by Julie Eberhart Painter
Our 19-seat Otter STOL (Short Take Off and Landing), coughed as we approached the airport at St. Barts.
“Ladies and gentlemen, this is the captain speaking. Put on your life vests and assume crash positions, now! The ...”
My wife, Gloria, jerked awake. “Wha...? Oh, God. I knew it! This damned plane has been acting up since we left St. Maarten.”
I took her shaky hand. “Honey, it will be all right. Just stay calm; I’ll take care of you.”
She went quiet, listening. Her lips pressed together the way they do when she’s about to say, “I told you so.”
It had been my idea to take this vacation. We should have come here by boat. This airline loses several planes in the surf every year. But being the adventurous type, I wanted to fly. “We can practice our French,” I’d said. That had finally persuaded her. Now, all I could think of was if we do live through this, I’ll never hear the end of it.
And if we don’t...
I went into survival mode. Worry about the marriage after the crash.
What did I need to do? Water temperature had been reported at 82 degrees this morning, warm enough, no hypothermia while waiting for rescue. But Gloria couldn’t swim; she was afraid of water. Was I a good enough swimmer to save us both? I looked out at the expanse of blue racing toward us, pretty calm, not too threatening.
Ironically at this point, the Otter would have had to cut the engines to slow the plane so it could drop between the mountain peaks, past a graveyard and onto the landing field. Speaking of hard landings, a graveyard! If we overshot, we could land in water.
“Take off your tennis shoes, honey.”
“Don’t honey me, you idiot.”
“They’ll only make it harder to swim and weigh us both down.”
“I suppose you want me to remove my jeans, too, so they don’t absorb water.”
“I wish we’d packed our snorkels and masks in our carry-on bags.” I said. “I’m sorry, hon.”
The sudden quiet was almost louder than the wind whistling past the belly of the plane, a nice flat belly... one that might float. We were still high up, but I held my breath. This thing could glide. Please, make it glide. My every thought was aimed at lifting the plane.
“We should have thrown our tennis shoes out before we left the hotel,” Gloria hissed, pulling at her laces.
The sudden drop between the mountains made my stomach rise. A large white cross flew past the window. Gravestones and grass made green and white streaks in my peripheral vision. Rows of welcoming angels became a haze of heavenly auras as we raced high above the runway.
I closed my eyes. If only we could go back to this morning and change our itinerary. My ears popped. I waited for the crash, the thump, scraping, screeching... even the sound of waves washing over us. I couldn’t look.
Was I hearing laughter drowning out the garbled instructions coming from overhead? What did the captain say? About St. Jean... something? Everyone was talking at once as they scrambled up the aisle. I opened my eyes in time to see them leap onto the water. Walking! They were walking on water!
Topless beauties approached. One held a basket of colorful bikini bottoms in her hand. This was heaven, just as I’d imagined it.
But what about my wife, could she accept this kind of heaven? Perhaps if I gave her a present...
“Monsieur, bikini rouge pour Madame? Vingt-et-un Euros.”
Copyright © 2009 by Julie Eberhart Painter