I’m a pilot.
After being married to Kurt for ten years, I’d learned to fly carefully. Every day was a journey into the unknown, flying by the seat of my pants, navigating unexpected turbulence. I’d become a master at keeping my mouth shut, at doing ‘the necessary.’
I met Kurt when I was seventeen. Papa had ruled our unhappy house with an iron fist. By the time Kurt noticed me, my brothers had all run away; I was the only one left at home with that mean old man.
Kurt was supposed to be my salvation. Like me, he was a church-goer. Almost forty, clean-shaven and neat, he seemed sweet, calling me ‘Miss Adele,’ holding doors open for me. Treated me like a princess, he did; that meant a lot. I wasn’t used to kind words and caresses. I took that man at face value. If I’d thought harder about things, I might have wondered why a man of almost forty wasn’t already married, especially a good looking one with a fine job – and why that man might be sniffing around a plain Jane like me.
After my experience with meanness, I should have known to fly above trouble, but hope can make a girl do stupid things.
Life was good at first. But one day, while Kurt was working, someone knocked at my door. Standing on the front porch was a thin woman with limp brown hair gathered loosely in a bun. She kept looking behind her. Her manner reminded me of one of them little rabbits Papa used to catch in his traps, desperate and wanting to bolt.
She got to the point. “He home?”
Her name was Sal; said she was Kurt’s ex.
Once I let her inside, the story came out. Told me she’d run off and left Kurt when she couldn’t take the beatings no more.
“You think he’s nice, don’t you? You won’t feel that way long. Soon as you do something he don’t like, he’s gonna use you as a whipping toy. Oh, he’ll apologize, tell you he loves you, act sad like you drove him to it. He’ll tell you he loves you while he’s beating the crap out of you. But them words don’t match his behavior. Actions speak louder than words.”
Guess she saw I didn’t believe her because she took a photo from her purse and shoved it at me. “Here, take a look at this. I dare you to look at that picture.”
I wanted her to leave. I didn’t want to hear her lies about Kurt.
She shook her head and frowned. “Are you afraid? Look, I don’t like being here, knowing he might come home any minute. I’m doing you a favor. I wish someone had warned me before I spent all them years as his punching bag. Go on, look! Uncertainty is worse!”
I looked then. My hands started shaking at the sight of a woman with a split lip and blackened eyes.
“That’s me after Kurt took exception to my not dusting behind one of the photographs sitting on our bureau. Nearly killed me that time. He likes things perfect.”
Maybe I didn’t want to believe her. I’d wanted out of Papa’s house so bad, I’d have probably gone off with anyone. I don’t know anymore; all I know is that I asked that good woman to leave. She’d come to do me a good turn, one I was too stupid to appreciate.
Sal looked sad. “You don’t get it, do you? You think it’ll be different for you. Well, it won’t. Men like Kurt never change. You and me, we oughta be sisters in arms. I’m sorry for you, but I guess you’ll just have to learn the hard way.”
She was right.
Three months into the marriage, Kurt started getting ugly with me. What Sal had said about his words being at odds with his behavior was the God’s truth. Always after me for little things: his shirts weren’t ironed the way he liked them; putting the canned goods away without alphabetizing them according to vegetable; towels hanging slightly crooked in the bathroom. Once I’d forgotten to make a little downward triangle of the toilet tissue hanging from the roll.
These were the kind of things that could down a pilot. So I learned to anticipate things, to look ahead for dangerous currents. I tried for perfection. Ten years, I tried to fly right.
But humans ain’t built for perfection; even the best fighter pilot sometimes gets shot down.
“I love you, baby. (slap) Why don’t you listen? (smack) Why do I have to discipline you? (punch) I work hard all day (shove) You know I love you, baby… why do you make me hurt you?” (punch)
Yes, he loved me more than life. If I was hurting, it was my own fault. I drove him to it.
He almost convinced me during those ten years – in spite of emergency room visits, or wearing sunglasses to hide bruised eyes, or long-sleeved shirts in summer to disguise arms covered with welts.
“I love you, baby.”
But punches spoke louder than words.
Kurt prized his collection of handguns. He was real particular about them, taking them out every couple of weeks, oiling them, unloading and reloading them.
He never once used them, just cleaned them all the time. I was thinking about that when the phone rang and Kurt got up to answer it.
Guess he never expected a quiet flyer like me to take it into her head to touch his guns.
This time, though, the pilot decided to change course. It was time to land the damn plane and finally put an end to those flights. After ten years, I’d run out of gas.
I couldn’t take it no more.
Kurt finished his call and came back into the room. There was a surprise waiting for him.
“I love you, baby,” I said.
BANG. BANG. BANG.
My flying days were over.
Word Count: 1,000 words
Author’s Note: This flash fiction was written in response to two challenges. First, Mark Baron’s Woegman’s World of Witty Wonder Thursday Trope (found here) and BeKindRewrite’s Inspiration Monday challenge (found here). Mark’s prompt was to write a trope on ‘Vocal Dissonance‘ (hope I succeeded!) and BeKindRewrite’s challenge was to write a story using the following words: uncertainty is worse; sisters in arms; dare you to look; and fly carefully.