In more ways than one, this week’s Friday Fictioneers inspiration photo was right down my alley, or should I say, runway. Not only was it aviation related, but it was also a picture of an aircraft I had the privilege to fly (under close supervision, of course, since I’m not airship-rated) for several, incredible hours over the Virginia countryside some years ago.
Goodyear doesn’t usually allow passengers on its airships–it’s pretty impractical anyway–but they do allow press and VIP’s on board. (I was aviation press not a VIP.) When I mentioned I was a pilot, the Captain put me in the right seat and talked me through take-off and maneuvering the huge gas bag around. The blimp is so long that unexpected downdrafts aft can take you by surprise, as do unexpected updrafts forward. This means you’re constantly manipulating the controls–no automatic pilot here! It was great fun, and I learned a lot in a couple of hours.
My story this week, “Surly Bonds,” is based on an actual event. Its last line and the title come from probably the world’s most famous aviation poem, “High Flight,” a copy of which has hung in my home since I became a pilot. I choke up every time I read it; it’s an aviator thing.
John Gillespie Magee, Jr. was an American aviator/poet who joined the Royal Canadian Air Force to fight in World War II before America entered the war. In August 1941, after flying to 33,000 feet in a Spitfire, Magee was inspired by what he saw there and afterwards wrote the sonnet, “High Flight.” Four months later, he died in a midair collision, but the words of his sonnet live on. Many aviators since have memorized it, and rather than send you to a link, you can read it here.
by John Gillespie Magee, Jr.
Oh, I have slipped the surly bonds of earth
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I’ve climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
Of sun-split clouds–and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of–wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence. Hov’ring there,
I’ve chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air.
Up, up the long, delirious, burning blue
I’ve topped the windswept heights with easy grace
Where never lark, or even eagle flew.
And, while with silent, lifting mind I’ve trod
The high untrespassed sanctity of space,
Put out my hand, and touched the face of God.
To read more Friday Fictioneers’ offerings, go to Madison Woods’ blog and enjoy.