Annie Fights to Land the Cub …
All of Pearl Harbor was spread out in front of Annie. The water itself appeared to be on fire. Japanese planes zoomed back and forth, diving, climbing, turning, shooting at everything that moved — planes, boats, trucks, cars, bicycles, people.
Please don’t let them come after me, Annie thought, as she came out in the open — once more a target. I’m small potatoes compared to those battleships and destroyers. A stab of guilt caught in her stomach. She knew some of the officers on those embattled ships.
The gravel northeast to southwest runway in her sights,she dropped even lower and swung in an arc keeping the airplane below the horizon — the rounded line drawn by the crests of the hills — hoping a Jap Zero would not see her. A bright yellow aircraft was easy to spot on a sunlit morning. She said a silent prayer as she throttled back and prepared to land.
RUNWAY STRAIGHT AHEAD
No landing pattern for her this time. She’d be a sitting duck for some trigger-happy Jap pilot who might decide a pretty little Cub would be an extra trophy to brag about. Setting up a straight-in approach and totally disregarding wind direction, Annie aimed the little airplane straight at the runway.
She stayed only high enough to clear a couple of outbuildings and the vegetation that lay at the near end of the runway. Then she cut the throttle, pulled back on the stick, executed a flawless flare, and stuck the wheels solidly onto the runway.
“Greased it,” she shouted, triumphant in her power of concentration. Not touching the brakes, she taxied the plane full speed along the runway toward the hangars in the distance. A shadow crossed over her like a vulture looking for its dinner. She saw the silver and black gas-powered, prop-driven bird streak ahead. Almost in slow motion, the climbing fighter wheeled 180 degrees and started back toward her, flying low. Now Annie hit the brakes, swerving for the side of the runway where high grass and a stand of palm trees grew. The little Cub slowed and stopped.
“RUN FOR IT!”
“I see him,” Tom Witten shouted back. They scrambled from the plane and ran for the side of the runway. Bullets beat a tattoo sending gravel flying, caught and ripped the fabric airplane to shreds in a split second. Annie and Tom dove for the high grass.
The Jap plane flew off down the end of the runway. Annie — the sharp-bladed grass had lacerated the side of her cheek where she lay — watched it bank and begin to turn again. “He’s coming back.” She got up and started running for the cover of palm trees twenty feet away. She heard Tom Witten breathing hard behind her.
Annie reached the palms as the plane came at them again — so close. When she looked over her shoulder, she saw the goggles and leather helmet and, she swore, a grin on the pilot’s face.
She tripped as bullets thudded into the ground behind her. She fell forward into the trunk of a palm, striking her head. Blood-red cobwebs pulsed and threatened to cover her eyes.
WAS HE COMING BACK?
She lay there, stunned, head throbbing. The inferno that was now Pearl Harbor still roared in her ears, but close around her there was not a sound. No airplane. No buzz of a homicidal Zero searched her out. Shaking her head, the cobwebs receded. She lay face down under the stand of palm trees. Her face and head bleeding, and her body, encased in flight coveralls, bathed in sweat. But she felt cold.
“We made it,” she said triumphantly, finally getting some semblance of control over her trembling body. “We made it!”
She pushed herself upright with hands and arms that didn’t feel like hers and twisted around into a sitting position where she could see back to the runway, the ruined airplane, and the firestorm that engulfed what had been a beautiful harbor.
Tom Witten lay face down just beyond the circle of sheltering palms. The back of his white T-shirt oozed pools of red.
Annie stared as comprehension seeped into her brain and an overwhelming sadness crept into her heart. She dropped her head back to her knees, let out a shudder and then a sob and began to rock back and forth, her body racked with uncontrollable spasms.
Thanks for reading the first chapter from Flight to Destiny, 2016 winner of the Eudora Welty Memorial Award, the National League of American Pen Women, Inc.
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