Enlight'ning 2016: The Luck Issue
Edward struggled through the dense growth of shrubs and bushes, with his older sister trudging along behind him. The lake was only a few meters away, and they were on time before sunset so they could skip rocks on the water’s surface. Reaching the lake, Edward picked up a nice, flat stone. “This should skip well,” he said. He tossed the rock with a gentle swing, and the downward fall of the rock let the flat side hit the water. The surface tension held, and it plopped onward for a few paces, until it finally sank.
“Nice toss,” his sister remarked, grinning.
10 Years Later
He pressed the trigger. The Supermarine Spitfile Mk IIb rocked around mid-air at 15,000 feet, unleashing a deadly hail of 20mm machine cannon ammunition, supplied by 7.7mm tracer rounds, lighting up the night sky like dozens of fireflies. Fireflies moving at 2,500 miles per hour, ripping apart metal pieces from German Bf 109 E-3s and E-4s.
“Tally-ho! You’ve got a bandit on your 6!” the intercom crackled.
Edward looked behind him and sure enough, an E-4 fighter plane was coming fast on his tail. “Pulling evasive maneuvers! Someone pull up on his 6 and scissor!” Edward yelled.
A friendly Spitfire did a scissor maneuver with him, and riddled the E-4 with cannon and machine gun bullets, until the tailing enemy aircraft exploded mid-air from an engine overheat.
“Kraut bombers overhead by a thousand angels!” the flight leader yelled. “Everyone got enough ammo and energy to take the vertical?” Most of the team replied with an affirmative, and they rose to catch the Heinkel He111s headed towards London to unleash their 250kg bombs from their hellish underbellies.
Sweat trickled down Edward’s eyebrow, and the putrid odor of gasoline filled the cockpit. His mouth tasted foul, but he disregarded all of these things. The only objective that mattered to him was defending his home country, whether he died or not. He would not let Hitler and the Third Reich take over Great Britain.
Edward pulled out of the vertical, and let loose his ammunition, unloading it into each German bomber he saw, watching them explode into fireballs fueled by their gasoline and undetonated bombs. He wanted them to regret destroying his home country, to feel the pain that he felt as he watched his house collapse over his parents and sister. He was no longer the playful, mischievous boy he used to be. He flew with stoic determination, his chiseled face solemn and unemotional as he unloaded his guns into the bellies of the German Reich.
Soon enough, the Germans outnumbered the British, and the sheer numbers of enemy fighters in the sky were taking their toll on the Spitfires. Edward fought on, even though he knew he would eventually die. Through the rising trails of black smoke, and the distant reports of shattering metal, he took German after German fighter down.
One Bf109 decided to go head-on with him, and Edward pressed the trigger. Each of his guns jammed, and the enemy stripped his aircraft from head to tail; the Spitfire now an incapacitated wreck of a plane. He tried to eject, but the canopy was frozen shut. He realized the mechanism must have been shot off during the head-on.
A bitter taste like pennies filled his mouth as the plane plummeted towards the Earth at 500 miles per hour. He closed his eyes, and remembered his sister smiling at him that day on the lake ten years before, as they watched his perfect toss across the water. He knew what was to come.
The lone British fighter smashed into the ground, completely deforming the metal shell, pieces flying off and bouncing across the field below like a skipping stone.
One of our cats had a strange habit during meals.
On days when we had the side door open, this cat would be attracted by the aroma of our dinner wafting through the screen door. We tended to throw it outside so it wouldn’t be a nuisance during meals. It managed to be a nuisance all the same.
Driven by hunger, it would begin a slow ascent up the outside of the screen door, its claws finding purchase in the mesh easily. When it reached about the eye-level of a standing adult, so that it was clearly visible to all of us through the screen while we sat and ate at the table, it would commence a mournful yowling, hoping, I suppose, that we would let it in and share some of our food with it. The cat’s performance never gained it any extra food, but I and my sisters and mom all tolerated it, feeling that it broke up the tedium of a meal.
But one day, dad was in a foul mood. Dad had never reacted to the cat going up the screen door before, but perhaps it bothered him, or, at least, bothered him on this particular day. Perhaps the cat situation was something that had simmered on the back burner of his mind over a period of time, or maybe the idea struck him like lightning, prompting an action just as swift.
It happened at lunch time. We sat down to our meal. After some minutes, the cat proceeded to make its way up the outside of the screen door. Having reached the top of its climb, it began its serenade. But this time dad took action. One moment he was seated at the table; with the sharp scuff of his chair on the floor, he was suddenly at the screen door.
Now if there is one animal difficult to surprise, it is a cat, being itself a master predator, with it usually being the one to sneak up on and surprise others. This cat, however, had been caught completely flat footed.
Like the action of a high-speed machine, Dad yanked the screen door open and shut it again in one violent motion. When the screen door shut, the cat was no longer there. Interrupted in mid-yowl, it had been catapulted backwards and away through the air, with the prospect of a drop to the concrete driveway some distance below.
Dad resumed his seat as if nothing had happened, his face showing only the slightest trace of satisfaction at having dealt decisively with a problem. I laughed once, but no one else said anything.
None of us worried about the cat. Well acquainted with feline agility, we knew that it would survive being treated like a cannonball. The incident had only made our meal a little more interesting than usual.
We did see the cat again. Not only was it in good health, it had not been entirely dissuaded from its eccentric habit. Dad was in good humor on this day and talking expansively over dinner when he noticed the cat had once again begun its ascent up the screen door. He paused in his story just long enough to fix the cat with a steely look and raise himself a few inches from his chair. The cat took the hint and, deciding that it really needed to be elsewhere, abandoned its perch.