It always helps if theres a friend to hold your hand when youre doing something for the first time.
Especially if its something scary.
This might be a difficult story to tell, as my friend, the adventurer, was a bit of an enigma even to me. Therefore, getting inside his head, understanding what he was feeling, for me was pretty much impossible; his life and experiences were almost a complete mystery to me.
To protect the innocent, we'll call my friend Abner... a good American name for a good American boy. Abner had always been an adventuresome kid, much different from his friends and others his age, and indeed his family. They never traveled more than thirty miles from home, ever. Abner was always climbing the fences between his family's farm and the lands beyond, investigating the unknown, using his wit and openness to make friends quickly. This sort of thing was unheard of in his family or their social circle.
Abner and I had been planning a trip for almost an entire year, the preparations discussed and rehashed on many occasions. The most difficult task was not the trip itself, but obtaining permission from Abner's parents who felt he was still too young to sally forth into an unimaginable unknown.
No, Abner wasn't an old salt... not a veteran of other expeditions. As a matter of fact, this would be his very first time to leave green Mother Earth. The fact I’d be going with him was intended to ease his fears and provide comfort. He didn’t know that I could count my previous flights on the fingers of one hand, or that I still get a bit nervous at the point of liftoff, being thrust into the sky like a rock out of a slingshot.
I guess now is as good a time as any to let the cat out of the bag, so to speak. Neither Abner nor I are spacemen. We are just two American teenagers. Heck we can't even drive yet. And you were thinking this was just another science fiction story, huh?
Nope, this is a factual account of Abner's first airplane trip. Now listen, don't turn the channel just yet... The best is yet to be. Because, you see, Abner isn't any old teenager going on a summer vacation. Abner is from an old-fashioned Amish family. Just riding in someone's car is something of a treat. The most modern convenience in their home is a wind/battery powered refrigerator. This is a boy who has gone about as far as he is allowed in school, and is just past fifteen. Abner is a product of days gone by... and, as a result, would definitely be more at home in the 19th century than the one we live in.
Abner and I, and my boyfriend by the way, had become tight friends in a little over two hours. It hadn’t mattered to Abner that we were gay, or even that my partner was brown-skinned. To him we were just two new boys to get to know. That was last year. We spent hours on end playing baseball, exploring the countryside about their home, just enjoying life and being kids.
The problem was, my boyfriend and I were just visiting for a few months. Since coming home I had been planning and scheming for a way to get Abner to come to my home for a visit. Impossible you say? Well, pretty close. You see, Amish don't travel. OK... some do, but only if they are moving to Ohio or maybe Missouri; there are some Amish communities there. But, the Pennsylvania groups where Abner lives are some of the most closed-minded, and the most strict, of the bunch. Their idea of having something newfangled is installing battery-powered lights on a horse-drawn buggy!
I'm not sure how my pop was able to convince Abner’s parents we weren't stealing their son’s soul, and that we would return him unharmed, but if anyone could talk a rat out of a snake hole it would be my pop.
Of course, in all our planning, no one had said a word to me about how Abner would get to our home, some two thousand miles away. That was kept a very close secret. I wasn't made privy to that information for fear I would let it slip in one of my many letters—letters, not emails—to my friend. No, I was only told what had been decided in the final days as my pop acquired tickets for us all.
Now I have to tell you, I was scared shitless on my own first airplane flight... not just across country, but across an ocean. And, I still get that shivery feeling as the plane rolls down the runway and lifts into the air. But I knew this trip for Abner would bring new meaning to the words A New World.
The whirlwind trip up to Pennsylvania was exciting, and meeting with Abner's family again was just as much fun as it had been last year. Abner told me he had packed about ten times in preparation. After a fantastic breakfast of wonderful foods, each made just that morning from completely natural ingredients grown or raised on their farm and cooked on a coal-fired stove, we packed Abner's suitcase into our rental car and, following many tearful goodbyes, were off into the unknown.
As we made our way toward the airport outside Philadelphia, Abner and I caught up on all the things important to boys. Abner was looking about at all the cars and sights he had never seen before, never having left Lancaster County. But, the first sense of something amiss was when we got within sight of the airport, and he saw a jet on the taxiway.
Abner couldn't take his eyes off it, his face almost plastered to the window. “Is... is that an air plane?” he whisperingly asked me.
We dropped off the rental car and made our way into the terminal, Abner holding my hand in a vice-like grip. We passed so many things that were completely new to him, things we take for granted... water fountains, restaurants, t-shirt stores, pretzel stands; these were each a wonder to Abner. It was like I was experiencing my first time in an airport all over again, and I tried to explain all the sights and sounds.
I'm not going to bore you with the tedious trials and tribulations of air travel... picking up tickets, waiting at the gate and such, but I do want to touch on two things. The security check-in was a bit dicey, as Abner had no ID. After much finagling and pop's explanations, and a near strip-search, we were allowed into the gate area. The clothing Abner was wearing served almost as good an ID for him as my passport did for me... long pants, long-sleeved shirt, clod-hoppers—that's old-time shoes to you city folks—and his broad-brimmed hat... not to mention suspenders and an odd dress coat.
The other notable incident was Abner's whispered distress that he had to relieve himself, as in, “Paul, I gotta piss!”. The trip to the restroom was, to say the least, almost like a trip to the moon. I had to explain everything. At least toilets haven't changed in a couple hundred years, except now they flush themselves. I thought I was going to have to peel Abner off the ceiling!
OK, well, the main event had arrived when they called boarding for our flight. We had packed pretty lightly for our trip—just a couple of carry-ons. And Abner, with a bit of convincing, had given over his older suitcase at the ticket counter to be checked. We entered the plane through the tunnel, and were seated in the first of five rows. I thanked God and my pop we had first-class tickets. Pop said we’d have less jostling about and more room to move in there, but I was pretty sure he’d done it more for Abner's benefit.
After putting Abner’s hat in the overhead, and getting him settled with his belt fastened, I tried to explain why he had to wear a seat belt even though we were not in a car. We waited for the news of our departure time. We got served orange juice as we waited. Pop had a drink, I think to calm his nerves from the drive and check-in, more than the trip to come.
I intentionally gave Abner the window seat. He continued his wide-eyed examination of every part of the plane and goings-on, both outside his window and in the plane itself, whispered questions flowing.
Finally, the moment had arrived with the announcement of our imminent departure, and the firing up of the jet's huge engines. The whimper that escaped Abner's throat could have belonged to a puppy first separated from its mother. With that first lurch as we left the gate, Abner again gripped me in that vice he called his hand.
I knew we were in for it when Abner asked how the wings would miss all the electric poles along the road all the way to our house. At the end of the runway, as the engines revved to takeoff speed, I warned Abner to sit back against the seat and hold on. Well, he held on to me.
Lift-off and climbing to altitude was an experience I always thrilled at. Abner spent the first part with eyes tightly shut and mouth open, panting. With much urging from me and Pop, we finally got him to open up a bit, and look out the tiny window as we lifted above the skyline of Philadelphia. After that, we could barely get his attention, plastered to the window as he was, until all that could be seen were fluffy clouds, and even those provided entertainment.
Now, in-flight restrooms are not at all like those on the ground. I'd only been in one twice, but experiencing one with Abner, soon after takeoff, gave a whole new meaning to relief!
I could have said the landing at our airport was anticlimactic, but I'd have been lying. It was a reversal of the takeoff, with much hand gripping and wide-eyed sniffling. I almost felt sorry for my friend, except I knew in his heart-of-hearts he was thrilled beyond imagining. Because my friend was truly an adventurer, and one with courage to spare.
When we finally reached home, and were standing by the car, Pop unloading our bags from the trunk, Abner looked around, took a big sniff of air and got a huge grin on his face. Pop asked him what was on his mind. Abner replied, looking about our small ranch and seeing our horses in a nearby pasture, “Smells just like home.”
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This story is Copyright © 2012 by Paul and Paco. The included image is Copyright © 2012 by Colin Kelly. This material cannot be reproduced without express written consent. Codey's World web site has written permission to publish these stories with the included images. No other rights are granted.
Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended.