Of Books and Fighter Planes
Copyright 2018 by Anne Organista
instances, teaching has made me a private spectator to the
breakthroughs in my students’ learning. There is never as much
joy in watching a person’s (be it child or adult) sense of
wonder awakened and witnessing a discovery found in the most unlikely
snapped shut his locker and slung his gym bag over his shoulder. The
walk to the library was short but he wished there was some other
place he could go. His shoulder bones ached from swimming practice.
Moreover, the weight of his gym bag made it worse. Couldn’t he
just walk home by himself, he wondered. Sure, the walk home was long,
but lying on his own bed was better than waiting forever in the
library. With hunched shoulders and hands in his pocket, he walked
out of the gym as the afternoon sun’s rays glared painfully
bright, blinding him for a second.
the distance, a group of older boys was playing basketball, their
voices raised in unison as one player made a quarter throw shot.
Raising an arm to shield his eyes from the sun, Simon stopped and
kid, wanna play?” one of them shouted at him.
turned without a word and cringed at the sound of their laughter as
he walked away. Ball games had never interested him. Ordinarily, he
would have wondered why he was different from other boys but after
some serious thought, he surmised being different didn’t really
matter. Playing with his Xbox and swimming were his favorite hobbies.
There was as much excitement there as in a basketball or football
game though he never understood the thrill the boys in his class felt
when they talked about the latest game. He didn’t know much
about them and didn’t care to know anyway. Swimming every day
after school or playing his video games was enough. His mother,
however, frowned upon video games on weekdays and the library
wouldn’t be such a drag if he could play the games on his
phone, he thought. But today was a weekday, so that was off the table
what a bummer,” he muttered, trudging slowly towards the
were leaving the library as he walked in. Checking the time on his
phone, he rolled his eyes realizing that his efforts at taking his
time walking were in vain. No matter how often he stopped at street
corners and walked at an incredibly slow pace, it took no more than
seven minutes to reach the library.
huge banner with the words ‘Welcome to Makers’ Day!’
ushered him to the place he dreaded. Rows of tables filled the south
side of the library and people were walking around, checking out one
table after another. His curiosity piqued, Simon went for a closer
look. On one table was a group of middle-aged women teaching young
girls how to knit; samples of their finished products hanging from a
miniature coat rack. Next to them was a couple of teenage boys,
presenting a scientific process on their laptop to a group of
students. Simon smirked as one boy used a laser pointer when he could
have easily used his finger. At the far end of the room, Simon
spotted a college-looking man assembling a model airplane, explaining
as he did so, to an avid audience of four elementary kids. He then
painted the plane silver, following the picture on the box perched
beside him. As the man showed off his finished product to the kids
who watched with fascination, Simon wondered if a model airplane
would be a more sensible gift to ask his mother for his birthday
rather than a video game.
he wandered off the rest of the tables, soft murmurs drew his
attention to a 3-D printer a few feet away from him. He’d never
seen one before but heard his teacher talk about it. The machine gave
off a low rhythmic hum as people watched the initial stage of a vase
being printed inside a glass enclosed case. “It’s
incredible isn’t it?” a woman gushed as the man
explained, “. . . it creates the object by laying down
successive layers of material until the object is created. Each of
these layers can be seen as a thinly sliced horizontal cross-section
of the eventual object.” Simon tried to squeeze in among the
people to get a better view of the printer but as the man held out
the completed vase for his audience to see, a throng of people rushed
in. With all the commotion, Simon’s jacket was pulled off his
shoulders while his backpack lay strewn on the floor. Before things
got out of control, he threw himself out of the crowd, thinking it
was better to get out alive.
Wasn’t that fun?” Simon said under his breath,
straightening his jacket.
circled the rest of the tables abuzz with activity. A sign that said
‘Want to learn how to code? It’s easy and fun!’
caught his attention, but the fine print underneath ‘Coding for
Girls’ turned him off. No wonder there were no takers, he
thought. The sign could easily have been “Coding for Dummies”;
as if girls didn’t have the intellectual acuity for coding.
the clock by the staircase, Simon turned on his heel and headed
towards the second floor where his mother worked. As he did so, he
felt a forceful tug at his gym bag. Looking down, a girl, not quite
reaching two feet, was holding out a basket of chocolate chip cookies
at his face.
money, kid. Sorry.”
pushed away from the basket she held and dashed for the stairs before
she could catch up with him. As he reached the top, he looked back
and saw the girl, hopping around the tables, offering her cookies to
whoever she met, unperturbed by his rather rude behavior.
He whispered in exasperation. “They smelled tasty too.”
was that, Simon?”
Petersen was craning her neck on the other side of the counter, her
glasses perched at the tip of her nose.
mom’s at the back. Want to browse around first?”
whatever...” his voice trailed off, wandering towards the
shelves that lined the walls.
in the library had been, at first, like a hobby for his mother. But
working outside the house, meeting people and helping students with
their research have given his mother a new purpose after his father
died. He was happy for her at first, until he realized he needed to
wait for her every day after school. Checking out the video games in
the library offered no respite either. His mother’s firm ‘no
computer games on weekdays’ policy made the waiting worse than
it already was.
computer games on weekdays, remember?”
it’s summer. I’m on vacation!” Simon pleaded.
rules apply, sweetheart. Those games are poison to your mind. Look
around you,” she continued, waving her hand around, “you’re
surrounded by books. Surely, there’s a book here you’d
first week passed and as Simon expected, it was a boring week. To
appease him, his mother promised they’d watch the new Avengers
movie tonight. While he looked forward to it, the promise didn’t
do much to arouse his interest.
now wished he had gone camping like the other boys in his class. But
he wanted to swim. He needed to train if he was making it to the
junior swimming team next year. It was the only sport he knew he
could do well. Watching athletes fight over a ball was too rough for
him, yet petty at the same time. He never liked contact sports.
Training as hard as he could and competing with himself suited him
just fine. There’s no one to blame but himself if he didn’t
make the team. And even if he did make it to the team next year, he
knew the mechanics and teamwork the sport demanded were far different
his mother taught him, is a deal people make all the time. ‘Can’t
have your cake and eat it too’ she reminded him. So he
compromised. Camp or swimming? Video games or training? He knew what
his choice would be. It didn’t make the choice any easier
books on the counter!” a library staff shouted to someone
inside the office. As he rolled his cart away, a book fell out of the
pile, tumbling on the hard floor with a loud crash. Simon turned and
stood transfixed at the colored images that splashed from the open
book. He walked towards it, crouched down and held the book with his
two hands. It was big and heavy, heavier than any book he ever held.
It had a glossy white cover, the pages thicker than usual, and with
more pictures than there were words.
a page, a bearded old man with a small, dark mole on his left cheek
stared back at Simon. It wasn’t however the man that held his
attention but the picture on the opposite page. The North American
P51 Mustang! His grandfather used to tell him stories of his
adventure with fighter jets during the war. The P51, he said, was
designed as an escort fighter for WWII bombers. It blasted enemy
trains and ships in Western Europe and destroyed Axis defenses before
they even knew what was coming.
next page drew Simon’s breath away as he raised his eyebrows in
awe at the sight of the B-29 Superfortress, what his grandfather
called the deadliest of all fighter jets. Advanced in design, the
B-29 was equipped with four engines, a fully pressurized fuselage,
central fire control systems, and remote-controlled machine gun
turrets. The famous B-29, Simon remembered, was the Enola Gay, the
one that dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima in 1945 and the
Bockscar which dropped the second bomb on Nagasaki three days later.
Simon gasped. His grandfather told him stories of the war like he’d
never thought before. Listening to him always made him imagine
himself in flight, swinging the plane himself, aiming for his target.
He felt his heart skip a beat as his grandfather’s words ran
back to him.
Simon, dropping a bomb in the middle of a war is not cool. But yes,
despite the risk of being shot down, it was one of the greatest
thrills I’ve ever experienced. One moment, you’re on land
running at about 150 miles per hour and then all of a sudden, you
feel this surge of speed, with the sea eighty feet below you! It’s
page after another, Simon’s eyes danced with excitement, as
they feasted on the fighter jets the Allied and Axis forces used in
WWII. His heart raced when another page showed in full color the
Republic P-47 Thunderbolt, nicknamed the Jug. Simon remembered his
grandfather saying that the Jug was a heavyweight, three feet wider
and four feet longer than the P-51. Yet, it moved fast and tore enemy
warplanes and ground targets to pieces.
enthralled by the images in the book, the library ceased to exist and
a story began to unfold in Simon’s mind. The sound of planes
roared over his head.
positioned his bird behind the enemy. The war cry of plane engines
pierced the sky. His P-51 Mustang singled out an enemy fighter,
shredding it before it had a chance to react. He latched on to the
tail of another, expertly balancing his stick and throttle. Then, his
finger poised over the trigger, aiming for the enemy's tail. Yes, he
knocked him out cold! Later, he dove back, veered to the left and
rolled over. Quickly, he dispatched another plane, his second kill in
a span of seconds.
you are. I’ve been looking everywhere for you!” Simon’s
mother broke in, silencing the piercing cry of fighter jets in
look happy...” his mother said, confused at the dazed look in
her son’s eyes.
we leaving?” he asked, not taking his eyes away from the book.
tell me you’ve forgotten our date?”
C’mon, Mom! I’m not your date. Um...” Simon paused,
his attention focused on the book once again. “Does the library
have WWII movies?”
What happened to the Avengers?”
can watch that another time. Please, Mom?”
smiled. “WWII it is. Wait here, I’ll check it out,”
she said, wiping off the sweat from his face with the palm of her
for the DVD collection, she wondered what had taken over her son. She
looked back and found him, still crouched on the ground, a look of
fascination on his young face.
like your boy has found a treasure,” Deirdre smiled at Simon’s
nodded, pleased. “Would appear so.”
later, she called out, “Simon, have the DVD! Ready? As they
walked out of the library, she turned to him and asked “So how
was your library visit today? Boring as usual?”
tilted his head and pressed his lips together. Books and fighter
planes, the library’s a cool place after all, he thought.
Turning to his mother, he said, “It’s okay, I guess.”
mother smiled. Boys will always be boys. She knew he’d never
admit that the library would be his favorite place this summer.Anne Organista is a freelance ESL teacher, writer and proofreader.
She has written and published articles on education in various
magazines. A frustrated writer, she still dreams of publishing her own
book someday. Anne lives in New Jersey with her husband.
of the message
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Another story by Anne
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