In a cynical display of toxic self-interest, Larry had formed a group called Save Our Parks. Its goal was to keep the city from selling a weed-choked lot for affordable housing.
When I read about it in the paper, I jump up from my recliner and throw the paper down and stomp it.
“If somebody doesn’t stop them, now, it will be the end of us,” I declare.
Verna, who is doing her crosswords and thinking about casseroles, looks up over the top of her glasses and stares at me briefly. “What are you going to do about it? Vote?”
“When did that ever do any good?”
“Nope, it’s time for an air attack. The plane is ready.”
“You can’t do that. People could die.”
“They should die. They’re fucking selfish.”
“You can’t kill people just because they deserve it.”
“I’ll call the cops.”
“No you won’t.”
“But you won’t.”
So, I have administrative review (hers) and approval (mine). Lots of times I get review, but not so much approval. I look on the crossword puzzle as my ally, providing necessary cover.
She would recall nothing of the exchange, when later discussing with law enforcement what she calls my “excessively militant” response. I consider it proportional use of force.
I march to the garage. There it sits, the replica of a classic Spad S.XIII. I pick up a small brush, dip it into a jar of red paint, and apply the final touch to the flame on the underside of the lower wing.
I survey my work. The Spad was one of the more famous fighter planes from WWI, produced in quantity by France. American pilots — Eddie Rickenbacher, for Pete’s sake — flew it to great success. Now I have the only functional 21st century version.
The way I figure, everything is going faster. How to respond? Slower. Effect superior aerial sloth. Act as if there were a cop on the ground, directing flight traffic.
“Hey, you, Speed Racer, slow it the fuck down. No! Slower! Slow-er! What do you not understand? I want s-l-o-w. Don’t give me this 100 mph shit. I want two figures. There you go. Back it off. Back … it … off. Yes! That is so it. Forty-eight mph, and it’s still in the air. Jesus Christ, that is barely flying. I tell you, that’s something.”
I had found a Marlin Rockwell M1917 machine gun for the Spad at a swap meet, honest to God. Guy there with his wife, she was selling old coffee service and doilies, and her guy and I were standing there, hard to believe this shit. We made eye contact. He saw me. I saw him. I nodded. He sucked his toothpick and reached under the table and pulled out an old wood shipping crate. He popped the top, reached in and pulled out this mint beauty.
After I get it home and installed, I call across the street to some neighborhood kids.
“Hey, you guys wanna help with the offensive?”
They hop on over like a herd of fleas. I tell them where to grab the rope and when to pull. Pretty soon, that Spad is out in the street. We push its wings around and it is aimed down the pavement, a bit of a slope, good for speed and lift. In a jiff, I’m airborne. Verna is on the porch. She waves her dish towel. I’m proud as a pickle.
Now, before this here tale veers off course, let’s get something straight. I have no intention of shooting anybody. That gun is loaded, sure, but mainly for show. I want Larry to know what his anti-housing bullshit can cost him. This is politics, not warfare.
To win the hearts and minds of the kids who need a place to sleep, not another goddamned park, I steer that Spad around and aim it southeast and put her down in the parking lot at Gruber’s Market. People come running. I just stroll e-z p-z into the market, veer left to the deli, and ask the Mexican kid to give me eight dozen mixed glazed. I know, big payload for an attack on some pro-park NIMBYs, but donut bombing will shift opinion like nothing else.
The Spad is dragging in the tail, but we get her in the air. I head north to where I know Larry and those anti-housing dorks live.
I circle the target zone a couple of times. Larry is down there, running in circles, thinking he’s gonna get strafed. Would serve him right, but that could factor calamitous for yours truly, so I give him a wig-wag, then dip my nose and come in low. Kids had run into the street to check me out. They probably figure an asshole like Larry deserves it. When I let loose with the glazed payload, they cheer and dive for the dough.
What, ho? Here comes Larry with a big plastic bag to grab more than his share.
He’s running, dragging the bag toward his driveway and … his own plane!
He steps up onto the wing and into the cockpit. He’s got goggles. A scarf. The prop is a blur.
He heads out into the school of kids. They scatter.
He picks up speed, gets some lift, starts up toward me.
Uh-oh. Didn’t factor this. I’m thinking housing will win, but parks is flying a Fokker D VII. That’s not good.
Then I hear sirens. The cops show up. Verna called. This is getting ugly.
After thirty years in the newspaper business, Stuart Watson retired to a life of creative writing. Watson’s work has recently appeared (or will soon) in The Maine Review, Two Hawks Quarterly, Revolution John, Montana Mouthful, Wretched Creations, Flash Boulevard, Hippocampus (books) and Wanderlust Journal. He lives with his wife and a great dog in Oregon.