THE BOY WHO COULD FLY
by Jean Blasiar
The trees on the hillside above St. Michael’s were in full blossom as young Tim Sanders, age nine, rode his bike to Alton with an important letter from his mom to his Aunt Fran. Tim had stayed with his aunt long enough to have a glass of milk and several of her home made ginger snaps. Two more of the warm cookies were in Tim’s pocket as he headed the bike down the steep grade through the meadowland back to St. Michael’s.
Aunt Fran had warned Tim not to dawdle. “You’re late as it is, Mister Timothy Sanders, and your mother will be needing your help with the bazaar. Don’t dally going back down like you did coming here. Whatever took you so long from Alton?”
“The flowers,” young Tim replied. “The little white flowers. They smell so sweet.”
“That’s the jasmine along the road that you smell.”
“I thought it was in the trees.”
“It’s the jasmine. Now get on with you. I never saw a lad so interested in flowers. You’re your mother’s youngun all right.”
It was those same white blossoms and that lovely jasmine aroma that distracted Tim again on his way down the hill. If he hadn’t been taken with the flowers, he would have seen the large boulder in the path which he had managed to avoid on his way up the hill earlier.
Before Tim had a chance to swerve or jump off his bike, he hit the boulder with a terrible jolt, propelling him through the air and onto the hard ground. The front wheel of the bike lay twisted over the boy. After several unconscious minutes, he opened his eyes.
The sun was high in the sky when Tim finally remembered where he was and where he was headed before hitting the boulder in the road and being thrown off his bike. Now the dazed boy shoved the bike off his legs and stood up on wobbly legs, his head pounding from the fall.
At the bottom of the steep grade loomed the town of St. Michael’s straight as the crow flies. But the bike path was a winding course, miles longer than the straight line as he saw it now.
Tim carried the bike to the grass, out of the path leading down the hill. From the top of the hill he could see St. Michael’s church, the church spire a clear shot from where he stood. If only he were somehow able to lift his feet off the ground, he thought, spread his arms and float down the hill like a leaf wafting in the warm wind, like the white blossoms caught up in the sweet smelling breeze, he could make St. Michael’s in time for the bazaar, but to walk it would take two hours in the hot sun, if he made it at all with his pounding head.
The boy closed his eyes and concentrated on lifting off from the ground, slowly pushing himself up, his hands and arms lifting, lifting, his body weightless, rising, gently sailing, soaring up over the trees, the white blossoms below him now, his body heading down, slowly, effortlessly down to the church below. And when Tim opened his eyes, that’s exactly where he was. He looked back at the hill and relived the sensation of floating, soaring over the tree tops, the breeze wafting over his arms like the wings of a plane, cutting the air, moving the air, gently, gently, then his feet and legs descending slowly until he touched the ground and began walking, arriving in town with the other fairgoers to St. Michael’s.
“Your mum’s looking for you, Tim,” Adrian Bell called over her shoulder as she ran to her family’s car in the parking lot. Apparently, Tim thought, Adrain and those around her did not realize that he had just flown down the hill, landed on his feet and was now walking among them.
The sun was scorching hot, the churchyard filled with holiday tourists when Tim arrived at the booth where his mother volunteered every year. The smells of cotton candy, caramel apples, hot dogs and pretzels dipped in frosting overpowered the sweet aroma of the jasmine once strong in the boy’s nostrils.
Mrs. Sanders was working the cake booth, busily setting out cakes for the winners. Tim stood back, waiting for a chance to interrupt her. He stood in line in the hot sun until the wheel stopped spinning. No one landed on number three, the winning number on the wheel, and Mrs. Sanders began immediately to sell tickets for the next spin.
Tim edged over to the front. “Mum…” he whispered.
“Timothy! How did you get here so fast, lad?”
“I flew, mum,” Tim said proudly.
“You certainly did. Well, they want you over at the fish tank. Here’s some coins for your lunch. Don’t dawdle now. And don’t be going off with those Reilly twins. You’re here to work. Go on with you. Try to stay out of the hot sun.”
“Get a soda, son. You’re beet red.” Mrs. Sanders turned her attention to the next townspeople in line to buy tickets.
More than once during that hot Saturday afternoon, Timothy Sanders glanced up the hill to where he had fallen off his bike, shocked to realize what a long way down he had flown. Not sure now if he dreamt it or if the hard knock on his head caused him to imagine the whole thing, he was too busy that afternoon to wonder if it had happened at all. When his mother collected him at six o’clock and walked with him to the bike stall, Timothy remembered exactly where his bike was and how he’d managed to get to St. Michael’s that afternoon.
“Get your bike, Tim.”
He had to tell her. “It isn’t here, mum.”
“What? You mean while we were inside slaving away in the hot sun to make money for St. Michael’s, some scoundrel stole your bike?”
Tim started to tell his mother the truth, but she wasn’t listening to him. Instead, she grabbed Mister Rigby by the arm and proceeded to tell the man in charge of the entire fair about somebody stealing Tim’s bike and what was he going to do about it. Tim was certainly not going to tell the Mr. Rigby, a very busy man, how earlier that day he had closed his eyes, raised his arms and flown down the big hill to St. Michael’s.
Too proud to accept Mister Rigby’s offer of a ride home, Mrs. Sanders said that her boy, though exhausted, would walk and offer it up to the Lord. She also said that she hoped that whoever took it upon himself to take what wasn’t his, needed it worse than her son.
There never was a moment after that, having been joined on their walk home by Mrs. Francis, a neighbor, to tell Tim’s mother the true story. She was too busy telling Mrs. Francis all about it, going back to how things were when she was a girl riding a bike to school with God fearing people who would never dream of taking anything that belonged to someone else. And where was she going to get the money to buy Tim another bike to ride to school come September, she’d like to know. It just didn’t seem to be the appropriate time for Tim to tell her, nor later that evening when Aunt Fran called to see if Tim was all right. A neighbor of Aunt Fran’s had run across a twisted and broken bike on the road to St. Michael’s, she said, and wondered if by any horrible happenstance it might be Tim’s.
“It was stolen,” Mrs. Sanders told her sister. “The scoundrel who stole it was probably knocked off the bike by God himself, like St. Paul, and a good thing too for now he might repent and sin no more.”
Mrs. Sanders told that story and believed it with all her heart, but not Tim. Forever after, when the steep hillside above St. Michael’s was in bloom with the jasmine, he would close his eyes and recall that afternoon when he lifted his arms, the warm breeze on his face with the wafting, sweet smelling blossoms below, and floated gently, gently down, down, down till his feet touched the ground and he praised God.
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"The Boy Who Could Fly" was first published in Wild Violet (2008).
Jean Blasiar is a published author (Charles River Press), playwright (Off The Wall Plays), short story writer and theatrical producer. See www.jeanblasiar.com for a listing of her work. One of Jean's plays was optioned by 20th Century Fox for a pilot.