Donald Dumplehoven worked his way heavily down the steep path cut in the rocks that led to the gift shop on the cliff edge. Simon, who had been walking behind him, moved off the path onto a high outcropping of rocks and opened his arms, feeling the ecstasy of flight. He could see the gift shop roof fifty feet below him and the Scottish lowlands stretching out beyond the cliff. His old thoughts of reservation came up. Just because you feel like flying you can’t just go ahead and do it — you have to be aware, always aware. Think what a shock it would be to people. No doubt about that. And then, what kind of trouble would you stir up? Your life would never be the same. People have way too much fear and far too little imagination. They might lock you up and let some military doctors attempt scurrilous scientific experiments on you. So many unknowns… Best to keep your little secret private. He took a deep breath. There just seemed to be something in the air today. It was like a taste, a flavor of permission. It was like the sky was telling him, “Do it. Don’t ask why. Just know everything depends on it.”

He trusted the sky. Wasn’t it listening to the sky voice that gave him courage to fly in the first place? So there had to be some good reason. He closed my eyes and took a deep breath. “Why not?” he whispered and dove. Donald looked up and saw him skimming over the rocks. Simon swooped up, did a front somersault and landed gently beside him.

“I can’t believe you just did that,” Donald stammered as he looked around to see what others were going to do. No one else seemed to have noticed. Simon smiled and walked into shop. “There is a reason, Donald,” he said over his shoulder as he held the door open for him. That wasn’t enough for Donald. He was indisputably shaken.

The shop was crowed and Simon started walking slowly up an aisle, looking casually at the typical tourist gifts: medallions, posters, post cards, knives that said Scalling Heights on their handles. Donald came up behind him and started talking fast and loud, as he always did when he was agitated. He had lost it and had no awareness of the people around them. “Fuck, Simon, you can’t just fly whenever you want you know. What got into you? That isn’t like you. What if they arrested you for… “

“For what, Donald?” Simon asked looking around to see if anyone was listening. People milled around and seemed to be engaged in shopping, but Simon knew, people do listen, even though they pretend not to.

“I don’t know: for flying without a license — for disturbing the birds. How do I know? The point us, you just can’t fly whenever you want to.”

That is when Simon saw her, standing near the door that led to the observation deck. She pretended to be looking at a rack of post cards, but her whole body was listening to them. He could tell that right away. You don’t get to fly without becoming damn sensitive. His heart smiled so big that his face couldn’t hold it back. He wanted to shout ‘thank you’ to the sky. The sky heard his want and took it as a shout. He walked up to her, caught her eye for just a second, opened the door and went out on the deck. Donald followed, still huffing mad.

“Look, if you ever break the rules and do that again, I’ll, I’ll…”

“What, clip my wings? I can fly whenever my heart tells me to, Donald The sky just told me to: very clearly. The birds said yes as well. What else can I do? If I don’t follow the voices of freedom then it won’t be long and the gift will be gone.”

She came out. Her eyes were cast down on the ground and Simon could tell she was wresting with her shyness like he did. Then, she obviously heard something in her that gave her a surge of courage because she walked right up to him and looked him straight in the eyes. “Can you really fly?” she asked.

When a woman demands an honest answer with such passion, there is nothing to do but give her one. “Yes I can. Just like you,” Simon answered. There was no doubt about it. She was a flyer. He could feel it in her: that lightness, that open, spacious freedom. She kept it hidden from other eyes, but flyers can sense someone like them. There is no way around it. She seemed shocked. Her eyes showed she was struggling with what to say. It is no little thing to suddenly reveal a secret you have kept from everyone your whole life.

“How can you say such a thing?” she stammered and her eyes dropped.

“Look, you asked me an honest question and I gave you an honest answer. I broke my own rules today. That’s why Donald here is so upset. He is the only one who knows. Sorry Donald, but this is the reason why. The sky knew it. We just met another bird. And what a pretty one.” Donald was still flabbergasted, but he had full well noticed how beautiful she was, and even in his present state he probably felt the lightness of her being as well. He just stared at them, rocking from one foot to the other like he had to go pee real bad. Simon turned back to her. “You can ask an honest question, but can you give an honest answer as well?”

“Yes, of course… I mean, well it depends.”

“On who asks? I know what you’re feeling. I mean, how can you know who to trust, right? And what if you got it all wrong and we are talking about completely different things here? But I can feel you, and if you would just calm down you would feel me too, and then you would know and answer honestly, like you should.”

She shook her head, as if she was trying to clear it. “Look, you can’t just burst into someone’s life like this.”

“Oh really? I don’t remember saying anything to you. Did I Donald? Did I go up to this lady and interrupt her, or accost her, or threaten her, or even invite her for tea?”

“No,” Donald muttered. He was calming down. Donald wasn’t a flyer. He was about as far away from it as you can get. He was more of a stone. Perhaps that’s why Simon trusted him. He was stone simple, and sincere: basically way to simple in his mind to complicate things with lofty ideas and ambitious plans. He was just a friend to confide in, like you would tell your secrets to a dog. Perhaps that isn’t a fair comparison, unless you step back and consider that the virtues of even a half way decent dog far outweigh those of most upright citizens.

Simon felt the joy of certainty. He had risked a lot, but she was worth risking everything. He knew that the moment he saw her. She was thin and tall with rather soft facial features. Not the kind of softness that expresses some inner weakness, but soft as in tender and aware. You can’t guess the weight of a flyer, because they have too much lightness in them. It throws you off. But she was light. Her hair was like straw, or sunshine in Italy. She was a loner, like him. She loved to write her thoughts down and work them around until they seemed beautiful to her, just like he did. She just didn’t fit at all in this world — just like him. He knew all that. It wasn’t mind reading; it was resonance. Resonance is what it was all about. Another thing the sky taught him. He just looked at her and smiled until she grew uncomfortable and turned away.

A woman came out on the deck with her little girl. Simon walked over and knelt next to the girl. “Hi, my name is Simon. Nice to see you here,” he said. She half hid behind her mother’s skirt. The woman smiled, but with reservations. It wasn’t normal to be so open with people you don’t know. “We were just talking about flying. Can you fly?” Simon asked the girl and smiled. Donald shook his head and groaned. The little girl half smiled back and nodded no. “No? Well, perhaps that’s because no one has shown you what’s possible. Now I can fly, and you see that lady over there who’s pretending she doesn’t know us, well she can fly too. Isn’t that right lady? Say, what’s your name anyway?”

She glared at him, then softened, “Lucy,” she answered.

“No its not. You name isn’t Lucy and you know it. You aren’t doing too well with this honesty thing today are you?”

“How do you know my name isn’t Lucy?”

“The sky told me,” Simon answered with a smile.

“Okay… okay,” she said, softening some more, “It’s Albert.”

Simon laughed. “Well, Albert can fly. She won’t admit it yet, but she is having a let’s tell a whole pack of little lies day. It happens to the best of us, especially when we feel our world falling apart. She scowled at him. Simon smiled. “Anyway, what is your name?” he asked the little girl who was now peering around her mother’s skirts, extremely interested in what was going on.

“Melinda,” she answered.

“And your age? You knew I was going to ask that, didn’t you? Big people always ask that.”

“Uh huh,” she nodded in agreement. “I’m four.”

“Exactly,” Simon answered. Melinda’s mother smiled at them. It always seems to relax people when their children are being cute. “Well, Melinda, would you like to see me fly… I mean really fly?” Donald almost fainted. Albert became agitated, like she wanted to either run or scream or just get woozy like Donald.

“Sure, I guess so,” Melinda answered, thinking she was playing along with a little joke she didn’t get yet. Melinda’s mother warmed up even more, as if she now figured out that Simon must be a street performer, so his overt friendliness was okay.

The observation deck hung out over the dark, basalt cliffs that dropped almost 100 meters down to rocky outcroppings and a meadow. Simon jumped up on the wall and Melinda gasped. Melinda’s mother’s smile dimmed a bit but she had confidence in the skills of street performers and expected him to fully entertain them. Simon looked over at Albert. She was biting a nail and a little worried girl gazed back at him. Donald in the meanwhile slumped against the building in complete resignation that the world as he knew it was just about to come to an end. With a wink at Melinda Simon put both hands together as if in prayer, then opened his arms wide to the skies. A huge smile broke through his face, as if an inner sun was shining. He then surrendered fully and tipped off the wall into space. Melinda screamed and her mother suddenly turned ash white. A horrible thought passed through her mind that she had unwittingly encouraged a man to commit suicide. Albert sighed and Donald just sagged with his hand over his eyes and his mouth half open. There was a long awkward silence. Finally Donald sighed and said, “Don’t worry Mame, he’s okay. You’ll see.

Albert blew out a breath in resignation and walked over to the wall. She could see Simon arching up out of his fall and soaring over the green meadow. She couldn’t help but smile, then turned to Donald and started laughing, suddenly relieved with the realization that she wasn’t alone anymore, that this sudden change was perhaps something wonderful after all. Donald shook his head, and then smiled too. It was too late to change things now anyways. The die was cast, and Albert’s joy was at least a relief. Albert went over and smiled at Melinda’s mother to assure her. Then she bent down, “Would you like to see something more beautiful than anything you have ever dreamed of before?” she asked Melinda.

“Yes,” she answered, suddenly okay with the whole thing and back in her being entertained mode. Albert took her hand and motioned with her head for Melinda’s mom to follow her. They walked to the wall and Albert said, “Look…” pointing out over the meadow below. There he was, coming towards them, soaring like some great crane over the grass tops. Then he arched up, flying with increasing speed, his arms wide open as if he was an opera singer in the crescendo of a song. Up, up he came until he reached the peak just opposite them, then smiled and stepped from the air back onto the wall. Melinda’s eyes were wide open. She didn’t know whether to scream or laugh. Her mother seemed to be in half a hysteria and confused. She was looking for strings, for a crane above, hoping for hidden cameras, for some explanation that would hold her world together. Simon jumped off the wall and looked Albert right in the eyes. “Now, what’s your name again?” he asked quietly.

“Jill Claybone,” she answered, and felt a surprisingly strong dignity, as if, somehow, she was announcing the name of a queen.

“Ah, Jill Claybone, how very happy I am to meet you at last. You know I’ve been dreaming of you since I was a little boy.”

“Really? Do you mean…? You know, I’ve been dreaming of you too. But you were too good to be real. Are you too good to be real, Simon?”

“Too good? No, not yet, never,” he said with a laugh, spinning around and around.


Blake Steele

Molkom, Sweden

  • Artist
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Artist's Description

Image, The Joy of Life by Igor Zenin with many thanks to him. (Go see his work, it is magical!)

*This is the beginning of something… I’ll work on it some more sometime. I like the feel of it and where it may go. I’m a bit partial to joy and freedom.

So many people dream of flying. Is it because we can? I mean in our essence, in this Life we are that emerges out of our clay and bone shell when it splits open like a frail cocoon, in that wild, dark birthing moment that comes upon us all.*

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