Joe takes an unexpected trip
|Pulling the front door of his terraced home shut behind him, Joe adjusted his jacket and sucked in the fresh air. A day of torrential rain, followed by three days of constant drizzle, had given way to a bright, warm and humid morning. His front garden, if it actually qualified as one, stretched barely six feet before it reached the low wall and the dilapidated gate.
Of the wooden picket variety, the gate had not done well in the recent weather. It had never seen a lick of paint after it was installed, and that had probably been before Joe was born. Whatever scraps of paint that clung tenaciously to it before the deluge were now gone. Sometime during the night, it had swung open, a fact that annoyed him. Stepping out onto the street, Joe attempted to close it, but it wouldn't comply. Thoroughly soaked, it was swollen beyond the point of capability.
Yanking the gate as hard as he could, several times, all it did was bang against the post - loud enough that other pedestrians turned to observe. It wasn't going to shut this way, so he went back into his garden, closed the gate as much as he could, and kicked it and kicked it and kicked it, until it finally wedged itself home.
"Great," Joe muttered. Now he was on the wrong side of the gate. With one hand on top of the wall, he swung his legs over it in as graceful a manner as he could, just in case anyone was watching, and for some reason remembered something that Douglas Adams' had said. "There is an art, or rather a knack to flying, which involves throwing yourself at the ground and missing it." Much to Joe's surprise, he missed the ground.
He didn’t just stop there in midair. That would have been a novice manoeuvre and very amateurish, although it has to be said that it would have proven quite spectacular. No, not for Joe. Without even thinking about it, he found himself accelerating down the pavement at a great rate of knots. With a little dismay he found his accuracy somewhat lacking, and he couldn't control himself enough to stick to the pavement. His fledgling flight came abruptly to an end when he crashed into the fender of a parked car, rolled over the bonnet, up the windscreen, over the roof and finally came to rest in a heap in the middle of the road. There was pain, and a ringing in his ears, but he was far too amazed at his feat to care.
A moment or two later, a couple came running over to him.
"Are you alright?" asked the clearly concerned young woman.
"I was flying!" Joe tried to say. It came out as a croak.
"That you were," said the young man. Joe remembered he'd recently left the army, and was married to the woman. Army took off his jacket and put it gently under Joe's head, then started running his hands along his limbs, obviously looking for broken bones.
"I was really flying," he said a little louder and with some conviction, allowing the wonder and awe he felt to show.
"Do you think he's concussed?" Army Wife asked, worried.
"Probably in shock," Army said. "No broken bones as far as I can tell. Don't move mate, just rest easy. Best not to take chances with your neck, right? You might have a broken a rib or two, but I guess you'll be ok."
"Any landing you can walk away from is a good one, right?" Joe quipped, still beaming. Army laughed, but his wife seemed to be getting more concerned.
"They'll be here in a minute," said another man stepping into view. Joe's vision consisted pretty much of a patch of sky and three concerned faces. No, make that two. Army seemed pretty relaxed.
"Who's coming?” Joe asked. “Reporters?"
"I think they'll be the least of your problems," the new guy told him.
"Shut up," Army said sternly to New Guy. "You just relax,” he said soothingly to Joe. “Everything is gonna be fine. Ambulance is on it's way. Nothing to worry about, just a precaution. First time solo?"
"Yeah. Wasn't it awesome? Did you see?"
"I did see, and yeah, it was pretty awesome," said Army smiling encouragement. "Landing was a bit rough though. I think you're supposed to avoid obstacles, and use the undercarriage, eh?"
"I'll remember that for next time." Joe couldn't stop smiling.
A minute later, sirens announced the approach of the ambulance - and the police and the fire brigade.
"What happened here? Knocked down?" asked a green-clad paramedic coming into view. The others parted to make way for him.
"Nope," Army said. "Went flying. Covered about forty feet, and would probably have gone further if that car hadn't been in his way."
The medic whistled appreciatively.
For the next few minutes, Joe excitedly told the medic about his unexpected flight. A neck-brace was attached, he was rechecked for obvious breaks, then was hoisted onto a gurney. It was only when they were loading him into the ambulance and was tilted, giving him a better view of the road, that he realised something was badly wrong.
There was a fire crew hosing down the rubble that used to be his neighbour's house. His own home hadn't fared too well either. Someone out of his line-of-sight said something about a gas leak.