“No sleeping on the job,” he says as he stands in the doorway.
“Aye aye, captain,” you reply.
“This is the Air Corp, mister,” he says. “There’s no aye ayes here.”
You avoid his pale eyes, notice the small wrinkles above his brow.
“Come with me,” he says. “Know what I flew before this baby?”
“That’s right,” he says, pounding on the wall. “And Bee eighteens got nothing on the Dragon.”
He takes your hand and you squeeze through the portal. Inside the cockpit, he grips the controls. Trees whip past the starboard window. You must be flying dangerously low.
“How about I take her up,” he says, smiling. “See what she can do.”
You nod and he laughs, tilting back his head. He purses his lips and exhales, mimicking the sound of the engines.
“Leveling off at thirty thousand,” he says.
You imagine how small you must appear to the people on the ground. A white dot against the cloudless sky.
“Know why she flies so great?” he asks. “It’s the Nakamura lock.”
“Well, the problem with your average airplane is center of gravity,” he says. “Nakamura lock puts more weight up front. Handles like a dream.”
You remember the bad dream you were having, the one that woke you up before he came into your room.
“I’ll show you. Let’s land at the park.”
“That’s where I wanted to go,” you say.
He searches the glovebox while you wait under an oak tree.
“We can use this,” he says, holding up a flyer from the car wash. It was a fundraiser for the war effort.
You lean against his leg while he flattens the paper on the car hood. Your head is barely higher than the hood, so he picks you up and sits you on it. You watch as he folds the paper in half, unfolds it, tucks the ends to make a point.
“Just like a regular airplane,” you say.
“Yes, but watch this. Here’s the secret.”
He folds the point to meet the aft edge of the paper. Two more folds and the B-22 Dragon, your favorite airplane, begins to take shape before your eyes.
You jump off the hood and he hands you the Dragon.
“Go on,” he says, pinching his fingers and thrusting his hand forward. “Give it a shot.”
You run from the shade and into the field. You feel the weight of this new paper airplane, heavier, sturdier than usual. It feels right. One more step and you launch the Dragon. It picks up speed as it climbs, higher, farther than any paper airplane you’ve ever flown before. It banks right, catches a breeze, and sails into the oak tree. For a moment, you stand quietly, too stunned to speak. Your father is behind you, laughing, his hands on his hips.
“Do we have more paper?” you ask.
“Well, we could make some. Go get my axe from the trunk.”
Rich Renner is an Emmy award-winning producer, director and editor living in Collingswood, NJ with his curious child and his artist wife, who first introduced him to his favorite method of folding paper airplanes.