Recap: The principal apologizes when he discovers that the culprit is really Kalman, and Kalman is suspended. The only problem is that when Ezra goes to the park to play basketball, Kalman jumps out and beats him up for telling on him. When he comes home with a black eye, his mother says she’s going to call the principal to tell him what happened. In the meantime, to distract himself from his troubles, Ezra sits down with Mickey to read more of the journal about the Wright brothers.
Orville met me at the train. “Wilbur’s waiting to hear from the War Department. He sent them a new letter a few weeks ago. We’re hoping they’ll buy our flyer.”
I’d seen the flights and I was sure the War Department was going to buy it.
Orville led me to the prairie. Huffman Prairie was much different from Kitty Hawk, with its wide vistas of nothing but sand. He pointed to the barbed wire and trees that bordered the pasture, and inside the pasture was a huge honey locust with thorns. “It’s a challenge to bank and turn the right way with those.” The screech of the trolley punctuated the air.
There was a cabin for us to sleep in, and I quickly put my things away so I could come with the brothers. Wilbur was checking the glider.
“Hi, Sender!” he looked up from his work. “Welcome back.”
Orville showed off the new Flyer III. “It’s a big improvement over our last one. It’s sturdier and the motor is more powerful.
Wilbur stopped working to interrupt. “Orv, the main improvement is the scientific design. We have better methods of balancing and steering. Look over here.” He pointed to the front of the flying machine. “We moved the rudder even farther forward, so we’ll have better nose-to-tail control. Most of our troubles can be remedied if we tilt the flyer forward a bit, and that restores flying speed.”
“Okay, Orv. Ready for a spin?” Wilbur motioned his brother to board the flyer.
Orville winked at me. “Keep that camera shooting.”
I nodded. This was thrilling.
Orville boarded the flyer and, after take-off, he circled the honey locust tree in the middle of the prairie. I shot several photos. Suddenly the glider began to turn up one wing and stall.
Wilbur screamed up to his brother. “Don’t land in the thorn tree!”
I held my breath.
Orville tried to steer it away from the tree. The left wing struck the tree with a sickening cracking sound.
I couldn’t look. I had to turn away. Please, Hashem, don’t let him crash.
Wilbur tapped my shoulder. “It’s all right. Look, the flyer is around ten feet off the ground, and it’s still up. He’s got some branches from the tree with him now.” Wilbur chuckled. “Orville’s dive helped him nose the flyer up again.”
Wilbur told me that the flight had already covered six miles and he was still going strong.
“Phew! I see now that a brief dive will restore speed, and that is what’s needed to increase the lift and straighten the effect of the warp.”
I didn’t understand all that, but I was glad Orville was okay and he was still gliding across the sky. How I longed to do that: to be in the flyer floating with the clouds. It looked so amazing.
After the flight, we headed to the cabin they’d set up. There was a letter in the mailbox.
“It’s from the War Department,” Wilbur said as he tore it open.
Orville looked over his shoulder. Wilbur read and then dropped the letter onto a table. “They rejected it.”
They both looked sad for a minute, but then Wilbur paced around and his regular optimism returned. “Okay, if they don’t want it, then we’ll just have to offer it to the French. The French government indicated interest when I visited. I’ll write to them and offer to demonstrate the flyer.”
A week later, Wilbur was on a ship on his way to Paris to offer the flyer to the French government and Orville and I were still working at Huffman Prairie. I only had one more week before I would have to go back to Mr. Corman and the ice blocks. How I dreaded that.
One morning, I rose really early. I davened as the sun rose in bright apricot bands, and I headed over to the shed to see the flyer. I did something I had wanted to do for the longest time. I crept into the flyer. I closed my eyes and pretended I was flying.
I didn’t hear Orville step inside the shed. “Hey, Sender. You like sittin’ there.”
I blushed. “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have, without your permission.”
“Hey, you look good there. Want to go for a little ride before we head back?”
Was he really asking me? Was I really going to go up in a glider with Orville?
“You’d really take me?”
He smiled. “We’ll just take a short turnaround.”
My heart was pounding. Orville slid into the glider and motioned me to slide over next to him. Was this really happening? I must be dreaming. I felt the vibration of the glider as it ascended higher and higher.
I held my breath as we started moving, and then suddenly we were going up. We reached a certain altitude and we were floating in the air. It was the most amazing feeling, like perfect peace mixed with excitement. Everything below was a blur; but as we rose higher, the view of the tree and the trolley cleared.
We were up in the air for around five minutes. Before I knew it, we had descended and were gliding to a halt. My whole body was shaking with the sheer thrill of what I’d just done. “I can’t believe it. We were in the air!”
Orville chuckled. “Don’t tell Wilbur. He probably wouldn’t have let me do this, but I saw how much you wanted to.”
“I’m sorry. I don’t want to get you in trouble.”
“It’s fine. Next week I have to head back to Dayton to the bike shop. Someone’s got to keep the business going.” I wished I could work there with him.
I wanted to relive that experience of soaring high into the air. I’d felt like a cloud or a bird. It was indescribable. I tried not to think about next week, when I’d be back in Cincinnati working with Mr. Corman and those dreadful blocks of ice.
To be continued…
By Susie Garber