She leaned back and closed her eyes, thought about Lucille and Randy back in Columbus, wondered when she would get to see them again, and was about to doze off, when she was bothered by the whine of a mosquito in her ear, but the whine increased in volume and soon became the familiar drone of a Curtiss Jenny biplane.
She let out a squeal, jumped up and ran outside. She couldn’t see anything, but could tell it was getting closer. Pablo and Luisa came out and looked up into the sky with her. The plane made a big circle and then seemed to be flying right over them. Luisa made a sign of the cross, while Pablo ran about shouting, "Un avión! Fantástico!"
“He’s looking for a place to land, that’s what he’s doing,” said Callie. She stood still, trying to pinpoint where the pilot was coming down. The pitch of the engine changed, the plane was lower in the sky, and she knew it was landing and began to run toward the sound. She guessed it would be the road they had come into town on.
“Senora!” cried Luisa. “Su bolso.” Callie ran back and took her bag from Luisa, then gave her and Pablo a hug.
“Gracias por todo,” she said, stuffing a bunch of pesos into Pablo’s hand.
Callie ran along the irrigation ditch, crashing through brush and setting off a chorus of barking dogs. She nearly ran headlong into a very surprised cow. The yellow grass of the fields reflected more light, so that she could make her way a bit easier. She could still hear the engine whine. It was getting closer. She crossed another field and saw it, about a hundred yards distant, sitting in the road, the cloth wings reflecting what little light there still was. She had to go down and up a ravine, lacerated her leg on cactus, but finally stumbled onto the road.
She was so out of breath that she had to slow to a walk. She began to wave and yell. “Hello! Hello!” She squinted through the darkness, her head thrust forward in concentration. A lone figure appeared out of the darkness. “Callie? Is that you?” Casey was suddenly in front of her, and she stopped, sweat rolling down her face.
“Well, who do you think it is?” she said, her voice cracking with emotion.
They embraced each other with great relief.
“I’m mighty glad to see you, miss.”
“What took you so long, Captain?” she said, laying her head on his shoulder.
Casey straightened up. “We can't stay here. C’mon.”
“Oh, goody. I get to fly again.”
He lifted her up on to the wing. She jumped into cockpit and he made sure she was fastened in. He got the engine started and taxied down the road. People on horseback were approaching fast. “Keep your head down, Callie!” he yelled.
Casey gave it full power and lifted off, just as the riders were about to catch up. They opened fire, but the copious dust from the takeoff prevented them from seeing anything to shoot at.
The plane banked to the south and quickly gained altitude. Callie looked down on the Mexican landscape and made out the shapes of the mountains and a few tiny yellow lights in a vast canvas of black. The cold air immediately reminded her of how under dressed she was. She stuffed her hands under her arms and was thrilled to be airborne again. They seemed to be at the very edge of space, so peaceful it was.
Then the engine died.
Callie stiffened and stopped breathing.
“It’s okay,” yelled Casey. “Sometimes she stalls like this, but she always comes back.” All she could see was his dark profile, hunched over, furiously working the controls.
She was too terrified to answer. They were floating in near silence, surrounded by a glittering universe, and it was the most wondrous and terrible thing she had ever experienced. A mixture of awe and fear put her in a trance, and she wondered if it was another dream.
The little plane gently undulated and creaked in the invisible air currents, as if it were perfectly capable of staying aloft without an engine, but they were steadily losing altitude.
“Damn you!” muttered Casey. “C’mon now, baby, wake up. Get us back home.”
Callie saw the isolated lights below grow larger and wished she could touch Casey. She breathed in short little inhalations and tears streamed out of her eyes as the Jenny descended with a whine and dove for the desert. Callie was filled with rage and fear, screwed her eyes shut and cried in silence.
I already dreamed this and I woke up...I woke up...I woke-
A loud backfire made Callie scream and the Jenny woke up.
Casey pulled her out of the dive with less than a hundred feet to spare, kicking up a cloud of dust on the desert floor and sending a jackrabbit scurrying for its life.
Callie buried her face in her hands. She finally lifted her head as they came over a ridge and gaped at the sight of a thousand campfires glittering below in the darkness. Casey banked the plane in a long falling curve that brought them to the ground.
His fellow pilots came rushing up, but Casey ignored them, unfastening himself, then jumping on to the wing beside Callie. He placed his hand on her shoulder.
“I’m sorry that happened, Callie? Say something. Speak to me.”
She was hunched over, huddled in the cockpit. She looked up and couldn’t really see anything, but imagined she was looking into his fierce blue eyes. She whispered weakly in a hoarse voice. “Nice flying, Captain.”
Casey took her hands, warming them in his. “I wouldn’t let anything happen to you, miss. You can count on that.”
Callie nodded. “I’m cold.” Casey draped his jacket over her trembling shoulders and helped her out of the cockpit.
His comrades were cheering and slapping him on the back as he lifted her off the wing. They walked back to camp, their arms around each other.
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