Flying Lessons—part 1

by | May 25, 2024 | Finding the Words | 3 comments

Have you started reading No More Empty Spaces, and met Will Ross? The following is a short story (that will be featured as a series of posts) where you can get to know Will as a young boy. Perhaps it will give you some insight into why he becomes the man he does. 

Will walked home from school along the dirt road to his grandfather’s farm. It was another blustery day, like nearly all days were in southwestern Kansas. But Will was glad for the wind that day, clutching his kite to his chest. It quivered against him as if it wanted to jump out of his grasp and fly on its own. He kicked up puffs of dust with his little boy boots, and the sun shimmered through them. The glimmerings made him think of the prism his teacher, Miss Wilson, had shown them—how it split the light into all its colors like rain does to sunlight when it makes a rainbow. It looked like each sparkling bit was doing just that.

Of all the lessons Miss Wilson taught, science was always Will’s favorite, and today’s had been the best. Her desk had been heaped with sticks and balls of string and jars of glue and big sheets of red, blue, brown, yellow, and green construction paper that morning. They would build and fly their own kites, “just like Benjamin Franklin’s,” she’d said, holding up a picture of the odd old man with long hair and spectacles. He was not only one of America’s founding fathers, but a scientist and inventor too, and had used a kite in a famous experiment about lightning and electricity.

She’d drawn a picture on the blackboard for each step and guided them along, helping sometimes, especially with lashing the sticks together, since they kept slipping out of place before the strings could be pulled tight. It had to be just right, Miss Wilson had said, because the framework was the most important thing.

When they’d finished cutting and lashing and gluing, she’d explained how kites flew. Will could hardly sit still while she’d talked about air flowing over and under the kite, “lift” she’d called it. Up and away, he’d thought, racing across the schoolyard when she’d finally let the class out.

Miss Wilson had said they should help each other, but Will had decided to try it on his own, not trusting his kite in anyone else’s hands. He’d run hard and launched it, but instead of flying, it bounced along the ground. He’d stopped then—looked around at his classmates and their kites, at the trees, at the flag flying in front of the school, and then changing direction, he’d set up, and run again. His kite caught the wind and rose above him, the string pulling through his fingers. Lift, he’d thought, and as the kite sailed higher he had felt like he was flying himself.

Some kites had crashed and some had soared, but Miss Wilson made sure that everyone got to fly one, laughing along with them as their kites danced and dipped in the spring wind. She’d had to clap her hands over and over to get the class to reel the kites in. Will had been the last to ground his, winding the string onto its spool as she stood over him, hands on her hips.

Will liked his teacher. She smiled easily, sat on the floor with the class in reading circle, and never hit anyone. So different from old Mrs. Harper who he’d had for first grade last year. Miss Wilson made it fun to go to school, fun to learn. Today especially.

As he walked, he grinned thinking about flying his kite. Up and away!

 “As soon as I get home,” he said to the kite, “even before chores.”

Will whistled the rest of the way, like Joe, the old farm hand, had taught him, pressing his tongue up to the gap from his missing tooth.

Spring had finally arrived after a long, cold winter, and that meant Will could spend more time outside, on his own. As long as his chores got done, most days neither his mother nor his stepfather Lucien paid much attention to him. And Will liked it fine that way.

When he got to the house, he drank a big glass of milk. Looking around and listening for his mother, he didn’t find her, so he snuck a cookie, too. Then he grabbed his kite and ran outside, the door slamming behind him in his hurry. A few steps into his run, the kite sailed out of Will’s hand. He marveled at the way it climbed, the paper bowing out in a perfect curve, welcoming the wind across it. The breeze shifted and the kite swooped, its colorful tail whipping behind. He pulled in on the string, turning and running, feeling for the lift, reading the wind, playing with it. He moved the spool up, down, and around, watching and feeling the kite react, and for the second time that day, Will felt like he was above the ground, flying with his kite. He laughed out loud.

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  1. GERRY

    Loved this short story about an element of Will’s childhood, Deb. Gerry

  2. Jenn

    I love getting some perspective on who Will was as a kid! Thank you for your vivid descriptions.


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