Issue 35, Final Fringe

Ringlet

by Russell Hehn Issue 28 10.24.2011

 

[TEXT]

When the team found Miss Earhart she had a small, golden and hardly perceptible halo squatting on a small angle in the space between her disheveled coif and the hand-thatched roof she’d constructed in the two weeks since her disappearance.  None of the men mentioned the halo, nor anything for that matter, for several moments, not knowing what to say.  The halo seemed to hiss, sort of a hushed whirr, and dust flung out in concentric rings as if someone had turned on a very old ceiling fan in a long dormant room—as if the rings of Saturn, as if ripples on a lake.  The crew tried not to look at the halo.  Diverted their eyes to something else in the hut, which was difficult since there wasn’t much else in the hut besides themselves and Amelia Earhart, and they couldn’t bear to look at one another in the eye, so they settled on their shoes.  Mason, however, skeptical and also Catholic once upon a time, could not take his eyes off the thing.  Not out of reverence, but out of sheer will, to-not-be-duped.

The crew was made up of pimply linemen from the Far-Southern California Regional Airport.  Only one of them had logged any flight time, so that they had to find a pilot, a real pilot, to fly them to the coordinates.  Mason was just about as real a pilot as they were like to find on such short notice, having served in the Great War as a fighter pilot. Dogfights mostly.  Ate those up.  Though he didn’t speak of it much—except, by chance, on those rare early mornings when the sun struck the edelweiss just right, assuming there was edelweiss around—but the tattoo on his left bicep conveyed that he’d seen the Red Baron, that he’d faced off with the legend, and that he’d survived.  Barely.  “Das Baron,” it said, in Reichscript.

“The dispatch came in over the wireless about an hour ago, Mr. Mason,” said Redbone.  Redbone said he was 18, but looked all of 11.  He’d only been at the FSCRA for about a month and was eager to get the bird in the air.

“It’s foolish,” said Mason.

“Foolish?!” said Redbone.  “But we could be heroes, man.”

“Let me tell you a thing about a hero,” said Mason, evenly.  “A hero doesn’t go into hero’s business expecting to come out like one.  You don’t go chasing that stripe.  It sticks itself to you,” which he half believed.

“But that lady’s out there, man.  She’s out there in bum-fuck all on her lonesome.  You just wanna stick her like that?  All on her lonesome like she is?”

“She got herself into it.  What makes you think she can’t get herself out?  What makes you think these coordinates mean anything?”

“Listen, man,” said Redbone.  He’d become fiery.  “You don’t get a goddamned set of coordinates from a gosh-a’mighty astronomer Monk and sit on ‘em.  Hand o’ God, Mason, you sit on this—you let us sit on this—you’re asking to be smote.”

Mason and Redbone stood nose to nose outside the office at the FSCRA.  The warm Pacific wind pushed against Mason’s slacks and sweater, giving subtle definition to the work-toned body beneath, edifying him as a pinnacle of objectivist art, some monolith of futurism, The Man to Come, it might be called.  That same breeze tossed Redbone’s hair in fits and tangles, and snuck beneath his collar, flipped it up and askance, making him every bit the comic fool.  But Mason admired his pluck.  Had this been a decade before, he might have backhanded the kid, but Mason couldn’t deny the Monks.

“Monk?” said Mason.

“Yeah, Monk.”

It was true.  It had come through on the wire that morning.  And anybody who had anything to do with navigation, by air or otherwise, knew that the communiqués of the Monks were not to be taken lightly.

“Well,” said Mason, falling back on his heels, “if a Monk said so…”

Redbone didn’t wait for confirmation.

“Tops!” he said, clapping his hands, his smile going wide.  “I’ll go tell the boys.”  And before he made it three steps toward the hangar, Redbone turned on a dime, saluted and said, “Glad to be of service, Captain Mason,” at which Mason rolled his eyes and, as if his arm weighed a ton and a half, returned the salute.

“Carry on, Redbone,” he said.

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Russell Hehn

Russell Hehn

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Russell Hehn is a teacher and landscaper in Hattiesburg, Mississippi.  Some of his other work can be seen in Barcelona Review, Interrobang?! and Pindeldyboz.