Flying Lessons–part 2

by | Jun 10, 2024 | Finding the Words | 1 comment

Here’s the second part of the short story, Flying Lessons. If you’re reading my novel, No More Empty Spaces, you know that Will Ross is its protagonist, and he is of this story as well, but as a young boy. 

Intent on the kite, the whack across Will’s right ear and the back of his head caught him unaware. Startled, he cried out.

“Woke me up,” Lucien yelled. “Slammin’ doors like you own the place.”

Struck speechless, Will was stunned by the blow and the still awful sight of the deep pocket of scar that had been Lucien’s left eye, lost in a bar fight the year before. Recovering himself, Will darted out of his stepfather’s reach, and shouted, “You don’t either. Own the place.”

“You little fucker,” Lucien growled, stepping unsteadily toward him.

Will scurried farther from his stepfather. He felt a jerk on his arms, and looked up to see his kite snared in the branches of the apple tree. Too late. He looked down from the tangled kite to Lucien advancing on him, then dropped the spool and ran.

From behind the barn, Will peeked around the corner.

Lucien stalked toward the barn, yelling, “Hey, girly, why’d y’run? You afraid?”

After a few steps Lucien stopped, his meaty hands rubbing his head. Then he turned slowly and started back to the house. At the apple tree, he stopped again, looked up, and yanked the kite string. The kite tore out of the branches, falling into his hands. He snapped it in two and dropped it to the ground.

Will leaned against the barn wall, slid down in the shadows, pulled his knees up close and pushed his eyes into them. “No crying,” he said to himself.

He felt something warm on his neck and reached for the spot. His fingers came away bloody. He took his bandanna from his overalls pocket and held it to his ear, wondering if that’s why bandannas were red.

“Damn,” he said, even though he knew he wasn’t supposed to cuss, Miss Wilson said so. But what would she have thought about what happened to his kite? Wrecked in one day. He put his head down again, pressing his eyes back into his knees.

Will wasn’t sure how long he had been there, against the wall, thinking about his kite. He imagined the tug of the string on his fingers as it flew over the schoolyard, then over the farm, over the whole world. He would build a new one. Make it even better than the first. He would get a book from the library. Miss Wilson said that’s what you do when you want to learn about anything and everything, and Will wanted to learn how to build the best kite ever.

He must have been there a while when Joe came by on his way from the yard to the barn because he said, “Wondering where ya been, buddy. Late for chores today.”

Will looked up at his friend. “Sorry, Joe.”

Joe kneeled down beside Will. “Hey there, what happened?” he said, reaching for the bandanna that stuck to Will’s right ear. He peeled it away from Will’s skin and looked at the wound.

“It’ll be okay, looks like,” Joe said, but he was shaking his head as he said it. “You wanna tell me what happened this time?”


“Okay, buddy, but let’s get you cleaned up some, then we’ll do the chores. You okay with that?”

Will nodded.

 “That’s a boy,” he said, patting Will on the back. “Light here a minute.”

Joe left Will sitting on a hay bale while he got a bucket, went to the well, and pumped some water into it. He watched Joe, comforted by the sound of the creaky well handle, the smell of musty hay, and the nearness of his friend. Though all Joe could do about Lucien was shake his head, somehow Will felt safer with him nearby. Dipping his own neatly folded bandanna into the water, Joe patted the sticky blood away from Will’s ear and neck. 

Will sat up straight, scrunching his face, but didn’t pull away.

“That’s a boy,” Joe said. “Reminds me of the time Joe Junior fell out of the tree behind the house and split his ear open. Awful messy.”

 “Yeah, messy,” Will said. “Where’s JJ now, Joe?”

“Boot camp. Training hard for FDR. Here gimme that.”

Joe took Will’s bandanna and swished it around in the bucket. They watched the water turn pink as the blood rinsed out of the fabric. Joe twisted the bandanna tight in his strong, weathered hands, wringing the last of the water out, then shook it open.

“There,” he said handing it to Will, who stuffed it into the bib pocket of his overalls. “Hope JJ will get to visit before he ships out. Sure do.”

“Me too, Joe. Sure do.”

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1 Comment

  1. Carolyn

    Wonderful story, Deb. And it does, indeed, help give an idea of Will’s shaping. Good storytelling!


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