Short Story Exercise: Fly a Plane

(using this book, set timer for 10 minutes and wrote a story using the phrase “fly a plane”; lightly edited)

This was the first time Janet was able to sit in the cockpit.

She’d read all of the manuals, she’d attended lectures, and she’d watched a flight happen from the control tower. But today it was her turn to sit in the copilot’s seat. She wasn’t supposed to touch anything, and that was fine with her. Janet wasn’t in any hurry to crash her first plane.

Her instructor, Randy, took the controls. He pointed out the dials and the switches and gave his pet names for the various instruments. Janet did her best to absorb everything he said, blending what she’d read with what she was seeing in front of her.

The engines started, clearance was given from the tower, and the plane lurched forward. Janet obediently held the co-pilot controls, but her gaze was focused on Randy and everything he did. He seemed to operate on instinct rather than actual skill, as though the plane was just an extension of his arm.

The speed picked up and Janet was pushed back into her seat. She felt every bump in the runway through the stick and her stomach tingled nervously. Finally, they achieved lift and soared into the golden blue sky of dawn. Janet laughed in spite of herself. This was a feeling she could get used to.

Randy expertly banked the plane pointing out the flat farmlands spread like a quilt beneath them. They then climbed higher and higher until they hit cruising altitude.

“Janet,” Randy said casually. “You’re flying this plane.”

“What?” Janet laughed. She looked over and saw Randy’s hands folded neatly in his lap, his feet tucked under the seat. Janet screamed and jerked in her seat, and the plane immediately responded.

The nose pointed straight down and they were picking up speed. Janet, still screaming, could hear Randy chuckling in her headset. “YOU ASSHOLE!” Janet yelled.

Right before they reached the point of no return Randy took hold of the controls, rolled the plane on its side, and pointed the nose back up.

“And that,” he howled, “is why every wannabe pilot should spend his first year in a crop duster!”

Meanwhile Janet, her hands clamped to her seat, heart in her throat, started crying, which only egged him on. He made loopty-loops and repeatedly dive bombed towards the ground. When they finally landed, Randy obligingly stuck out his chin to her. Taking the cue, Janet slapped him as hard as she could.