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Solo

Toploader's playing as Louise takes off in her striped Cessna,



its orange tail-light winking. It'll be nothing but a dot in the photo,



the runway's so far away. I wait, eat lemon cake.



 



Aircraft are lined up, windows masked in canvas.



Helicopter rotor blades droop, their enormous heads still.



I've never flown in a light plane, though they kept my father



away for months. A man opposite has just landed.



He wears a Jersey Aero Club shirt, finishes a full roast lunch,



scanning the airfield until he spots a Piper, his friend a Cherokee.



 



I have to stop myself butting in, as if they're talking about a friend



I haven't seen for years, I know the names so well.



 



Everything's still like a film set. The sound of propellers on tarmac,



pilots in dark glasses, orange wind sock inflated, so solid,



ice-cream in tall glasses, even the storm clouds fixed



over Lancing college. There's no other verb to fly.



 



By now Louise should be heading for the A27, where it disappears



into a tunnel. I've remembered the mantlepiece at home,



a shrine to planes, my father's throwaway remark,



"too many medicals", when I asked why he stopped flying solo.

 
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