The Boy Who Could Fly - Somewhat


The boy had done it often, but up to this point, only in his dreams. In his dreams, his frequent, recurring dreams, he could fly. Not just fly, mind you, but soar. Launching with force from the earth, his body would be propelled into the winds, where he would glide, almost effortlessly, for hours on end. Rising above the terrain, he would speed past lush green hills, tightly bank around pine trees, and generally whiz through the air with the greatest of ease.

The visions were similar, and the mechanics of flight always remained the same, but the events surrounding his ascensions tended to vary from night to night. In some episodes, he would fly to elude capture by some person who meant him evil. On other adventures, the experience seemed completely recreational. But the way in which he would take to the air was entirely consistent, and very lifelike. And it was for these reasons that the boy had come to the knowledge that he could, indeed, fly, if only he had the determination to see it through.

The boy’s classmates had turned this aerial fixation into a weapon with which to torment the child. Long after he had stopped discussing the subject, they continued, delighting in his embarrassment, taking joy from his hurt. A small cadre of assassins took his aspirations and fashioned them into a crude dagger, which they would take turns in driving into his heart. Children such as these did not understand inspiration; they only sought the comfort of conformity. When some young soul attempted to strike out on his own, they felt power in dragging him back to the mundane, using ridicule and scorn as a lasso.

Adults in the boy’s small world were hardly supportive either. Most made their small wounds in his spirit with a patronizing smile and a cutting comment. Others chose to impale him with patient arguments of logic and reason, those two jewels of the human defense mechanism, and the main hindrances of genius throughout human history. After allowing many to momentarily gaze upon his passion, he discovered no one in his corner, no one to cheer him on.

So the boy learned to keep his secret, and to protect his imagination from unnecessary exposure to critical thinking. Quietly, at home after school, before his parents returned from their jobs, (the only time he could be sure that no one was watching), the boy would run very fast over great distances, making every effort to spring into the air. He felt that if he could remember the exact muscle movements used in his dreams, and repeat the process, he might also duplicate the result. To his frustration, none of his attempts to achieve lift met with any success, and he gradually settled into the realization that just because something worked in a particular way in a dream, it didn’t necessarily have to work that way when awake.

Rather than just abandon the project, the boy began to dramatically modify the way in which he hoped to relieve himself of contact with the ground. He dismissed the notion that he could just rocket into the heavens, as he had nothing with which to generate thrust. After experimenting with cardboard (with his initial intention being to glide off of the shed roof), he noticed that the air provided some degree of resistance, and the boy could almost feel his body moving upward when he flapped the sheets in front of him. Not so promising, however, was the poor resilience of the cardboard, which was quickly bent and unusable after only a few trials.

The cardboard, though, had given the child a new perspective.  The boy was now convinced that, as birds generated thrust with the rapid movements of their wings, so too must he. He remembered having seen some thin pieces of aspen lying in the shed, each about eight inches in width, with a length of just over one foot. These thin pieces of wood had a peculiar texture to them, and the child had not seen anything like it before. He guessed that uneven exposure to the weather had cause the deformity, but decided that they would have to do for now. His father had been using the aspen in the construction of a dollhouse for his younger sister, and these pieces had been left over. The boy now securely taped one board under the top half of each arm, with the boards being attached so that they were sandwiched between the sides of his torso and the inside of his biceps when his arms were at rest. When he folded his arms and tucked his thumbs in his armpits, the child had wings.

He had studied birds in various stages of flight, and he wondered whether he could flap his “wings” quickly enough to generate enough lift. For the first half hour with the modified appendages, the boy tried to aid his ascent by sprinting as he beat his arms, but eventually dismissed this method, as he found himself too uncoordinated to do both well at the same time. After a period of time to catch his breath, the boy resolved to stand perfectly still and to concentrate solely on the speed of his arms. He had been trying to fly for some two hours now, and his parents would be home soon. The boy felt a sense of urgency that produced in him a last reserve of determination, and an infusion of energy.  A sense of fatalism overtook him. He decided that he would either fly now or give up the whole scheme.

The child closed his eyes and imagined the taunts and teasing he had endured in school. He saw himself lifting off and whizzing over the houses, across the yards and dropping in before them as they played one of their stupid neighborhood games. He felt the glory of sweet revenge as he lifted off again and buzzed around their heads. The boy wasn’t sure if he would kick them in their heads, but he thought that he might.

I’ll do it this time, he said to himself. And the boy began to flap his arms very fast indeed, so fast as a matter of fact, that he could not feel them, and they began to seem as if they weren’t there. Then, a funny thing happened. The boy’s feet suddenly left the ground, gaining a height of just a few inches, (which wasn’t much but it was shocking enough that the boy stopped moving his arms and fell back down instantly).

Stunned, the boy stood there for a while and then screamed, “Yes!” loud enough that he was certain that his nosy neighbors must have heard, but the boy did not care. He could fly, or least he thought that, for a moment, he did fly. Now he fixed upon doing it again, but this time he would not stop.

Once again the boy started to flap his “wings” very fast, and once again his feet lost touch with the dirt, and as he continued his exertions, his body slowly began to rise. He didn’t fly so much as he floated, and the boy began to daydream about what would happen next. Now, he speculated, he would soar above his house, and maybe land on the roof. And then he would shake his fist at the world and…

The child’s rise had leveled off at between six and eight feet from the ground, and no matter how hard he kicked his legs and beat his arms, he did not fly so much as he hovered. Another bad turn was around the corner, as the boy began to weary of the exercise, and as he slowed his pace, he slowly sank down to his back yard. 

Tired but encouraged, the child spent the rest of that day and a not inconsiderable amount of each day following in his clandestine pursuit of winged human flight, but was never able to achieve more than an eight-foot climb. The boy tried different types of ‘wings’ but only the original pieces of aspen produced any lift at all. And every time he would rise and then level off, he would see in his mind’s eye the faces of his laughing friends, grabbing his legs and pulling him around, humiliating him as the floating boy. He would never prove them wrong, and he knew that they would forever torment him for having wasted so much time and effort on such a stupid idea in the first place. There was to be no revenge, he despaired, only more cruelty.

So, as time passed, the boy allowed his interest in human flight to fade away, and as he did, so did the taunts of the other children. The boy was satisfied. He was not happy, because now he knew that people weren’t birds and people can’t fly, and that he really was a moron for having tried, but at least he wasn’t a freak anymore. He would be more careful in the future.

Many months later, in the spring, the boy helped his father clean out the shed, and the man inquired as to the meaning of the tape-covered aspen boards. The boy pretended not to remember, and the wood was thrown in the back of the pickup truck for the trip to the landfill.




[Collected Works of J.L. Harrison] [dark_somber] [EINE KLEINE HÖLLE MUSIK.] [The Sand-mine.] [The Boy Who Could Fly - Somewhat] [The Grass is Always Meaner] [Agnes Bowers] [The Sponge] [Keeping the Faith] [Words That Hurt] [Templeton's Laughing Clock] [A Mother's Karma] [Channeling Poe] [scenes_past] [scholarly] [My Blog]