I set my alarm clock for 4:00 AM and flew out to the writing cabin early. I intended to finish this short story by hook or by crook.
Lisa monitors my gyrocopter, and the lights were on at the cabin as I made my approach. I touched down and maneuvered onto the elevator that goes to the basement.
The smell of fresh coffee almost made me drool as I climbed the inside stairs. Lisa is the best assistant.
The rocket pack sat on the coffee table in my office, beside the fishbowl style helmet. My story couldn’t end until this thing flew one more time.
Clacking came downstairs from Lisa’s rooms. She wore her leather flight jacket, a body shirt, and a pair of thigh high boots that still needed zipped up. She leaned against the wingback chair and wrapped her hair into a bun.
She stomped each boot before zipping it up tight. “I think you’ve been stalling. This story doesn’t end until that rocket flys again.”
“It’s damaged, are you sure about this.”
She only gave one slow nod in answer, grabbed her helmet and balanced it on her hip.
“I’ll carry your rocket down.”
“No. You need to watch from the back porch. Take lots of notes. I’ll bring myself up on the elevator.”
I carried my coffee to the back porch. The freezing temperature made the fog rise from my cup. The first rays of sunlight punched through the trees and lit the runway in a surreal glow of fog and sun.
The machinery of the elevator engaged, and the door slid open revealing blackness in the basement. Tiny horizontal swirls of ground fog marked the moving of machinery. A mechanical clunk and the motor preceded her arrival.
I swear the moment required orchestral music and tympani. She looked so small on the flight elevator coming out of the darkness.
As she rose to the surface, the sun backlit her strawberry blonde hair. She put her helmet on, and clicked it into place. She already wore the rocket pack that would send her into the heavens.
She looked different somehow, more confident, stronger. No polka dots and pencil skirts, today Lisa was all business. I admit to having a tear in my eye, a combination of pride and concern.
“How you reading me, Boss?” I jumped at the hand radio she’d placed out ahead of time. Lisa thinks of everything.
“Five by Five.”
She snapped to the right and marched out onto the landing strip away from the elevator and cabin. The rising sun provided God’s own spotlight down to her knees. She gave me her best fist over the heart salute.
It’s been our thing since I wrote The Cock of the South. I returned the salute and she pointed at the sky with her right hand. When her arm came down, she hit the button on her crossed harnesses.
Fire lit up the meadow.
Smoke curled off the runway obscuring my vision. It rose higher than the cabin. Higher than the trees.
The noise of jet wash deafened me.
I looked frantically for the fire extinguisher. I couldn’t lose her after all we’ve been through.
Lisa rose on a pillar of flame against the blue black morning sky. Tears streamed down my face as she rose ever higher. At approximately two thousand feet, she trimmed her engine, and gained speed. Like a fiery arrow, she flashed across the morning sky until she faded out of sight.
I went to my knees, happy she didn’t explode, and dumbfounded by the sheer beauty of it all until I spilled coffee across my frozen wrist.
“This is Lisa Burton. Lisa to Writing Cabin, do you hear me?”
I keyed the radio. “I hear you. Are you alright?”
“I’m fabulous. You should see things from up here. It’s absolutely beautiful. I’ll try to bounce a signal off a satellite so you can stay with me.”
“Roger that. It looks like the repairs were a success.”
“Was there ever any doubt?”
“Yeah, a little.”
“Sometimes you have to launch anyway. Hey, you could use that for Yak Guy.”
“I’ll write the books around here. Better come home now.”
“No way. It’s weightless and beautiful up here. I’m making a couple of orbits while I have the chance. Since you write the books, why don’t you write the big launch scene just the way it looked this morning.”
“Roger that, and Lisa?”
“Enjoy yourself. You’ve earned it.”
Note: Lisa Burton is the most capable robotic assistant I know. I couldn’t have written this short story without her. I’m now calling it The Last Flight of the Rocket Men. Writing it in first person from the viewpoint of the rocket man was a bit of a challenge, but it’s now a complete draft.