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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Dropout (05/12/11)

TITLE: Gone, But Not Forgotten
By Virgil Youngblood


Canada geese, winging their way north, were silhouetted against rose-tinted morning clouds. They were flying in ‘V’ formation.

“Look, Mama,” the little boy shouted, pointing toward the western horizon. “Do you hear them?”

“I see them, Colby. Aren’t they beautiful?”

“What’s wrong with that … Oh, that one is falling, Mama.”

“I see it. Look, Colby. One is coming back. It’s going to the one that stopped flying.”

“Will it be alright? Why did it fall?”

“I don’t know. I don’t know what happened to it.”

The goose that fell would soon die. Two days earlier she had eaten berries from a low hanging bush behind hole 4 of the Cinco Lakes Golf Course. The shrub had been sprayed with insecticide.

The gander that returned was the mate of the goose that collapsed. They had been together for over twenty five years. He stayed by her for two days after she died. His soft pleadings and sorrowful mutterings were to no avail. When a coyote could not be intimidated by the gander’s hissing and honking cries, and claimed the goose, the gander reluctantly moved to a pond of water. It would soon join a flight of geese passing by and continue the journey.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

A large, exuberant crowd at NAS Fort Worth had claimed their viewing space on the grass near the runway with lawn chairs and blankets. The exhibits and air show had been spectacular.

Colby and his mother had enjoyed every moment of it. A smudge of blue cotton candy on Colby’s lips was especially noticeable against the whiteness of his teeth when he smiled.

The Blue Angel’s, closing out the show, began with a demonstrating of a C130 Hercules’ amazing ability to land and take off from an extremely short space. They called their airplane, Fat Albert. It transported their gear wherever they went.

The Navy and Marine’s best pilots followed, flying F/A-18 Hornets through screaming turns and barrel rolls in unbelievably close formations. As the sun was sinking on the western horizon the Blue Angels had one final event to perform.

“Mama, it’s so loud when they fly by. I still hear them with my hands over my ears.”

Kathleen hugged Colby against her. “Just one more, little man. We have to see this one.”

“Why, Mama?”

“It reminds me of Daddy.”

“My Daddy?”

“Yes. Here they come.”

From the south six F/A-18 Hornets raced toward them, flying north in ‘V’ formation. Smoke trailed behind them. A bugle, amplified by the public address system, silenced the crowd with the haunting sound of Taps.

The precision formation was about to pass in front of them when one jet dropped out of the formation, climbing almost straight up before veering toward the red ball of the sinking sun. The ear splitting sound of the jets roared past, and then faded to silence. Some people clapped, other’s cheered.

Colby tugged on the hem of his mother’s tee shirt, making the 101st Screaming Eagles logo bounce up and down. “Mama, I don’t understand about Daddy.”

“Did you see that jet that left the others and went into the sunset?”

Colby nodded.

“That’s called the ‘Missing Man’ formation. It’s to honor soldiers, like your daddy. We never want to forget them, Colby. Always remember that.”

“I will Mama. And I’ll always remember another first time.”

Kathleen was puzzled. “What time was that? Are you talking about the goose that fell?”

Colby licked a spot of blue off a finger. “The first time I had cotton candy. That’s important to remember, isn’t it?”

“Yes, it is.” The fading rays of the setting sun twinkled on Kathleen’s wedding ring as she smoothed Colby’s damp, curly hair. She reached down and picked up the peace quilt her grandmother had given her and folded it. “Your daddy liked cotton candy, too.”

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Member Comments
Member Date
Donna Haug05/20/11
I liked both parts of the story - but I did feel like they were two separate stories. I loved the visual of the lone airplane veering off into the sunset. Very potent picture.
Linda Goergen05/20/11
I agree with Donna, I really liked both stories but the connection between them did not seem significant enough to use both to make the point here. The first one seemed more a story of reckless use of insecticides. The second one more a story of remembering and honoring our military heroes. I thought both terrific stand alone stories but laced together seemed to add more confusion than vision.
Joe Moreland05/21/11
The two parts really worked well to me. The faithfulness of the gander was reflected in the mother and it's obvious from her comment on near the end, when she asks Colby if he means the goose. This was one of those stories that continues to impact me long after I read it and continue to think about it. The two images - of the goose and the jet falling out of formation - are going to stick with me for a while. You did an excellent job of evoking emotion in me as I read it. Thanks very much for writing it.
Janice Fitzpatrick05/22/11
You captured my heart with this one. I loved the innocence of the little boy whose first time memory of cotton candy would linger past the sticky remnants on his lips.
I really liked your comparisons and the dialogue and pictures you painted through your words were beautiful.
Using the V-formation pattern and the response of the male geese to his beloved mate touched my heart-"The gander that returned was the mate of the goose that collapsed. They had been together for over twenty five years."
The formation of jets that followed the "Missing Man" symbolized the dedication of these pilots. As the lone jet "dropped out of the formation, climbing almost straight up before veering toward the red ball of the sinking sun" it really spoke to me.
Your message reminded me that when others "drop out" because of death or circumstance it is our mission to be there for them, to pay tribute to them and to carry on, heading for the "Son." Well done! Thx for writing this!
Leola Ogle 05/22/11
What a beautiful, poignant, haunting tale. I admit, I am a real softie about our military! Well done! God bless!