The Germans didn’t realize what they had gotten themselves into.
I didn’t want to, but the situation deemed it necessary for me to order another round. We had another 2 hours to kill before our plane was readied and we were off to the island of Ahmarhru. The bar was nothing more than a sheet of plywood and bamboo, as were most of the planes at the airfield, but the drinks were cool and I had learned long ago that alcohol helped with the bullshit tirade Mack was unleashing. Two unsuspecting German nationals were sitting across the bar. They had welcomed Mack in their thick accents when he had sat down and they had asked his opinion on particular European economic issue.
Now, the Germans had no reason to think that they had unleashed a monster when they spoke to us. But the Reverend Mack McMackey loves to talk about things he has not the slightest minutia of ideas or experience with. Like chemistry, or classical literature, or woodworking, or the stock market. Or current European economic issues. So when he rambled on for seventeen minutes without pausing for breath and the Germans at first looked pleased that they had another contributor to the conversation, but then realized around minute fourteen that their conversation had, in fact, been hijacked and held for ransom by this avuncular gentleman in front of them, I flashed the bartender the international sign for “please fill my drink and make it snappy or I will most likely plunge these paper umbrellas into my earholes in an attempt to end the misery”.
Insects buzzed around us and birds called from the jungle. A monkey screeched and the blender whined as it crushed ice. We needed to be on our way and the trip thus far had been somewhat wrought with setbacks. After decades of international travel with assistants and other scientists and more boxed gear than a Springsteen tour, we were accustomed to the challenging atmosphere that always surrounded our expeditions.
Our original plane and pilot had disappeared three days earlier in a massive thunderstorm. The pilot was making emergency medical drops to some needy tribes when contact was lost over a chain of islands. No wreckage or debris was found, but we assumed the worst and decided to book passage with another local airline. The airline was called “Steve’s”. That’s it. Just “Steve’s”.
So we had left our hotel and were off to find Steve and his island hopper. The Reverend Mack McMackey opted to stay in the Jeep which had brought us to the airfield. He wanted to soak in the beauty of the island which included several exotic birds and the bronzed native girl who drove the Jeep. I jumped out of the Jeep and as I entered the hanger I saw someone on a ladder working on a well used airplane. It looked worn and tired and even though it was aluminum, it looked ragged. Snoopy piloted better looking aircraft. I assumed this was Steve and his mighty fleet. I looked back across the airfield towards the Jeep. Mack was getting slapped by the native girl. I approached the plane.
“Excuse me,” I shouted.
The mechanic/pilot squinted up from the engine, cigarette dangling from his lip.
“Hi, there,” I said. “I need to charter a flight to Ahmarhru.”
The mechanic/pilot poked his head back into the airplane’s engine. He muttered, “No Ahmarhru.”
“DJ Straw Hat at “Hip-Hop Island Hoppers” said I should go to “Steve’s”. That you guys fly to Ahmarhru all the time. Are you Steve,” I asked.
“Steve dead”, came the voice from the engine. A little oil dribbled down the front of the plane like a baby with a propeller on it’s nose. A raggedy aluminum baby.
“I imagine that’s very inconvenient for Steve, but I’m almost equally inconvenienced, and need to charter a flight to Ahmarhru. I have a team of scientist types waiting for me. Well, they’re not all scientist types, like the chef and the dwarf cheerleader and the chicks from Cirque du Solie. She’s a dwarf, by the way. The cheerleader. She doesn’t cheer for dwarves. Although I guess she should, being one. Anyway, I’ve got money and it’s just me and one other passenger. All our gear is already there, except for one bag and that heavy duty guitar rack over there with “Springsteen” stenciled on the side.”
“Me no fly. Me fix,” rumbled the confirmed mechanic. He pointed the stump of his cigarette at me. “You buy plane, you fly. You Steve.”
I walked back to the airstrip but the Jeep was gone. I glanced over to the bar where The Rev was beginning to regal the Germans about things he had no business regaling about. I find it hard to believe that a man as keen to observe and ascertain details about a situation as Mack is could be oblivious to the nearly suicidal glint in the German’s eyes.
I sat down across from Mack and snatched the glass out of his hand. “There’s no pilot”, I said. “And the nerve of you! Verbally lobotomizing those guys wasn’t enough. You only ordered one fruity drink.”
“Those guys are great,” said Mack. “We really hit it off. Quite the connection we have. I must be part German. So, no pilot?”
“The pilot’s dead. The mechanic said we could buy the plane and fly it ourselves.” I swigged back the remainder of the fruity drink.
“Hmmmm,” said Mack. “I can’t pilot a plane and neither can you. Too bad, because Heinrich and Matthias are stranded and said they are willing to pay six thousand and a small portion of the profits to someone to take them to an island resort and hotel they just bought.”
And that’s how I learned to fly.
By Jon A. Clarkson