By Anne Elizabeth Weisgerber
Three days before Thanksgiving, lumps of leaves, raked to the goat paddock yesterday, deflated under steady munching. I mahhhhhhed at Chaplin and Snapdragon, and they answered with mahhhhs of their own.
My wrists uncocked and rotated, yesterday’s gloveless palms still raw. A cheerful finger of smoke curled above my cottage, yon. I stopped myself from scratching that rash on my chin.
I had raked and cleared an acre square, and stood this morning afield at its center in plaid pajama-bottoms and rag-wool sweater. One-handed, I used a rusted short iron to chip whitetail pellets off the green. I saw my cobwebbed porch, a peregrine falcon, Liza’s sulky magnolia and the barn, our Daimler-Sparohawk Light Sport Aircraft inside.
Walking to Sparo, I rested club under windowsill, rolled the door wide and stepped in. I turned the key, punched the code. The jetpack surged from rest. “Today’s the day, little Sparo.”
“A fine morning, Alistair Edgar,” Sparo said, blinking. “Shall we fly?”
I had pre-ordered the Sparohawk when three sons and the wife were living. Isn’t that right, Sparo? I put down the deposit and added to the layaway, paycheck by paycheck, wagered on a future that included all of us. “T-minus 45, Sparo.”
I flipped the switch, then waited as—determined as dead lifters—rectangular fluorescents trembled and suddenly snapped on brightly. Leaning on a stepladder, I changed out my shoes for Timberlands. I traced Sparo’s bent empennage with a finger and pushed to test the stiffened rudder control. “I am sorry for that, little Sparo.” I pushed into the boots. “Won’t be long.”
“T-minus 43,” said the machine.
“Yes.” I finished knotting. “Start fueling.”
“Thank you, Alistair Edgar. Commencing.”
The robotic super-charge arm snaked from the wall and homed in. I paused to ensure Sparo’s coupling, then backed out the mower, went to trim the field.
I mowed straight lines east-west, and then again north-south. My wedding morning crisp as this, and Liza’s trembling smile; each of the boys in his turn swaddled and held, then, decades later, Robbie’s obituary, then Jamie’s. Those good fighting men. Liza’s and Arthur’s gravesites, where last visit a fresh crevice appeared in the disturbed earth, horrified me. The lawn was squared.
Satisfied the field was clear, I emptied the mulch into the paddock and maaaahh-ahhhhed with the goats. “Good for you, Chaps and Snaps.” They agreed. They came over to see if there was anything more, and I gave each his own friendly knock on the noggin, sweet no. “Go. Eat.”
To the barn, I wiped down the mower, then parked it. “Time, Sparo?”
“T-minus 12, Alistair Edgar.”
“Thank you.” I noted the retracted charger. “Power?”
“Resting at 98 percent. Shall we file plans?”
“No. Up and down today. That’s all.”
“I am glad, Alistair Edgar.”
I like Sparo. There really aren’t many. The free AI upgrade both caused the company’s stock tumble and the line’s inevitable obsolescence. Thinking caused accounting turbulence.
I went to the cottage, washed my tea cup and set it to dry, shaved and dressed. By the time I returned in thermal-resistant Carhartts, Sparo’s charge depleted to 91 percent.
“That’s alright, Sparo.”
“It is alright, Alistair Edgar. Locked to roll.”
With this, Sparo tipped back twenty degrees as I slid a dolly under the jetpack’s frame. I backed it through the door, and rolled Sparo to the center of the lawn, checking that all was on the level.
Clipped snug in Sparo’s climbing harness, military comfort, I stepped up, compressed the clutch with my left hand, thumbed the throttle lever with my right. The boost upward filled me with seconds of sodden heaviness followed by weightless lift. At 900 meters, I backed off the clutch, flicked one jet lever forward and one back, initiating a dream-slow spin of roofs, goats, autumn, streams, roads.
I checked gauges on the left armrest and flexed a muscle to steady the elevator controls post spin. My chin itched.
Sparo and I compressed and boosted, flexed and sighed; our altimeter will have marked 1500 meters. Our 225 horsepower motor will have made a hole, I’d bet.
We hovered at 1500, held steady. “It was all going to be so beautiful, Sparo.”
The charge tailed: 54, 53, 52 percent. The altimeter hardly fluctuated. We hung there, content, our bones humming.
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Look for Anne Elizabeth Weisgerber’s stories in New South, Tahoma Literary Review, The Journal of Compressed Creative Arts, Vignette Review, Revolution John, and Jellyfish Review. She is a freelance fiction editor, and her chapbook reviews appear in Change Seven Magazine; she reads fiction for Pithead Chapel. When not teaching, she’s working on a novel that spans five generations, or looking out the kitchen window at her fascinating goats, Snapdragon and Socrates. Follow her @AEWeisgerber, or visit anneweisgerber.com
*Photo courtesy of Brian Michael Barbeito.*