“IF I HAD WINGS I WOULD BE THERE TOMORROW”
Gaston transcribed the end of the coded message into a small unruled notebook in his lap with a sigh. On the horizon, just above the choppy sea, a green lamp winked out after transmitting the last “di-da-dah”. The shield of his own signal lamp clicked as he lifted and dropped it across the rippled blue glass in reply: “di-dit da-dah di-dit di-di-dit…”
“I LOVE YOU”
After sending his reply Gaston sat in darkness listening to the crash of the waves on the rocks far below. After a time he extinguished his lamp and left his perch on the seaside balcony to retreat to the workshop below.
“If I had wings–” he mused thoughtfully to himself.
He crossed the cluttered workshop immediately to a drafting table and, after clearing the surface of half-completed sketches and long lists of unrealized ideas, he shone a lamp down on a fresh sheet of silk paper and began to draw.
At dawn he began construction, first using the wood lathe in order to shape a number of spruce planks into long flexible rods and then working with plane and chisel to shape the additional components he would need. Gaston worked until nightfall and then took a break in order to light his green lantern and smoke a pipe on the balcony above. When it became apparent that the clouds rolling in would make communication impossible he returned below and continued to work late into the night.
For the next three days it rained and Gaston threw himself into his work. Day and night he brought depth to his two-dimensional rendering shaping wood, metal, and fabric.
At dusk on the fourth day he returned to the balcony, lit his lamp and, with a pair of field glasses, notebook and pen on his lap he waited. However, exhaustion caught up with him and when he awoke the green lantern was flashing out the last letters of a message.
Gaston sat up with such alarm that his binoculars fell clattering on the slate deck of the balcony. He quickly sent a bewildered reply: “di-da-dah di-di-dit…”
When there was no reply he resolved to leave immediately, although the machine was not yet ready. Gaston carried it to the cliffside in pieces and assembled it there. He tethered the light aircraft to a cluster of rocks nearby; the passing of the storm had left the weather clear but blustery. By the time the vehicle was ready the mantle of the sun had already turned the ocean into molten silver. He returned to his quarters to put on his finest suit, applied a pomade to his well groomed handlebar mustache, and put on a top hat (which he would lose to the first strong gust of wind).
He smoked a pipe before takeoff and hoped it wouldn’t be his last as he tapped it out. Morbidly, he wondered what it would feel like for his body to slam into the rocks below. Pushing those thoughts out of his head he untethered the flying machine and strapped himself into the cockpit. He opened the throttle and then hand cranked the engine into life. Immediately the lightweight craft jumped down the makeshift airstrip and accelerated toward the edge of the cliff.
The plane started to lose altitude quickly as it dove toward the rocky shoal. Gaston pulled up on the control stick as much as he dared and the plane began to yaw upward. The stick very nearly shook itself out of his hands and, as the wheels of the plane kissed the water and the vehicle began to lift away, Gaston imagined the ocean whispering to him, begging him to stay.
He turned the nose of the aircraft toward the rising sun not knowing what it was he’d find on the distant shore.