Alice Elliott Dark
| Fiction


“I hope he flies low.” Cole flew his hand downward.

“But not too low,” Jerome said gravely.

Their mother leaned her forearms on the rail. The heavy charms on her bracelet swung as she moved. “Isn’t this exciting? I’ve loved the spray plane all my life.”

Kay leaned beside her. “Me too. All my life. I wish Daddy was here, don’t you?”

Their mother turned her face to the sky. Kay looked toward the engine sound and saw the gray dot with a cloud of bug juice around it. “Cole!” She directed him toward it, so he could claim to see it first.

“There it is!” he shouted.

Their mother picked the twins up and pointed. Jerome stood straight, his posture military.

The plane came toward them, making a racket, spreading a thick fog behind it. They all opened their mouths to receive the sweet spray. The nose pointed toward them, and the wings seemed, from this angle, thin as a sheet of paper. Kay shifted her eyes to make the plane look as though it were flying slowly; then when she blinked it came at full speed. Too fast—too fast and low, much too close to the garage.

She pushed hard at the sky, pumping her arms, signaling the plane to pull up. She pushed and pushed and the entire sky pressed back. The plane made a great wind that shoved her sideways; she struggled to stay on her feet.

“I love the scent!” their mother yelled. “Isn’t it divine?”

Liquid streamed from the belly of the plane and hit the plants like rain. Kay signalled frantically. “Help him,” she gasped, but her voice was constricted by fear, and the engine blotted out the rest of it. When she looked out of the corner of her eyes no one else had his arms up. Cole cupped his hands over his ears, and Oscar cried into their mother’s shoulder. The spray hit them and Kay closed her eyes and froze against the coming crash; yet the engine noise continued. The plane cleared the garage!

Kay looked through the side window right into the cockpit. The pilot wore no cap or goggles. He was young, and rather than having a serious expression like her father did when he was at work, the pilot was having a very good time. He turned his head and held her gaze, touched his fingers to his forehead in a salute.

Kay reached for her mother’s arm but only got hold of one of her empty sleeves. Kay pulled on it. The plane flew on and they watched the poison syrup appear in the air as a brown pipe that lowered into the vast mosquito breeding ground.

“Mummy, I saved him and he thanked me. He was looking straight at me!”

Their mother patted Oscar’s back. Kay pictured the pilot’s face turning toward her, his eyes beaming into hers.

“I don’t know about that, Kay. I’m pretty sure he was looking at me.”

Kay brushed her mother’s sleeve over her own face, then let it go.


Alice Elliott Dark is the author of the novel, Think of England, and two collections of short stories, In The Gloaming and Naked to the Waist. Her fiction and essays have appeared in, among others, The New Yorker, Harper’s, Best American Short Stories, Prize Stories: The O. Henry Awards, The New York Times, and many anthologies. She is an Assistant Professor at Rutgers-Newark.

Wife’s Song
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