Reno

2009

It’s September in Nevada – the air is sticky with heat. The sun is brighter in Nevada – and hotter. My cousin Megan and I sit inside the hangar to avoid the sun for a while. We try to talk over the roar of engines echoing against the metal walls.

When we get bored we step outside and look up at the airplanes zipping above our heads with a zzz, about to complete another lap. They have many more to go. I think about my dad and my stomach knots – it’s his race next and I’m a little worried. He’s a good pilot though, I tell myself, he’ll be safe.

My mom and brother and sister and I don’t usually go to watch my dad fly at the Reno Air Races, but this year we do. I don’t know why – maybe because I’m thirteen now and Nathan’s ten so we’re old enough to watch over ourselves.

Mom and Aunt Dawn and Grandma Marilyn are playing cards in the shade behind the table with our for-sale T shirts on display. We’ve actually sold a few, to my surprise.

I ask Megan if she wants to ride our Razor scooters and she says yes, so we pick them up (hers has a pink bow, mine’s gold), carry them past the airplanes on display, and through the throngs of spectators. There are lots of middle-aged men with red baseball caps and khaki shorts. Their cheeks are as red as their hats.

Megan and I ride down the runway, side by side. The runway is long and straight and the asphalt is smooth – the wheels glide over the surface like bread on butter. And I push faster, faster, until I feel like I’m flying too. I’m moving at the speed of the airplanes above my head. Megan and I ride on, past the crowds and the bleachers, past the airplanes at rest. We reach the caution tape and decide to turn back. We want to wish my dad good luck before his race starts.

When Megan and I arrive at the hangar, I see my dad putting his jumpsuit on, then his headset. He climbs onto the T-6’s wing and then into the front seat. He buckles his seatbelt. And then he starts the engine and the propellers come alive. My face flushes with pride as the spectators applaud.

The plane begins to inch forward. Everyone backs up to give my dad space. The plane rolls slowly along the runway, moving in the direction of the starting line. Its fresh coat of paint shines against the Nevada sun. It’s beaming with confidence – ready to compete, ready to win. It knows that people are counting on it.

The fellow competitors arrive at the starting line. We wait and watch. And then the race starts, the planes take off one by one. The sound of engines rings in my ears. I pick out my dad from the sky and keep my eyes fixed on him. That’s my dad, I think, that’s my dad.

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