Last Witch Standing
Author:Jonathan Grimm

chapter 3

Monday, December 27, 1971


“Katie, please. Back off. I need to concentrate.” Dan Edwards carefully adjusted the decal over the wing of his model airplane. It was almost done; he couldn’t mess it up now. Fore and aft of the fuselage were painted bright yellow to increase the model’s visibility as it flew – or if it crashed in a field somewhere – making it easier to locate.

Katie stepped back further on the bed where she stood looking down on her brother as he worked. The fan on Dan’s desk blew some of the fumes of modeling paint her way.

Dan set the plane on the desk and stood to examine his work. It looked straight, but he backed up to see it from a distance. The decal was slightly off, but not more than a few degrees. Good enough. He could use a straight edge and razor blade to shave a centimeter, or so, on the bottom to bring it level. It was too late to move as he had detached the backing on the sticker and it was now firmly adhered to the wing of the craft.

The plane smelled strongly of modeling glue. A night spent by the heater had dried the paint, but Dan needed to file down the parts where he had used too much adhesive. That could wait, though. What mattered now was getting it into the air.

He collected the parts and put them into the wood toolbox he and his father had constructed when Dan was seven. It had been the first of many projects the two would complete over the years and Dan had recently sanded it and re-stained it with redwood sealant. Into it went the radio controller, gas can, glue and twine.

“I’m gonna try to fly this today. Do you want to come?” Dan asked his sister who was staring down at the plane with wide blue eyes.

“Yes!” She jumped off the bed.

“Let me call Jimmy. He can meet us at the school.”

The two walked together: Dan, carrying his plane and toolbox, and Katie behind, struggling to keep up on her Big Wheel. The sky was overcast and a mild breeze chilled them. But Dan was not about to go back home for their jackets. Not now. Not until he had seen his new toy fly.

“You have to get off,” Dan said when they reached the street. “You can’t cross on your Big Wheel. Drivers can’t see you and you could get hit.” He waited for her to catch up and they crossed together. Dan put his toolbox on the seat of the Big Wheel and pulled it along behind them.

The lot was empty. Normally, there would be several kids on the slides, rings and swings. Good, Dan didn’t want anyone getting in his way. He took Katie because she would fuss if he didn’t. Their mother wouldn’t like him leaving her behind, anyway. In any case, she did move out of the way when asked, and every now and then, she came up with a suggestion that saved him time. Like the time the Johnson’s truck got caught under an overpass. It was Katie who suggested they let the air out of the tires and push it through. Brilliant. He didn’t like to admit it, but he knew his kid sister was smarter than him.

Jimmy pulled up and stood beside them on the playground, straddling his bicycle. Katie, the Big Wheel next to her, peered over her brother’s shoulder as he knelt on the asphalt, filling the plane’s tank from a small, red, galvanized steel gas can. Some spilled and the fumes drifted in the air around the trio.

Dan turned the props and the engine sputtered into life. Katie backed off from the noise as it pierced the damp morning air.

“Cool.” Jimmy pushed the kickstand down and came up to Dan. Katie let go of the handle of her Big Wheel.

“I’m gonna try to taxi a bit before I take her up.” Dan held the controller in his hand and pushed the lever. The prop engaged, the plane shook, then moved forward, gaining speed as it sped across the lot.

Dan adjusted the controller and the plane circled back towards them as it taxied. He needed to know how responsive it was, how tightly it cornered. When it neared them, Dan turned it back. Then he had it go in circles, then zigzags as he gained proficiency operating the controls.

“Want to try?” Dan handed the controls to Jimmie. He used Jimmie’s BB gun so this was a good opportunity to show that he shared as well.

“Sure.” Jimmie took the controls.

“Just don’t touch that one.” Dan pointed to the elevator control.

“I won’t.” Jimmie gunned the throttle and the plane shot down the walkway, towards the street. “How do I stop it?”

Dan took the controls back and turned the craft before it left the lot. He didn’t lower the throttle as he could see it was stable even at this high speed. As it reached them, he pulled back gently on the elevators. The P-51’s nose angled upwards and the model climbed into the air.

“It’s flying!” Katie pointed at the Mustang as it rose, then chased it across the field, her golden hair fluttering in the breeze.

“Yep. That it is.” Dan grinned. He turned it towards the field as he didn’t want it to land on someone’s roof and be lost.

“Wow. I didn’t think you’d get it in the air like this the first time,” Jimmie said when the plane landed.

“I want to try this time!” Katie jumped up and down.

“I’ll let ya, if you’re careful.” Dan paused to figure out a way to let his sister fly his prized model without wrecking it. Maybe if he got it high enough first, he would have enough time to grab the controls and recover it. No, she was too smart to consider that a turn. He would just have to bite the bullet and let her take off – and hope it didn’t crash.

“I will.” Katie smiled.

“Just for a second, we can’t let it get too far.” He turned to Jimmie. “We’re going to have to take it to the park next time. There’s not enough room here.”

Dan taxied the plane to the far end of the parking lot and turned it until its propeller faced them. He handed his sister the controls and stood behind her. “Push where I tell you. Slow and gentle or it‘ll crash and bust and we won’t be able to fly it anymore.”

“Okay,” Katie said.

Dan motioned her to pull back on the throttle. She did, and the plane taxied towards them. After it gained flight speed, Dan said, “These are the controls to make it take off. Slowly, and I mean slowly, pull down on this.” He gestured toward the control.

Katie pulled back. The plane edged up, then back.

“Okay, good. A little bit more, Katie.”

Katie obliged and the craft rose into the air at a perfect 45-degree angle.

Jimmie punched Dan lightly in the shoulder. “She’s better than you.”

“Okay, Katie, I’m gonna turn it for you.” Dan adjusted the ailerons and the plane turned back towards them before reaching the street. He allowed his sister to circle the plane several times before landing it for her.

“Good job,” Dan said.

“Yeah, Katie. You should be an astronaut!” Jimmie grinned.

“Listen, we’d better head back,” Dan said. Mrs. Edwards was in the front yard of their house waving at them.