Brian Robeson stared out the window of the small plane at the endless green northern wilderness below. It was a small plane, a Cessna 406—a bush plane—and the engine was so loud, so roaring and consuming and loud, that it ruined any chance for conversation.
Not that he had much to say. He was thirteen and the only passenger on the plane with a pilot named—what was it? Jim or Jake or something—who was in his mid-forties and who had been silent as he worked to prepare for take-off. In fact since Brian had come to the small airport in Hampton, New York to meet the plane—driven by his mother—the pilot had spoken only five words to him.
“Get in the copilot’s seat.”
Which Brian had done. They had taken off and that was the last of the conversation. There had been the initial excitement, of course. He had never flown in a single-engine plane before and to be sitting in the copilot’s seat with all the controls right there in front of him, all the instruments in his face as the plane clawed for altitude, jerking and sliding on the wind currents as the pilot took off, had been interesting and exciting. . . .
Now Brian sat, looking out the window with the roar thundering through his ears, and tried to catalog what had led up to his taking this flight.
The thinking started.
Always it started with a single word.
It was an ugly word, he thought. A tearing, ugly word that meant fights and yelling, lawyers—God, he thought, how he hated lawyers who sat with their comfortable smiles and tried to explain to him in legal terms how all that he lived in was coming apart—and the breaking and shattering of all the solid things. His home, his life—all the solid things. Divorce. A breaking word, an ugly breaking word.
No, not secrets so much as just the Secret. What he knew and had not told anybody, what he knew about his mother that had caused the divorce, what he knew, what he knew—the Secret.
Brian felt his eyes beginning to burn and knew there would be tears. He had cried for a time, but that was gone now. He didn’t cry now. . . .
The pilot sat large, his hands lightly on the wheel, feet on the rudder pedals. He seemed more a machine than a man, an extension of the plane. . . .
When he saw Brian look at him, the pilot seemed to open up a bit and he smiled. “Ever fly in the copilot’s seat before?” He leaned over and lifted the headset off his right ear and put it on his temple, yelling to overcome the sound of the engine.
Brian shook his head. . . .
“It’s not as complicated as it looks. Good plane like this almost flies itself.” The pilot shrugged. “Makes my job easy.” He took Brian’s left arm. “Here, put your hands on the controls, your feet on the rudder pedals, and I’ll show you what I mean.”
Brian shook his head. “I’d better not.”
“Sure. Try it. . . .”