Like many children before home computers and video game consoles were invented, I spent a lot of time pretending. My imagination was so rich and strong I can still remember scenes that passed through my mind then. I wasn’t biased to any certain topic, either. I could be found pretending to be a dinosaur, an eagle, a giant, or maybe a football star. I could fly, dive to ocean trenches, jump to the moon, even be an airplane.
I was good at pretending, too. I remember making cat noises from my bedroom one day. My step-mom was so convinced I was torturing her cat I had to stay in my room until supper. A few years later, with a noisy bird of prey in their yard (me), my mom and step-dad joked I should be hired out to radio stations for realistic sound effects.
By second grade I had become so adept at pretending that Mom had a hard time, as a single mother, keeping me safe. Pretending to be a chef over our wood burning stove, I melted her Tupperware dishes and could have burned down the house. I took my brother and sister to a local factory’s mountains of gravel, where we were the world’s greatest explorers, in my mind, but could have been crushed by giant trucks or worse. I was that good at pretending; sucking others into real dangers with made-up scenarios.
I loved pretending to fly. So one day, ignoring Mom’s instruction to stay out of her car, I climbed in the driver’s side and made sure no adults were around. Adults know nothing about pretending, and I wanted to fly an airplane, so I had to make certain no one would interrupt.
I held the steering wheel and looked out both sides of my airplane. I was under orders to fly a mission of great importance, and as an ace pilot would figure out that mission later. (That’s an important technique when pretending, figure out details of your world only when it becomes important.) After checking to make sure I had gauges (car gauges filled this role nicely) I pulled back on the steering wheel and met the sky. I banked to avoid houses, which I was pretending were mountains.
Dutifully I checked my gauges just like people on TV when they fly an airplane. Several times I barely missed scraping my airplane on cloud-hidden mountains, always managing to fly by without a scratch or losing a wing. My mission became clear as I sped higher; find the enemy. I never liked the enemy, because he was always the enemy. And for this he would pay dearly.
And there he was, somewhere on the ground far below, directly in front of me. He never could hide for long. I took my airplane into a steep dive, buzzed inches over his head, and climbed up in a sharp banking turn. It was only fair to gloat this way, as he should have fair warning of his impending doom. Glancing once again at the airplane’s instruments, I got ready to fly back over him and drop The Bomb.
Bombs are great when you’re pretending. They solve all sorts of logistical problems. Is the enemy hidden in a cave? Blow him up with a bomb. Can’t catch up to him? There’s always a bomb where he’s going. When pretending to fly an airplane, never leave The Bomb behind. You’ll need it.
Seeing his bugged-out eyes, I released The Bomb by pulling a convenient lever that was under my gauges.
The car began slowly rolling forward.
Real life rudely invaded and I was back to being a small boy. It never occurred to me the bomb lever could be pulled again to stop the car. I didn’t know exactly what those pedals on the floor were for. All I could think was I’d be in trouble when Mom found her car. She’d never believe me if I “reminded” her she’d parked it at the end of the street. No longer pretending to fly an airplane, I realized I could get out and not fall thousands of feet to my death.
But I also had to stop the car. I opened the door and, while jumping out, figured I could just hold it in place. I gripped the armrest and braced my feet against the road. Oddly enough this didn’t help. A neighbor yelled for me to get away before I fell under a wheel, but what did he know about pretending to fly an airplane? After all, context is everything, and if I could successfully fly an airplane, blow up my enemy, and jump out of a moving car, all in one story, I could easily reverse events.
But real life continued its unsympathetic assault and I was forced to give up. Logically, there was only one possibility left, and that was hatching a Desperate Plan. Quickly I decided to; (1) fly inside, (2) tell Mom the car was rolling down the street all by itself (what else could’ve caused it?) and, (3) jump into bed, hide completely under the covers, and start a new story pretending I didn’t exist.
My airplane rolled to a crash against a sign post and would never fly again. I never learned if my enemy was truly destroyed. As for the real-life me, I think Mom was so thankful I wasn’t hurt she didn’t punish me. Or, at least I don’t remember what happened, other than vague recollections of a short lecture about true dangers to little boys pretending with very real machines as props.
Thus ended my first effort to fly an airplane. I would try other techniques to fly in the future, such as running around with a towel pretending to be a super hero. I learned an important lesson that day; a car is a poor thing to fly in.