The kestrel hovered above the long grass bordering the airfield, her wings vibrating just enough to keep her position. The blue sky behind her looked washed clean from the recent rain and the sun rays warmed the boy as he watched silently from his window.
Sam could frequently be found here, gazing upon the bird as she hunted or, watching the gliders from the airfield turn and swoop in the heavens. Today was no exception as in the last hour at least three had gone up. He let out a long heavy sigh.
“I want to fly.” It was little more than a breath on his lips but the longing in his heart felt like stones, weighing him down to the ground. One glider ride, just one! That’s all he wanted, especially now he was old enough to go. He had long given up begging his mother though. Dad had been sick for too long and every dollar seemed to be swallowed up on specialists and trips to Melbourne.
“Sam!” his mother’s voice broke his thoughts, “Can you take the recycling out please? Don’t forget the papers in the lounge room.”
He roused himself from the sunbeam and went about the job. As he picked up the newspapers, something caught his eye. There, on the open page of the paper, was the headline,
“Young Artists can win a Glider Flight.”“No way!” he whispered, scanning frantically through the article to absorb the details. Yes, he could do this! The glider club was running an Art competition for kids and the prize, well, it was perfect!
Dropping the newspapers back on the coffee table he sprinted back to his room. The recycling could wait
What seemed like hours later, a tired Sam sat before his finished drawing and he was happy with it. He blew off a bit of pencil dust and held it up before him. It may not be perfect but he was satisfied. Tomorrow he would drop it off to the Glider club and then, wait.
A month later the day dawned when the winners would finally be announced. Sam was up early and fidgety. Would anyone call? Was his picture good enough? He picked at his breakfast, he picked at his lunch and still no call.
It wasn’t until he was out gathering kindling for his mum that he heard the phone ring. He flew back into the house to find a grinning Mum.
“Sam, Bob from the Glider Club is on the phone.”
“Great day for a fly, Sam. You ready for this?” Bob smiled at him, while Sam’s heart fluttered with excitement. It was going to happen! He, Sam Walsh, was finally going to fly. With help he climbed into the glider seat. He was flying with Jim today, who gave him a grin and a thumbs up, then the canopy of the glider was closed over them. Sam wondered how Mum and Dad might be feeling as they watched.
The tow plane began the journey down the runway, with the glider tagging along behind. Sam’s mouth was dry, but it was excitement not fear. When they turned for the take-off, Sam could see his kestrel, hovering on the edge of the field.
“Can you see me?” he thought, “It’s my turn now!”
Take-off was amazing. He felt the rumbling on the tarmac as the glider gained speed. He marvelled at how the speed pushed him back against his seat and then, that glorious moment when he knew, at last, he was off the ground. They were climbing higher and higher leaving Benalla a long was down, like a miniature Lego city.
His heart was ready to burst for joy. He’d never known such a feeling as he had now. Nothing could take the smile off his face and he breathed in the colder air with delight. How amazing the ground looked from here! His body moved with the turn as they swooped left and he knew this was what he wanted to do forever.
Back on the ground he hugged his parents like he used to when he was little. They were both teary but smiling, as Bob walked up to them.
“So, how was that Sam?” and Sam poured forth his excited descriptions of the flight.
“Another question for you Sam. Many kids drew gliders but you didn’t. What was your inspiration?”
Sam led Bob back out onto the airstrip, and pointed to the far side. Sure enough, there she was, hovering again in the sunlight for a moment before gliding away over the field.
Ruth Schloss, October 2016
This story by NEA founding member Ruth Schloss received runner up in the Open Section of 'The Sky's the Limit' Writing Competition during the October 2016 Benalla Festival. The topic 'The Sky's the Limit' was set in recognition of the then upcoming World Gliding Championships. The Gliding championships are more than half way through, we are all sharing our delight at seeing the gliders circling in thermals on sunny days as they compete, so it seemed timely to publish Ruth's story as an Occasional Blog.
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