Greenwood Encyclopedia of African American Literature

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Experimental Aircraft

[one from Red Tales, another blog I keep]


Once there was a woman who wished she didn't know so many things for sure. She'd learned not to try to convince people of what she knew, for they believed they knew things for sure, too. Arguing fatigued her. Besides, eventualities would demonstrate what was true better than she could: this she knew, too.

For instance, her husband took up the hobby of flying small experimental aircraft. When he'd told her of this new pursuit, she'd said, "I love you, and consider the word 'experimental,' please. When a cook experiments with a spice and fails, the result is merely an unappealing dish. When an experiment in aviation fails, gravity wrecks." Her husband had scoffed. He was jolly.

Later, when he showed her a red aircraft of startling design, she knew the plane would fail--before takeoff, she hoped. The experimental aircraft simply looked too much like art and not enough like engineering to be competent in the sky.

News of the fatal crash shocked her though she wasn't surprised. She grieved deeply. There's knowing, and then there's experiencing. Several weeks later, an attorney informed her that although her husband had intended to purchase more life insurance, he hadn't gotten around to doing so. There was some insurance, some money, but not a lot, the lawyer said. Her husband hadn't secured her economic future.

"I know," the woman said. "It's the way he was, and it's the way things are." She didn't mention how she knew that, as the plane approached the water, her husband had said "I'm sorry" to her, as if she were in the cockpit.

The little red plane didn't have a little black box, so there was no recording of her husband's last words. This absence pleased the woman, for she'd always preferred the knowing over the proof, wisdom over argument, and information over events, which could be brutal.

--Hans Ostrom, copyright 2012

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