The Wing Walker 

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We’re in the desert and it’s way more beautiful than I expected.

In the early morning light, the sand is dusky pink, a damask rose that folds, dips and ripples like the ocean.

I had imagined something harsh. A sun too bright to walk towards, a wind that flicked sand grains at your eyes, a heat that left you brittle.

The calm comes as a surprise.

It was Alexander’s idea.

“The Al Ain” he said.

When I looked at him, not understanding, he explained.

“The Arabian desert.”

He’s always had a taste for adventure, a flair for spectacle.

I watch him now as he readies the plane. He carries out the familiar routine of safety checks with the grace of a dancer, his movements slow and fluid. I imagine him standing on the wing going through the sequence of tricks. He’d make a great wing walker.

With each completed task he nods and ticks a checklist.

He knows I’m watching. I always watch.  And in all honesty I think the list is meant for me. Reassurance.

“Janey! You ready?”

I nod and ease myself up out of the sand, plummeting down the dune towards him, collapsing forward into his outstretched arms.

“Whoa! Take care!”

And I have to laugh. Soon I will be hundreds of feet in the air, strapped to the wing, dancing and turning somersaults while Alexander guides the plane through loop the loops and death spirals.

The motor sputters to life and the propellers whirr.

From the cockpit Alexander gives me a thumbs up and I return the gesture.

“Ready” I tell him.

We rise into a sky as blue as cobalt and the air hits me, warm as the heat from a blow-dryer.

And I cannot move. The sequence of tricks forgotten as I look out across the desert. Its vastness fills me, warm and glowing as gold. The hum of the propeller, the whisper of the wind, reverberating through me like a meditation hum.

“Once we’re up we cannot land until we turn back to the strip” Alexander had explained.

“Is that dangerous?” I had asked.

He didn’t reply.

But fixed to the top of the plane all I see is beauty and I open my arms wide, as a “whoop!” of joy flows out of me.

Alexander loops and spirals. Pitches left and right.

Blue of sky, glint of sun, glow of sand. The desert whirls around me.

And I stand aloft, transfixed as it rises up towards us and I never want to land.

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Jennifer is one of our judges at MASH. Her fiction has appeared in Carve Magazine and Stories For Homes anthology. Her radio drama won the 2001 European Regional Prize in the BBC World Service International Playwriting competition and a commendation in 2009. Her poetry has appeared in The Guardian as part of their poetry workshops series. Contact Jen via Twitter.

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