Miscellany

The Wind’s Fury

“The last thing that’ll go through your head,” my guide said, “is mine.  Am I right?”  He laughed while slapping me on the back.  I shifted nervously.  “Have you ever had any accidents?” I asked.  “Oh sure,” he shrugged.  “When was the last one?”  “Five years ago.  Look,” his tone changed, “I’ve had over 11,000 jumps.  You’ll be fine.”  We boarded the plane, the plane which, momentarily, I was readying to hurl from.  There were fourteen of us crammed into the hull of a two-prop plane.  The whirring blades were loud.  We had to shout in order to be heard.  I was sitting across from my friend and his instructor, whom was shouting like a drunken bowler, “This is better than sex!”  I’m going to die, I thought.  The plane started its slow climb to 15,000 feet.  “When we jump,” my instructor, Duke, shouted, “we’ll fall for forty-five seconds.  I’ll grab your hand and put it here,” he pointed to an orange ball on his hip, “you’ll pull, and our chute will expand.”  I was nervous.  My friend was turning thirty and, by way of celebration, wanted to skydive.  I hadn’t allowed myself to think about it throughout my previous week, but the moment was quickly approaching.  I couldn’t avoid it.  The first-time jumpers were fidgeting; the seasoned instructors were joking like seniors at football practice.  This wasn’t their fulltime job, Duke had told me, only something they did for fun on the weekends.  His career, he’d told, was landscaping.  A green light towards the front of the plane illumined.  “Alright,” Duke said, “scoot towards the front of the plane.”  We slid down the plane’s bench.  Don’t think, I thought, just do.  One-by-one, my friends fell out into the sky.  I was the last to leap.  We shimmied to the edge of the open door.  “Take a deep breath,” Duke shouted.  I did.  “Now lean forward.”  I did.  Cold.  Wind.  Falling.  Cold.  Wind.  No breath.  Breathe, Ben, Breathe, I thought.  Duke was shouting: “Pull, pull, pull!”  I yanked.  Nothing.  Nothing.  Jerk.  A shock tore through my arms.  I was floating.  Duke screamed: “Yeah!  Woo!”  I breathed.  The sky was a sharp-crisp blue.  The mountains stretched out beyond the horizon.  “Try pulling the brakes,” Duke suggested.  I pulled down.  We ceased falling—time stopped.  I was suspended at 5,000 feet.  A mile below sat a small airport in Longmont, Colorado.  All was silent.  I released the brakes.  We floated towards earth as the wind continued its whipping.  I breathed.  We landed softly on a patch of sand near the runway.  Duke grasped my shoulders, “Welcome to my world, brother.”

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