Virgin flight on a Whisperjet, 1963*
Working since before I graduated high school as an apprentice in the news business, by the age of twenty I was awarded journeyman reporter status. I had my own desk and Royal office-model typewriter near the city desk. I already had been on the front page with a byline. My news features got half-page displays inside, illustrated by the best photographers we had. I was on a roll. So the city editor awarded me a perk: a media junket aboard the inaugural flight of the Boeing Whisperjet.
Complaints from the public living under flight paths of noisy jet aircraft had filled newspapers almost since the first passenger jets were put in service. This was Boeing’s response: quieter engines, hence Whisperjet. A plane-load of reporters would be treated to a wide circuit over the sea and eventually home, enjoying plentiful free booze and snacks along the way. I asked what I was supposed to write.
“Not a damn thing,” the city editor said. “This is a freebie. Enjoy it.”
Wow. I couldn’t wait to tell my folks I was truly in the big time now. The matriarch of my clan predictably burst my bubble. A new jet plane? Didn’t I know those things crashed, especially experimental ones? If I died without a will, my divorced father might try to claim rights to my intellectual output to spite my mother. But she would take care of it, contact an attorney to draw up a proper will — writing my absent father out — before I flew.
I pretty much forgot her dark mutterings. Especially when the tall, nubile red-headed city-desk clerk asked me for a ride home. To say I had a crush on her would be to understate. But the way she flirted with older men and ignored me gave no hope. Now, suddenly I was doing well, and she wanted a ride home. I stifled the memory of the high school humiliation I suffered around an aborted ride home involving a girl I liked. Maybe this one would be different.
We walked out together. I had excellent hearing in those days and heard the boss’s executive secretary say don’t they make a cute couple. I was flustered and pleased at the same time. But the redhead disrespected my ten-year-old Chev. Now you’re a hotshot, you should buy a car with air-conditioning she said. We opened all the windows and I drove fast across the big river to drive out humid summer heat. Cooling river breezes whipped her glorious mane of hair. I was amazed I was in a car alone with an attractive girl. It was exhilarating and scary in one. I still was a virgin with no idea how to behave with females.
When we got to her house she invited me in, saying her mother would like to meet me. But her mother wasn’t home. She offered me liquor though we were both underage. I declined, fearful of the Highway Patrol, so she made coffee. Then, as God is my witness, she said she was going to get into something a little more comfortable.
My head spun. Women in novels said that before showing up in sexy nightwear as a preliminary to seduction. I berated myself immediately. This was real-life, not a story. She just wanted to lose the painful high heels and sleek sheath that comprised her work attire, probably for jeans and tennis shoes.
But no; she emerged in a pale-blue satin night dress with the top three buttons unbuttoned, no bra, revealing significant cleavage. The hem stopped just below the juncture of her pale thighs. I almost spilled my coffee. She smiled brilliantly and said by the way, her mother wouldn’t be home for four hours. Why didn’t I take off my tie and get comfortable. We could spend that time getting to know each other.
It shames me still that my first reaction was a dutiful teenager’s. I said I better call home so they won’t worry. She seemed a little put out but knelt to show me the phone on the floor beside a chair. I could not help but notice the short night dress rucked up to expose the lovely globes of her bare butt; no panties. I knelt and dialed home though that vision almost made me forget the number. The matriarch soon was on the line. Her directive: you have to come home right now! Our appointment with the lawyer to sign and witness your will is in one hour. I had utterly forgotten in my infatuation. The Whisperjet ride was tomorrow.
The redhead still knelt beside me, following my conversation. She put her hand on my back — no, no, you can’t leave now! I want you to stay, she whispered urgently. Can’t you put off whatever she wants? But I simply did not have the fortitude to defy the matriarch’s command. It was embarrassing to explain. Her disappointment turned to irritation. I stupidly said I can meet your mother some other time. Her tight-lipped response was I don’t think so.
The signing and witnessing of the will is lost to memory. I remember a restless, unhappy night. I was dog-tired when I boarded the Whisperjet and then nervous when it seemed to jump into the sky, pressing me back in the seat. Then it was up and cruising over the ocean. For the first time in my life I saw the planet from high up.
The cabin was quiet enough for conversation. Soon as the seat belt sign went off, Boeing PR guys worked the aisles, lobbying a score of reporters. Some were ushered up front to see the flight deck. I was glued to the window watching the world pass below. A young PR guy plopped down beside me, nose already red from imbibing, to ask what I thought. I mumbled complimentary noises as the drinks tray arrived. He asked what I’d have and I said bourbon which seemed safe enough. He laughed and said he really was in the Deep South, handed me bourbon on the rocks and asked the stewardess for another Scotch. Nobody asked me for a driver’s license to prove my age.
The bourbon smoothed down my throat and lit a fire in my belly, as he described the long arc the Whisperjet would take to bring us back home. He surprised me by knowing who I was; I was unfamiliar with the preparations good PR men made for these junkets. We had more drinks. I developed an unfamiliar buzz. When the stewardess came back I asked if she had coffee. She did. I switched to coffee because I had to drive home after the flight.
The Whisperjet performed flawlessly. Landing was routine. I thoroughly enjoyed my first airplane ride, not least because I had been drinking like a real reporter and could tell the matriarch she had worried about nothing. The next day at work the redhead again was ignoring me while others quizzed me about the new jet. I had missed my moment. She never asked for another ride home. I never did meet her mother.
*From Venus Mons Iliad, published 2018 by AbsolutelyAmazingeBooks.com,