To Fly Again

car in woods

© Tim Livingston

Every year, Norm would take a vacation from his job as an aeronautics engineer at Hughes Aircraft to go hiking in the Sierra Nevada mountains.

Norm liked to cut his own rough trails through the forest, which was why he was so surprised when he came across the old DeSoto. 1947 or 48 by the looks of her. His Dad owned one like it when Norm was a kid.

The trunk was half open. There was something bulky inside. Norm pulled the lid free and unwrapped the heavy, oiled canvas tarp.

“Oh my God, it can’t be.”

He remembered the old newsreels and stories his Dad told him about the hero. He wore a metal helmet, and with his rocket pack, fought the Nazis in the 30s and 40s. He’d disappeared without a trace. How his equipment got here, Norm couldn’t figure, but he knew he could get the old engine working.

With the Soviet threat looming and the race to the Moon heating up, it was time for the Rocketeer to fly again.

rocketeer

The Rocketeer – created by Dave Stevens

I wrote this in response to the FFfAW Challenge-Week of March 14, 2017. The idea is to use the photo prompt at the top to write a piece of flash fiction between 100 and 175 words, with 150 being ideal. My tale comes in at 174 words. Wish it was less, but I needed that many words to do the set up for my reveal.

To read more stories based on the prompt, visit InLinkz.com.

You can tell only by inference, but I set my story in the early 1960s. My late father-in-law worked at Hughes Aircraft, founded by the famous aviator and inventor Howard Hughes. The corporation no longer exists and Hughes is long dead, but I decided to use the company because it made a nice connection to the Rocketeer’s period in history. The comic book character was created by Dave Stevens in 1982 as an homage to the Saturday matinee serial heroes of the 30s and 40s.

In the 1991 film starring Billy Campbell in the lead role, a fictionalized Howard Hughes actually invented the rocket pack, which was stolen by gangsters and hastily stashed in stunt pilot Cliff Secord’s plane.

In both the comic book and film, Secord uses the rocket pack to become the superhero the Rocketeer. The story of this retro-hero is one of my guilty pleasures. I’d love to see the Rocketeer fly again.

The Demon’s Cup

demon's cup

Buck was a strange old man, but he had the best collection of vintage science fiction and horror paperbacks and comics in Las Vegas. Every Saturday, I ride my Schwinn Sting-Ray to “The Fantasy Express” looking for rare or out-of-print books. I’m only twelve, so my budget is small, but one of the things about Buck is that he gives big discounts if he likes you.

“I see you’re staring at the Demon’s Cup. Interested?” Buck jerks his thumb up at the object of my interest on a shelf behind him. He takes it down and puts it on the counter.

“What is it?”

“Legends say it’s made from a pigmy skull sacrificed to demons.”

“How much?” I picked it up. It was really metal and maybe bone and it was heavy.

“Ninety-nine cents.”

One of Buck’s special bargains. I had the money, but how would my folks react?

“Not today, Buck.”

“Your loss. Someone else will buy it soon.” He picked up the skull goblet and put it back on its shelf.

I finished shopping and felt relief as I walked out.

Buck had a week to sell the artifact before the curse of the Demon’s Cup claimed him.

This flash fiction story was inspired by a photo prompt at Sunday Photo Fictioner. You can read other submissions to this writing challenge at InLinkz.com.

When I was twelve years old, I really did ride my bike to a used comic book and paperback store in North Las Vegas every Saturday. I don’t remember the name of the place or the owner, but in retrospect, he wasn’t that old, maybe in his early 50s. He talked a lot about serving in the Navy during World War 2.

He didn’t sell cursed artifacts, which is lucky for me, but my comic book and paperback collections swelled thanks to my shopping there.

When I saw the photo, imagination collided with memory, and here we are. I just hope Buck makes it okay, but I feel sorry for the person who buys the cup. And to think my friend tried to foist it off on me.

The word count limit for this challenge is 200, and I just barely made it.