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An Elegy for Airplanes

I often had a dream when I was a kid about what I can only describe as an airplane graveyard. It was an empty field of concrete and dust, stretching infinitely onward in all directions, and scattered around were the broken corpses of airplanes, all rusted and dead. Some were mostly intact, others were merely bits and pieces arranged, so delicately, into piles of rubble. And every once in a while, an airplane would peek its head out from the cloudy sky and then shoot itself towards the ground, ending with a violent crash—another death, another tombstone.

I told my father about that dream once, when I was ten. He simply smiled and said, “Don’t worry about it, son.”

He was a pilot. I think he believed I was worried about him.

Six days before my father disappeared, we drove out to Arizona. He wanted to get away from the stench of LAX for a while, and he took me along with him. We went all the way out to Tucson, just driving and absorbing the sights.

That was the day I saw The Boneyard.

He pulled over on the side of the road and asked me to come out of the car. I opened the door and looked up over the roof of the car. There were thousands of airplanes there, abandoned and forgotten, slowly fading away into obscurity.

“See those planes, son?” my father said. “They’re dead, just like in your dream.”

I wanted to tell him: no. Those planes aren’t dead. They’re just waiting.

One morning, my father left his favorite pilot hat beside my bed. He was flying out to Boston that morning, and he had barely any time to say goodbye. He wouldn’t be coming back.

I couldn’t sleep that night. All I could think about was the graveyard. I saw myself there, wandering around the wreckage, shouting at the fog. I was looking for him. Airplanes were falling all around me.

His words echoed in my brain. “They’re dead, just like in your dream.”

Flash Fiction by Daniel C Hein

Published in Spring 2017


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