The Misadventure of the Miss Adventure
(A Speed Week ’37 Story)
© 2008 by Walter D. Reimer
Oh, yiff . . . what?
What? Where am I?
Why am I getting all wet?
Cockpit’s filling with water! Sea water – yech, that’s yiffing nasty. Got to get out of the plane...
Damn, harness’s stuck . . . there it goes. Reach for the canopy lever – why won’t my right arm work? Right paw hurts too. Twist and work the lever with my left paw – DAMN! That hurts!
Canopy’s free, now to get out. Plane’s rocking, don’t come knocking . . . where have I heard that? I go to stand up –
CHRIST! That hurts worse!
I manage to slither out of the cockpit and into the water, then yank the lanyard on my life vest. One yank, two. C’mon, honey, be a good girl for Jeffy . . .
I roll over on my back, squinting up at the sun. Crap that’s bright, where are my sunglasses?
Water’s cold, too. Who the hell said it’d be warm?
Gurgling sound to my left; my plane going down. Right wingtip waving back and forth as it sinks. Well, goodbye . . . goodbye, paycheck, goodbye bonus . . .
Goodbye . . .
I sit up straight and smile at the pretty lady. She’s an opossum but cute as a button. “Yes, Ma’am?”
She smiles really pretty, and I can feel my tail feathers flagging a bit. Ordinarily I wouldn’t stray outside my own, but damn, she’s cute. “Mister James will see you now, Mister Montclair.”
“Thank you,” and I get up, slick my feathers back with a paw and head for the door. Big mirror by the door and I stop to look at myself. Best suit and tie, feathers clean and everything just so. A mallard’s got to look his best when having an interview.
Damn, this’s a big office, almost near as big as my apartment in town. Big office, big desk, big chair. Big mastiff behind the desk, smoking a cigar and reading some papers. When I reach the desk he looks up, then stands up. “Redmond James,” the canine says and he sticks out his paw.
My paw almost disappears in his. “Jeff Montclair, Sir,” I say in my best business voice. He waves me to a chair and sits down when I do.
“Been going over your file, Mr. Montclair,” he says. “Spent some time in the Air Corps . . . barnstorming . . . now you’re a pilot with the company.”
“Yes, Sir.” What’s he getting at?
He smiles. “Interested in racing?”
That gets my attention. “Bendix, or Thompson?”
The smile gets wider. “Schneider. This year, in fact. We’ve got a new plane we’re anxious to try out, and a respectable showing in the Cup – “
I can feel my beak moving. “Sir, I’m in. And I’ll do my best to win it for you.”
He grins . . .
A wave hits me and I sputter awake. Holy God, that sun’s too bright.
“ . . . It’s a brand new plane,” the guy says to me, and it looks it. Painted jet black, looking real sleek and mean. Looks like it’s flying just sitting on the water on its floats. Wingtips painted red, right, and green, left. “Engine’s a twin-fourteen radial, built special.”
“Been flown already?” I ask.
“Yup,” the mechanic says, and I swear if my head feathers weren’t already green they are now. “Van Dyke did the first flight. He named it too.”
He smirks, bad look on a bear. “Miss Adventure. Begged off racing her, cuz he says she’s unlucky.”
Did something just brush against my boot?
Am I bleeding?
God, I hurt all over . . .
First time I take her up . . .
Smooth as silk, and I break three hundred first time up. Van Dyke, that fool fox, took her to three-twenty, an’ I ain’t having that. I shove the throttle forward on the second go-round and almost nudge 340 before the tower starts calling me home.
Mr. James is there waiting for me, all smiles. “Well, Montclair, what do you think of the Miss Adventure?”
There’re people who say ducks can’t smile, but the beak’s just flexible enough, and I grin fit to bust. “Sir, you got yourself a racer, here.”
Where’s a good bookie?
I need to put a few bets down on myself. Nothing really big, but I think I’ll put money down in two ways.
One bet on me to win.
One bet on me to lose.
I figure I’m realistic enough to know I might lose this. Hell, I’m flying against the Brits and the Krauts.
“Yeah, she’s twenty-seven feet long, wingspan’s almost thirty-two feet. Careful! Look, but don’t touch, okay? Next question?”
“You bet I’m happy to be flying her! My boss gave me the opportunity – who’s my boss? Well, he wanted to keep mum about this, so I ain’t allowed to tell you. When I win, he’ll announce it.”
“It’s spelled M-O-N-T-C-L-A-I-R, Montclair, Jeff Montclair. Right. Next?”
Damn, it’s hot here in the Spontoons.
Bright sun, heat, rain when it feels like raining. I dress in a light suit and sunglasses and hit the town.
Not much to the town, though; suits me okay. Weather’s great though, and more beautiful women than you can shake a feather at. Every species, and I lay some patter on a nice red-tailed hawk femme who likes my looks and the fact I’m one of the race pilots.
Dinner . . . and afterwards? Where do I sign up?
There it is again.
Something brushing against my boot.
Feel so tired . . .
That rum punch they served at the reception was great! Now to find me some loving . . . ahh, a little vixen cutie-pie in the shadows.
Crap, it’s a todfox, not a vixen. He pulls me into the light from a streetlamp and slams me up against a post.
Double crap, he’s flashing a badge.
“Lissen here,” he growls. “First of all I’m a cop, savvy? Sergeant Brush o’ th’ Constabulary to yez. Secont, I ain’t that kinda way, okeh? Try that stuff again an’ yez get a taste’a my friend, here,” and he pulls a blackjack and taps me on the head with it – not hard enough to knock me sober, but enough to see stars.
“Now, beat it!” and he sends me on my way with a boot right under my tail.
I heard one of the pilots talking about a cathouse around here somewheres . . .
Already getting sweaty in my flight suit, standing in the cockpit on Race morning as the priestess – sweet looking rack on her bunny bod – finishes praying over all of us racers. We’re left waiting for the starting gun.
There it is, as all the navy ships just outside the harbor let go all at once, and I’m jumping down into my seat, strapping down and getting the engine started. C’mon, Miss Adventure, talk to Papa, you can do it.
Yeah! Listen to that engine roar!
That flying lumber yard from Rain Island’s off first, dammit, and I’m taking off, trying not to hit another plane or lose a float in a wake. Hard right bank as I lift off, gotta adjust so I don’t stall out . . .
First pylon’s a damn mountain but we’ll only see it once; I’m already hitting three hundred going around it to the first real checkpoint. Concentrate, Jeff, you’re the man, pay attention to the instruments and let the other planes watch out for themselves . . .
Another wave hits me, filling my open beak with seawater. I cough, splutter and start retching. The spell leaves me a little lucid.
Where am I?
Middle of the damned ocean, of course.
I try to move – and regret it.
Head; splitting headache.
Right arm and paw; won’t move right and hurts like hell.
Left leg won’t move right either.
“Careful now, slide her in the water easy now,” I say, and the crew chief looks at me dirty-like.
Yiffing badger. I give him the look right back but don’t say nothing. He works for James, same as me, and knows it’s his tail if he or any o’ the other crew screws up the plane.
Otherwise he might piss in my fuel tank out of spite.
The Miss Adventure sits okay in the water, though. No sign of any leaks in the floats. Everything trim for the race tomorrow.
And I just got enough time to get squared away for the plot’s reception tonight. Free booze!
“What the hell is this?” I say.
We just finished uncrating the Miss Adventure when I see what’s wrong. Makes me see red, too.
“What the hell’s the deal with the wings?” The guy helping me shrugs and looks at the head of the design team. “Well?”
“Mister James agreed to it. The longer wings lower the wing loading. It’ll be easier to fly.”
“Dammit, but was the pilot asked?” I demand. “Will I at least get to take her up once before the race?”
“Sure,” the guy tells me.
These Spontoonie girls . . . there’s this one girl, a duck like me, making her way across the floor. There’s some muttering about “The Duck tribe” but who cares? She’s got eyes for me, guys, so back off.
I lean out of the cockpit and spit in the water, just miss the leading edge of the right wing. “She handles fine, but there’s a problem.”
“Yeah, ‘oh.’ I’ll be eyeing in the pylons to get those turns tight as I can. The longer wings mean I have to adjust.”
The dumbass smiles. “I’m sure you’ll do okay.”
First real pylon coming up, the shortwave radio towers on the west end. Okay, Jeff, time to earn your pay . . .
Damn it, I almost hit the tower! Takes me a moment to get the plane back under control, the stick feels like it’s tied to a hod of bricks. Lucky, though – that Indian plane just blazed right past me.
Okay, though, I think I got the feel of the Miss Adventure now that she’s had her wings lengthened. A little wobbling through the turn, but that’s okay. First turn’s finished and it’s on to the second pylon.
Can’t miss it – it’s the second-highest mountain in the area.
Man, my head . . . is it Race Day yet?
The clock says so, just two hours before I have to start preflight inspections and get suited up. I snuggle up to the sweet little hawk in my arms.
I nod, zipping up my flight suit. “Sure am. Why?”
“You look hung over,” the crew chief says. A race official just leans against the door frame, watching. That’s his job.
“Nah. Not hung over, although she did tell me I was hung, though,” and I laugh as the badger snorts.
I finish tying my boots.
Five laps in, and I feel like I’ve gone five rounds as Joe Louis’ punching bag.
C’mon, Jeff, you’ve done this.
Constant strain on the muscles, legs holding the rudder pedals steady, paws and arms tense from holding the stick. Breathing tight but controlled in the turns and just tiny motions to get the plane to do what I want her to do.
Check the gauges; good fuel state so far, engine’s doing okay, good on oil pressure and temperature.
She’s holding her own.
All I have to do is guide her around.
Fifteen more rounds to go.
Bring it on, Joe.
I’m happy that Mr. James himself saw us off from Frisco, right there on the dock as the Matsen Lines ship S.S. Lahaina Roads gets ready to leave. The big dog shakes my paw and smiles. “You take good care of that plane, Jeff,” he says, “and take care of yourself too.”
I smile. “I will sir, and I’ll do my best to win for you.”
Miss Adventure’s crated up and in the liner’s hold, and she and I have a date in Spontoon.
Lap number ten.
Almost halfway there, little girl; c’mon, you can do it.
The Italian plane’s in front of me to the right as we pass the second pylon. Watch it! He’s getting a bit close, but I’m not throttling back for love nor money.
I catch up to him as we soar over the cruisers to the east of the islands.
Third pylon dead ahead!
I can beat the Italian pilot. He has to swing out wider in his bank to avoid a collision.
Ease the stick over and nudge the rudder pedal . . . good, good – wait, he’s not banking away from me.
More rudder and bank a bit –
“He! Sind Sie ganz recht?”
“Lieutenant Montclair, why did you feel the need to buzz the control tower at high speed?” My CO’s a mean-looking guy, canine who’s all teeth and he’s showing them all now.
“Demonstrating that I didn’t need to be waved off on my last landing drill, sir.” I’m not going to tell him that I had a bet on to see how close I could get without clipping the controller’s fur for him.
“Uh huh. You’re fined ten dollars, dismissed.”
Everything goes slow.
The pylon shears the left wingtip almost completely off, leaving a tail of shredded aluminum. The spar got bent, because the left aileron’s jammed and Miss Adventure goes into a barrel roll at three hundred miles per hour.
I’m fighting it, trying to pull her around; I chop the throttle and start to –
- Getting too close to the water –
- Too close –
We hit the water and the plane cartwheels.
The stick bangs my right paw against the side of the cockpit as the plane shakes me around like dice at a craps game.
“Sind Sie ganz recht, Flieger?”
Paws grab my bad shoulder and the pain wakes me up.
I blink up at a feline face, light brown fur wearing a sailor’s jumper and one of those silly flat sailor hats with some writing on it.
I try to say something, but nothing’s coming out.
Strong paws lift me out of the water and into a boat.
Someone gives me a drink of cool fresh water.
I puke all over him.
I dream I’m still swimming, at the old water hole in the quarry back home. My cousin Jim had just dunked me under for the third time, and this time I’ll drown the brat.
My eyes open and I see a ceiling, with pipes.
“Ach, sehr gut. You are awake, I see.” I look to my left and there’s this goose standing nearby.
Guy’s in a uniform. Short sleeved white shirt, white trousers, with two stripes on his shoulder boards. The gander gives me a reassuring smile. “You are in good paws, Herr Montclair. I am Oberleutnant zur See Gensfleisch, the doctor here aboard the Leipzig. Do not try to move, please; you have suffered some bad injuries, ja? I have had to give you morphia.”
Yeah, he must have. I don’t feel pain anymore.
Hell, I don’t feel, period.
“What - ?”
He nods. “Your plane crashed, and you were in the water over an hour. Our crew rescued you.”
Christ, felt like my entire life.
Gander’s still talking. “You have a broken right paw, wrist and shoulder, and a broken left hip. You also have a concussion, and we will be moving you to the hospital on the Islands soon. Now, I am going to let you drink some water, eh? Do not spit it up on me as you did on Seaman Ziegler, bitte.”
It’s just plain water, not even any ice.
But it tastes heavenly.
“Careful! Okay, sir, a few more bumps and we’ll have you in a bed. Alright, Manu, let’s go.” The two Spontoonies lift the stretcher out of the Germans’ paws and carry me along the dock to the hospital.
I’d like to help, but everything’s all swimmy and they’ve had me doped to the speculum since they got me aboard their ship.
I do manage a feeble wave with my left paw.
They put me completely under while they X-rayed me and started resetting my arm and hip.
Best thing they could do, really. I don’t want to be awake while they play pick-up-sticks with my bones.
They complimented me on my thick skull, though.
I’m stuck here in bed now, while everything glues itself back together. My casts – well, the one on the right runs from the second knuckle on my right paw all the way to my shoulder, with a strap running across my chest. The one of the left goes from above my hip to my ankle.
I’m starting to really hate bedpans.
But the nurses sure are nice, and one, a really cute student nurse from Rain Island . . . beautiful plumage on her . . .
“Can I get you anything, sir?”
“Call me Jeff, okay, Miss - ?”
“Annie.” She blushes nice too, and blushes even more when she spots something.
“Miss Canvasback! What on Earth are you doing!?”
I guess the charge nurse isn’t happy.
Above me, Annie says, “Just applying some physical therapy, Mrs. Anatida.”
“But – but he’s not scheduled for that!”
I lie back (what else can I do?), smile up at Annie, and let Nature take her course.