They had a story in the paper last week about a guy up in Kossuth County, and he built a Beechcraft Bonanza in his barn. A model, I mean. Full-size. Same one killed Buddy Holly, and it looked just perfect. Like it could actually fly. You wanted to climb on inside when you saw the pictures, and they said he got all the wood himself from these twisted old maples on down the property line, and he sanded it up real nice and then painted it red and white. Wrote “Winter Dance Party” all over port, or maybe it was starboard, or maybe pilots just use left and right, and how in the hell should I know, and the point is people came from all over. Not just the Midwest, either. There were cars parked out near this big empty soy field and all along P30, and the reporter, she went and scoped license plates. A lot were from Texas. One from Hawaii. She interviewed a family said they drove all the way from Salt Lake City, and they did the whole thing straight through. 17 hours total on account of they pushed it to 90 all the way across Nebraska and stopped only for gas and so the kids could use the bathroom and buy M&M’s and cheap sandwiches, and the wife said this was the greatest thing she’d ever seen. It was almost mystical, really, and was only one carpenter she could think of capable of that kind of work, and you know they hung Him up on a piece of wood Himself. Her husband apparently laughed when she said that. But otherwise he was too busy staring and snapping photos to notice much else, and the kids were running through the fields and chasing a baseball, at least according to the reporter, and they say the whole thing looked about as American as it gets until the guy came out to touch up some of the paint. Wasn’t used to the attention or something, I suppose, or maybe he never planned on it, and people kept on wanting to talk to him, but all he did was put his head down or nod all shy, and he didn’t say nothing amidst all kinds of shouting and a whole lot of, Why’d you do it, Fred, and now that I think of it, I can’t even remember his name. But the reporter, she finally managed to get herself on inside and at his kitchen table. The wife made tea. Scones, she said. Raspberry, and not from no pack, either, and the guy must have been a little more at ease, or maybe it was the Jack & 7 he was working on, and she asked him what the plan was. As in, was he gonna build a little monument and charge to see it, and maybe it’d be five dollars for parking and three for souvenir photos, or maybe he could sell it to some art fair or museum, and, just looking at the rig and having some knowledge of aviation history, she said they’d love it at Kitty Hawk, or maybe that place up in Oshkosh, or even the Surf itself, and the guy kind of blinked and looked up at this water stain on the ceiling. Said he’d love to put an engine in it and finish that last February flight to Fargo, or maybe just take the wings off and hitch the thing up to a trailer with a wide load sticker and do the ol’ 15 to 4 to 94 dance, but then some nights he thinks maybe that’s wrong. Maybe what he oughta do is buy some of them laced-up fireworks or a whole lot of fertilizer from the Fleet Farm over in Mason City, and wouldn’t that be poetic, and what he’d do then is just clear the premises and blow the whole thing to kingdom come. Leave the pieces scattered everywhere. Let all these tourists sort through the wreck, and I got half a mind to say that’s probably the best way to end this story, isn’t it? On account of it’s as close as they’ll ever get to the genuine article. It’s their only chance to see the real, unadulterated thing.
Brett Biebel teaches writing and literature at Augustana College in Rock Island, IL. His (mostly very) short fiction has appeared in SmokeLong Quarterly, the minnesota review, The Masters Review, Emrys Journal, and elsewhere. 48 Blitz, his debut story collection, is available from Split/Lip Press.