Express to Paris by Dragon First Class
by Tom Crosshill
Jima dreamt of flying to Paris. As a child she swooped on the updraft over the
Willamette, wings outstretched, and boomed out call signs -- "Jima to De Gaulle,
Weekends after school she prowled the PDX hangars and questioned the grizzly
intercontinentals whose bellies bulged with oil. "Do they tickle, the humans in
your harness?" They growled at her, and she learned better questions.
For her exams, Jima flew to Chicago with congressmen on her back -- "So the loss
is least if you fail," the union rep told her.
A youth, a wife, then a single mother of green-tailed triplets, Jima flew regional
out of O'Hare -- to Dayton, to Cleveland, to far-away New York. "One day
mommy will fly to De Gaulle," she told the kids.
Even after the strike of '81, when Jima's friends left for the Preserve of Nebraska,
she didn't let go of her dream. Came the machines, lumbering brutes with hard-edged wings and no union cards; first New York, then Houston, then Paris went
mechanical. Jima flew tourists, crop dusters, ad banners. With every paycheck she
bought a jar of oil and stored it in a special place.
"Come live with us," her children asked her. "You'll never save enough for Paris!"
She shook her mane at them and laughed, and they stopped asking.
Jima was a strong dragon, a proud dragon, a tired dragon, a dragon whose eyes
clouded up at night, whose wings ached in the mornings. The company didn't want
her anymore, but she didn't notice. There was enough sky above the old drakes'
home to stretch her wings. The attendant, a red-tailed whippersnapper, watched her
carefully, yet every day she snuck away to her special place and counted her jars of
When her children stopped visiting and the world grew altogether dark before her
eyes, Jima went to that special place and drank all the oil she had hoarded. She
turned her face toward the warmth of the sun and ran, and ran, and beat her
withered wings, and took to the sky. Nothing left for her in the old country. Paris
remained. Paris awaited.
"De Gaulle! De Gaulle! Clear the runway!" she boomed. The hills of Illinois shook
with her voice.