The more he thought about it, the less likely it seemed that his plan could actually work. After all, the laws of physics, unlike the laws of man, were not meant to be broken.
Still, he attacked the task at hand with resolve, a dogged persistence he’d never applied to any other endeavor. Sweat trickled down his pimpled forehead, stung his eyes, and kept right on moving down. Another reminder of gravity. Stupid gravity.
Bobby had no illusions. He knew his Earthly limitations. He’d grown up without a dad, gave up on school half way through tenth grade, and finally got a job busing tables at Red Lobster off I-79 after his mama told him he had to carry his own weight. Girls didn’t like him because he had no money. The world was not a happy place for him. But the sky…
Ever since he was a little boy, Bobby Carl Carter loved the big blue sky. Vast, endless, filled with puffy clouds. Clouds which looked clean and soft, like he thought the beds would look in heaven. His grandma talked to him about heaven, told him there’d be angels and harp music and something called manna and honey. But when he thought of heaven, he imagined those fluffy clouds, like the cotton from a pill bottle, and you’d hop from one to the other, and fall down into their softness. There’d never be rain, or storms, just blissful blue and white.
But he loved storms, too. Loved the majesty of the lightning, like God tossing spears at the Earth, just to keep us on our toes. He imagined God like Zeus, or Neptune, with a stern visage, white beard, and wearing a crown. Carrying around those lightning bolts, standing on a cloud preparing to launch them down on his unsuspecting subjects. Then laughing. God’s laughter was the thunder you hear after the lightning strikes. His grandma probably wouldn’t like his interpretation.
Bobby wiped the sweat from his eyes with a dirty bandana, and tightened the nut another turn. He wanted to add another coat of paint, but had used it all, and didn’t have money to buy more. It looked pretty good, though.
Mama would be home from work soon, and she would ask him what the heck he was doing. He needed to change for work in case she came home early. He left the garage and ran up to his room, found his black pants and white shirt on the floor where he’d left them last night, and quickly changed. They smelled of fish and grease. He didn’t have time to scrub the paint from his hands. A large drop of robin’s egg blue graced the toe of his Chuck Taylors.
While driving up the highway toward Bear Mountain, Bobby felt afraid but alive. The blueness of the sky was broken here or there with his favorite sort of cloud. They studied them back in school, but he couldn’t think of the name. Started with a "c" maybe. He felt his mind being pulled to the clouds, and forced himself to concentrate on the road. The ancient red sedan with the gray driver’s door sputtered in protest as the road became steeper, but he knew it would make it, as it had many times before.
He pulled the car into his usual spot in the empty parking lot. People only came to Lookout Point at night. Teenagers, mostly, to make out. Bobby came during the day to be closer to the sky. He opened the trunk to get his gear. The paint was dry. He gathered the white and blue bungee chords and the bright orange life vest he’d stolen from the boat dock.
As he attached the lightweight aluminum wings to the vest with the bungee chords, he felt an exhilaration that began at his feet, and bubbled all the way up through his stomach and into his face. His mouth contorted into a smile. He beamed with a sense of purpose, a meaning to all that had gone before. No thought for tomorrow or next year of ever, just now. Just this minute.
He walked to the edge of the lookout and struggled into the awkward contraption, fastening the straps of the life vest tightly around him. He breathed deeply as if he’d never breathed before. As if this moment was his first taste of oxygen. The sky was bluer up here. The clouds looked so close he could reach out and touch them.
Bobby Carter climbed up on the stone wall as he had hundreds of times before. His heart pounded in his skinny chest. He kept his eyes on a particular cloud, the fluffiest, whitest, most beautiful. It invited him, and this time he was prepared to accept its invitation.
He opened his arms wide, and fell. He never closed his eyes, just kept them focused on that cloud. As he dropped, he never doubted. A current of air caught him, lifting him high into the blue sky, the color of robin’s eggs.
Vickie Clasby resides in Franklin, Tennessee, with her husband, thirteen-year-old daughter, eleven-year-old twin sons, two cats, and a crazed Husky mix dog. She works as a business analyst for a major healthcare company. After completing a BA in English, she taught Freshmen Composition for what seemed like years but was in fact only months. Realizing she was not well suited for academic life, she worked at various jobs before returning to school, passing the CPA exam and beginning a career which does not embarrass her family, who hoped she’d get this writing thing out of her system. Her life is filled with corporate drama, domestic chaos, and endless writing material.