This young lady seemed to have the certainty and poise Dot associated with that aged girl.
“I know you told me your name, young lady, but I wasn’t paying attention. I would like to be able to get a hold of you if something comes up.” Dot said.
“My name is Tory Hawk and this is my pop-pop, Mr. Wade Hawk” the young lady said. She seemed to grow two inches in height after hearing herself called “young lady.”
That is why the older man looked familiar. Dash and Mr. Hawk never saw eye-to-eye on any subject. Dash liked Coon Hounds while Hawk liked German Shorthairs. Dash, was a .44 Magnum man and Hawk shot a .357 Magnum man. Dash had a stainless steel, weather-proof .338 Winchester magnum while Hawk had a .270 Winchester in carbon steel and walnut. The men ran in different circles but were both vocal in their preferences and had little truck with anybody who disagreed with them.
Dot looked over at Wade Hawk who was looking a bit uncomfortable. “You knew my husband, Dash?” Dot asked.
“Yes ma-am.” Wade answered with no embellishment.
Dot nodded graciously. “I want to thank you. Steel sharpens steel. There weren’t many people in Eaton Rapids that could put fire in his eye, but you were one of them.”
Wade looked confused. “Ma-am?”
Dot explained. “Eaton Rapids is a small town. There is not a lot of excitement so we have to make our own. You and Dash found each other and could go toe-to-toe. It gave Dash’s life purpose. I appreciate that he didn’t have to leave town to do that.”
There was a lot Dot wasn’t saying.
After the old man and the young lady left, Dot wandered around her immaculate kitchen.
Then she went out to one of the pole buildings that was masked from the road by tall lilac bushes and unlocked the sliding door.
The sunlight slanted into the building and lit up the plane. It was Dash’s mid-life crisis, a Zenith 701 kit-plane.
The upper surfaces were painted brilliant, fluorescent yellow. The lower surfaces were electric blue. Dash figured that if he dumped the plane in the bush that a bright color would be easier to find. The color scheme burned the retinas of Dot’s eyes.
The irony is that Dot was a better pilot than Dash, especially when flying that plane.
The plane itself was a bundle of compromises. Frankly, it was too small to be a viable bush-plane. One pilot, one passenger and a hundred pounds of gear was all it could carry. A range of of 350 miles sounds like a lot until you say “Alaska” and then a round trip of 270 miles doesn’t sound like very far at all.
“Wait” you say. “You said a range of 350 miles, not 270.”
There are a hundred ways to run out of fuel; Head-winds, excessive luggage, floats, cold weather, high altitude to clear mountains, avoiding weather.
There are old pilots and bold pilots. But there are no, old, bold pilots.
Dot was as cautious as a cat in a room full of rocking chairs. And at 5’-2” she was comfortable in the tiny kit-plane cockpit while Dash had to shoe-horn himself into the seat. Where Dash was ham-handed and impatient, Dot was deft and able to anticipate how the plane would respond even before she made the input.
Two years ago, Dot had been awakened when Dash was flopping on their bed like a newly caught salmon in the bottom of the boat. The EMTs made a big show of trying to get Dash back. She knew. She could tell by his skin color. Dot told the EMTs and ambulance driver to not risk their lives by driving excessively fast.
Dash wasn’t going to be making any more trips to Alaska. Then Ebola hit.
And the Zenith sat in the pole building. Waiting.