Story Contest 2019 #1 - Highly Commended Stories »

Highly Commended Story - The Failure’s Guide to Flying a Plane

“The Failure’s Guide to Flying a Plane” by Barry Liu, The Healdsburg School, USA, is the Highly Commended story in the junior category of the first biannual Short Story Contest 2019.

The Failure’s Guide to Flying a Plane

Recently, I had my first day as a showgrounds pilot! Let me backup. A week ago, I saw an advertisement for, “Springfield Showgrounds.” They required a young pilot and I was the perfect man for the job.

After arriving at the showgrounds, I looked around to see the other performers. There were a couple of tightrope walkers, several clowns, and a large weightlifter. Then, I saw a Corvus Racer 540. I felt the urge to leap inside and start listening to my favorite CD. While I stared at the plane, a man dressed in red with a curly mustache walked over. I guessed he was the ringmaster.

“Welcome,” he boomed, “to Springfield Showgrounds!”

“Hello,” I returned. He smiled and I got a front row seat of his teeth. They were beyond ugly. His chompers were yellow, corroded, and looked like they had six cavities each. They reminded me of an unhealthy rat.

“Can I get in this beauty?” I gestured toward the Corvus Racer 540.

“Not yet son,” he told me, “first, you’re gonna be tested with virtual reality.”

When the owner told me this, I pictured a boring chair with a mask over my face. On the chair lay a sweet set of Head Mounted Displays. The owner, or Filth Tooth Moody, told me to put on the HMD. I strapped it on and instantly, I saw a panel before me. It had a pilot’s seat with a control panel and on it was the knobs, buttons, and switches of a real airplane. I felt around for my CD player, turned it on, and started to listen. Upon listening, everything else felt secondary to me. I lost focus on my flying and the nose of my plane tipped downwards. Then I realized how close I was to the ground.

It was so close, I could see the shapes of people. I was so near to the ground I could make out the individual details. I could even make out each bump on the road. I barreled directly downwards, too scared to do anything else.

I reminded myself that it was only virtual, but I couldn’t stop panicking. When I was 2 ft. from the ground, I ripped the HMD of my head. I looked at Filth Tooth Moody and saw his face purpling as if I was Harry Potter and he was Uncle Vernon.

“You’ll have to pay for that!!!!!!!” he bellowed at me. I saw that the HMDs had fallen to the ground and broken into pieces. “You are fired!!!”

I wasn’t exactly fired.

I became the backup pilot. Filth Tooth Moody had hired another “experienced,” pilot to take my place. I’d still have to go watch since I was technically still part of the crew. It was going to be held at the showgrounds on Friday.

My phone started buzzing. It was Filth Tooth Moody. I answered the phone and held it up to my ear.

“Hello,” I uttered.

I expected him to respond, “Oopsy wrong pilot,” but he didn’t.

Instead he murmured, “You’re flying tomorrow.”

“I’m what?” I questioned, not believing my ears.

“You’re flying,” he repeated. He sounded as if he’d been promised a luxurious trip to Hawaii, but found the whole entire state burned to a crisp by lava.

“The new pilot is a phony that doesn’t know how to fly at all. However, if you fail at flying tomorrow night, you’ll be kicked out of the showgrounds… FOREVER!”

The next day, I went to Springfield Showgrounds. There was going to be a thunderstorm that night. I looked around at the various faces all turning their attention onto me. I felt beads of sweat rolling down my neck. My stomach was flipping, rolling, and sloshing so violently that I thought it might be trying to fly away on a Corvus Racer 540. I gripped my CD player tight until my knuckles whitened to remind myself that I had a plan. Also, my name is Joe.

You’ll probably be thinking, 3,559 characters into the book and you finally mention your name. If you think that you are correct.

Suddenly, the showground’s owner’s voice boomed over the chattering in the crowd.

“Ladies and gentlemen, may I introduce to you… actually I don’t know what his name is. What is your name again?”

So this is what I get for introducing myself on the 3,559th character of the book?!

“It’s Joe!” I yelled trying to make myself heard.

“Now I introduce to you, Joe, our stunt pilot for tonight.

I climbed into the Corvus Racer 540 and fired up its engine. I started to listen to the CD I had gotten. It was called, “How to Fly During a Thunderstorm.”

“The first step is to lift off.” I slowly started rising, feet after feet. Soon I was flying under the storm. The dark roof of clouds was visible on my windshield.

“Next, start doing your stunt,” I did some fancy flying like loops, spins, and plummeting dives I pulled out of at the last second.

“Turn left.” I turned left and it was a gratifying thing I did. A jagged bolt of electricity hit the spot where I was moments ago.

“Turn right.” I turned and another bolt hit the spot where I’d just left.

“Then continue your flying since the storm is now clear.” Just as it uttered that, the storm clouds retreated. I touched down and the crowd cheered its approval.

Suddenly, I woke up. All of that Friday had just been a dream. I got ready for the show.

When I finally climbed into the plane, I recalled my instructions and took off. I cruised underneath the dark mass with lightning bolts exploding to my right and left. I was praising myself for having such a good memory when one of them hit the tail of my plane which caught on fire.

I ejected and when I was floating down, I heard the owner yell, “You are fired!”

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