Home > NaNoWriMo 2011 > Day One Hundred and Eighty-seven: Up, Up, and Away

Day One Hundred and Eighty-seven: Up, Up, and Away

Daniel hovered about three feet in the air so he could get at the top of his bookcases with a damp cloth. “No, Jeff,” he said again.

“But Danny, c’mon!”

Daniel swiped away a few months worth of dust and wondered if he should clean more often. “No, Jeff,” he said. “I’m not taking you flying, and that’s all there is to it.”

His friend dropped onto the sofa in a classic sulk, and Daniel rolled his eyes. “Look, Jeff,” he said. “It’s just not a good idea, is all. Okay?”

“Okay?” Jeff glared at him from under black bangs. “It’s not okay, man. Look at you!” He thrust his hand out at Daniel, who looked down.

Okay. He was floating, which he figured was probably really cool if you weren’t used to doing it. But Jeff hadn’t said that he wanted to float – he wanted to fly.

“I just don’t know why you won’t share,” Jeff said. “Did I tell anyone when I found out you could fly? No.” He leaned forward, jabbing his finger as he spoke. “Because I’m your friend, Danny. I’m your… your…”

“You’re my Jimmy Olsen, yes.” Daniel turned in mid-air and looked down on his friend, arms crossed. “You’ve told me this before.”

“And it’s all true!” Jeff stood up and walked over to him, his neck craning to look up. “You can trust me, man. Just take me up. Just once. Quick trip around the block, that’s all I’m asking for.” He stared up at him, his eyes expectant. “Huh?”

Daniel dropped to the floor with a thud. “That’s it, huh?” He crooked a finger. “C’mere.”

“What?”

“Just come here.” Daniel looked Jeff up and down. “How much do you weigh?”

“Dude!”

“Just… How much, Jeff?”

His friend shrugged. “Maybe one eighty-five, one ninety?”

“Right.” Daniel reached down and, with a little effort, lifted his friend in his arms. He staggered slightly under the weight. “Seriously?” he asked. “Maybe one ninety?”

Jeff tried to shrug. “Maybe a little more,” he said. “But…” He looked at the arms holding him up. “Um. What’re you doing, Danny?”

Daniel was already gritting his teeth, but tried not to show it. “How long do you think I can hold you like this, Jeff?” he asked. Jeff looked like he was thinking, but Daniel didn’t let him answer. “Ow. Get down.” He nearly dropped his friend to the floor. Jeff got his feet under him while Daniel rubbed his arms. “Jesus,” he said. “I need to lift weights or something.”

He looked over at Jeff, who was eyeing him with suspicion. “Look, Jeff,” he said. “Imagine that right there from fifty feet up.”

Jeff blinked. “Oh.”

“Yeah,” Daniel said. “Being able to fly doesn’t make me Superman. I can’t carry any more than I normally could, and I’m sorry to say that I can’t carry you very far, Jeff. On land or in the air.”

Jeff nodded, slowly. “Okay,” he said quietly. “But what about -”

“No,” Daniel said, slashing his hand through the air. “Jeff, there’s just no way around it, okay? I’m sorry, but that’s it.”

Jeff looked genuinely hurt. His big shoulders slumped and he slouched over to the sofa where he collapsed against one arm. He stared at the TV, but didn’t turn it on. Daniel knew this sulk well.

“Look, Jeff,” he said. “I know it sounds like a lot of fun, and yeah. Sometimes it is. But other times?” He sat next to his friend, who didn’t look at him. “It’s cold when you go up high. The wind means you can’t see anything without goggles, and your hair gets blown all to hell. And god forbid there should be rain.” He leaned back on the sofa. “Making sure you don’t hit power lines while you’re cruising. Small airports. And bugs – Jeff, you would not believe how many bugs are up there all the time.”

Jeff glanced over. “Bugs?”

“Yeah. Tons of them.” He started counting off on his fingers. “Bugs and birds, bats if you’re flying at night. And then there are the people down below who think they see something, so they call the cops on you – and how’re you going to explain that?” He patted his friend’s shoulder. “It’s not everything the comics make it out to be, man,” he said.

Jeff looked over at him for a moment, and then shook his head. “You just don’t know what you got,” he said.

He got up off the sofa and tugged his shirt down. “I’m gonna take off,” he said.

Daniel saw him to the door. “Jeff, I’m sorry I was such a… A bummer about this. You gotta know I’m not trying to be a dick. Right?”

Jeff nodded. “Yeah, man,” he said. “I know.” He gave Daniel’s shoulder a perfunctory punch and then headed out the door. Daniel watched him through the window, sighed, and went back to cleaning.

An hour later, his phone rang while he was in the middle of doing dishes. He toweled off and answered it. “Yeah?” he said.

“Danny, it’s Jeff!” His friend seemed to be shouting for some reason.

“Jeff? Where are you?”

“I’m standing on top of the Calcara Art Museum downtown!” Jeff yelled.

“Art museum? What the hell are you -”

“Danny, I’m gonna wait five minutes and then jump! You gotta come get me, okay?”

Daniel’s stomach dropped. “What? Jeff, what are you doing? Talk to me J-”

There was a noise like wind whistling past the phone, and then the call ended.

“Shit,” Daniel said. “Shit, shit, shit.” He ran to the front hall and grabbed his leather jacket and motorcycle helmet. He’d never known Jeff to be suicidal, but he had known him to be dramatic, and Daniel was afraid that right now Jeff might be confusing the two. He shoved the helmet on and zipped up the jacket as he jumped off his balcony and soared out over his neighborhood, praying that no one was looking up.

The art museum was in downtown, which was to the northeast. He curved to the right, keeping an eye on the Cerbecorp Tower, and poured on the speed.

Finding the art museum from above was difficult. He knew the city, but he knew it from ground level. Up in the air it was mostly just a bunch of grey rectangles, and if it hadn’t been for the small crowd that was clustered against the wall of one of those rectangles, he probably would have missed it. He swooped down and saw Jeff on the ledge. The crowd spotted him first, and people began to point and aim their cell phones at him. Daniel cursed under his breath. Then Jeff turned around, gave him a wave, and stepped off the edge of the building.

The museum was only six floors high. A fall from that height would take just over two seconds.

Daniel reached him in a second and a half.

He wrapped his arms under his friend’s armpits and started yelling before their feet touched the concrete of the sidewalk. Daniel was ready to rip off his helmet and beat Jeff with it, but the crowd surrounded them, taking pictures and asking questions and yelling all kinds of things all at once.

Jeff was beaming, and Daniel wanted to slap the smile right off him. “We’re not finished,” he said, jabbing a finger in Jeff’s chest. Without another word, he took off, straight up into the sky, ignoring the collective amazement of the crowd. He shot up as far has he could go, past the thin clouds and into the cold, clear air. He was breathing heavy and sweating in the helmet, but he could already feel the cold around him. He needed that. He needed something to cool him down, because if he went back the way he was, he would probably say things to Jeff that couldn’t be unsaid. Things that would be mean and hurtful and unfair.

Instead he stayed there, up above the clouds, and waited for his heart to slow and his mind to become calm. He watched a jet pass by and considered waving at it.

This was going to take a while.

*****

Daniel King’s page on 30characters.com

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