“They done it! They done it! Damned if they ain't flew.” Johnny Moore, shouted while running to the village of Kitty Hawk. 17 December 1903.
Present day, Bethpage Restoration Village, Old Bethpage, New York
In the Reception Center at the Bethpage Restoration Village, there hangs a photograph of an early pilot. His head is covered by a close fitting leather helmet and bulky goggles hang around his neck. He is seated at the controls of one of the first planes, and it’s obvious the photo wasn’t posed.
He has the sort of face that make age impossible to guess; he could be forty or sixty. The man is smiling; the wide, infectious sort of smile that makes you want to smile in return. And the absolute joy in his eyes crosses time and space as he seems to stare at something just beyond the camera’s range.
If questioned, the staff at the Reception Center will admit they have no idea as to the name of the photographer, or how they came into possession of the photograph.
The photo is labeled ‘Henri Farman, Sheepshead Bay Racetrack, 1908’, and inspires a deep nostalgia, probably because of the handsome subject.
Sheepshead Bay Racetrack, Brooklyn, NY, September 1st, 1908
The two men strode across the field carefully. The early morning sky was brightening, but just barely. Both men were in a high state of emotion, one with excitement, and the other with apprehension.
“I don’t care that he got in safely yesterday, John,” Rodney said impatiently. “That was yesterday, and anything could have happened overnight. Either I check it out, or you don’t go.”
“Relax, Rodney. It’ll be okay,” John smiled, anticipation flooding his body.
Even though Rodney knew that the planes were so simple a child could operate them, he couldn’t help but worry. John had only had three hours of flight instruction and it hadn’t included actually taking off. It was ridiculous that he going to solo on his first flight out.
“I’ll relax after you’ve landed safely,” Rodney muttered.
John placed a hand on his lover’s arm to halt him. “Rodney, if you don’t want me to go, I won’t.”
Because it was still mostly dark, Rodney leaned into John for a brief moment. “No,” he replied softly. “I want you to go. I can’t help worrying, though.”
Remembering the fierce joy the Sheppard of Atlantis had taken in flight, and the skill with which he had applied to anything that flew, Rodney had wanted his lover to experience that same joy. And he’d encouraged John every step of the way knowing he would be a natural in the air.
John and Rodney made their way to the center of the field where Henri was waiting for them. They’d met him on a trip to France several years earlier and had stayed in touch. Because of their friendship, Farman was willing to allow John to solo in his plane.
Henri was checking over the plane when the two men approached him. “Ah, John, Rodney, you are ready?” he asked.
“As soon as I check out this death contraption you call an airplane,” Rodney groused.
Laughing, Henri passed him a flashlight for the five-minute inspection. The sun still had not fully arisen when he was done.
Henri gave John his own gear, adjusting the goggles. “You have a perfect day, John. Just remember to keep her steady, and to breathe,” he advised. He assisted John into the plane and removed the wheel blocks.
John looked over at his worried lover, giving him a thumbs up sign. He soon had the plane bumping over the field, and then he was lifting away from the Earth.
The perspective from the air was like nothing John had ever experienced before. The wind rushing over his face, and only the flimsy body of the plane separating him from the sky was exhilarating. The sun was rising quickly now, and the morning sky was still painted in streaks of red here and there. He climbed into the rising sun.
John evened the plane out, and then took the time to look around. He could see the long stretch of farmland dotted with houses, and the bay, and beyond that, the ocean. The sky, mirroring the ocean, was endless and so blue, it hurt.
And along the excitement coursing throughout his body, John felt a perfect peace. It was almost like being in Rodney’s arms. He completed his first circle, and climbed a bit higher, widening the circle somewhat. Breathing through the rush of wind, John let out a shout of joy.
Rodney had given him this gift, this freedom from gravity. Heart pounding, John began taking the plane down. The tiny dots on the ground resolved themselves into people, and John could see there were about a dozen more people on the field than there had been.
As he touched down, he wondered how many blowjobs it would take before he could get Rodney to agree to build him his own plane. He laughed at the thought. As he slowed, he removed his goggles and sought out his lover.
Rodney was standing behind a man with a camera. Their eyes met for a moment or two before the flash went off, and John hoped there had been enough time to tell Rodney just how much he loved him.