Jack wound down the car window and felt the gush of summer air strike his face. His hands held onto the sill as he edged his nose closer to the invisible barrier between the interior and exterior of the car.

In the winter he would press his hands to the glass and bring his nose closer, but not quite touching, so he could watch the condensation form around his fingers. Taking a deep breath he experimented with different exhalations, from close, pursed lips to wide, open mouth and watched it condense on the glass and evaporate.

The summer wind grabbed at his hair and ruffled it with wild abandon. Jack was forced to squint into the force of the wind as he approached the event horizon of the windowsill. He observed the muted scenery through half-closed eyelashes, frequently blinking to push irritants out. The tears trickled out of the corner of his eyes and he felt them dry in the warm air.

“You ok back there, buddy?” his father asked from the front seat.

“Yeah, Dad.” Jack withdrew his face and let the wind continue to rush past.

Across the sky a miniscule spot moved, tearing the blue, leaving a scar of white. Jack followed the scar backwards until it grew broader and broke up, absorbed by the blue.

“Dad, are they clouds coming from the back of the plane?”

“Sort of. They’re called contrails.”

“What are they?”

“Contrails are clouds formed by the exhaust from the engines or from the change in air pressure.”

Jack looked back at the receding white scar, raised his hand, squinted through one eye and held the aeroplane between thumb and forefinger. Dropping his grip on the plane Jack extended his hand out of the window and let the wind catch in the cup of his hand. His arm rose and fell, a weightless object supported by the movement of air.

Resting his elbow on the will he expanded his fingers, letting star systems slip through. The landscape formed a blurred universe, his fingers in focus, in sharp relief against the smudged greens interrupted by splashes of red, blue, white and black cars.

From the tips of his fingers he imagined contrails, forming slowly and drifting into the quiet pocket of air behind his hand before spun like spider’s silk into the slipstream behind the car.

“What’cha doing, Jack?”

“Learning to fly.”


12 responses to “Contrails

  1. Cute! This reminded me of how Daughter Dearest would hang her face out the window if we let her, and how her long hair would swirl every which way.

  2. The ending definitely made me smile. I’m still beaming. This was very cute and sweet, Adam!

    • I had no final line to begin with as I was writing for the fun of experimenting with imagery. I sat there for a while and Pink Floyd’s song, Learning to Fly popped into my head and so it became the final line.

  3. I never knew they were called contrails, so I’ve learned something. But this was beautiful, Adam. His answer at the end is just right.

    I wondered if it was a child or not at the beginning and then you drew back and introduced the father, and then the aeroplane up in the sky, and beyond, before you drew it back in again to make it feel like a special moment between them. Nicely done.

  4. Loved it. Such an innocent thing 🙂

  5. I love the word contrails, but it’s not always easy to work into stories! You did a fine job especially with the pay off line, lovely stuff

  6. Excellent story. As others have said, the last line makes it.

  7. That’s a sweet story and brought a smile to my lips ^__^

  8. Cool. I remember holding my hand, flat and horizontal, out the window and then gradually rotating at the wrist — changing the angle of attack and feeling my arm pushed up and down. I was learning to fly. But silly me, I don’t think I ever imagined the contrails. Good one, Adam.

  9. I notice you mentioned imagery above; that’s certainly something I was going to mention. Lots going through my head as I read this! Great stuff, Adam.

  10. If only it were so easy to learn to fly.

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