Not Very High

Not Very High

by David Bassano

Bob McWiggen was going to fly some rich guy around the rich guy’s horse ranch in Monmouth County for photographs. He invited me to come along and fly in the right seat of the rented Skyhawk while the rich guy sat in the back.

It was a beautiful morning and the rich guy met us at the airport. He had a very expensive camera and he laughed loudly and too often. We took off and headed north.

We were just south of Freehold when the engine died. It coughed once and then went flat, and it was suddenly very quiet in the headphones. We were not very high.

“Wonder what the hell did that,” mumbled McWiggen, the aerobatics instructor, in some irritation.

“What just happened?” asked the rich guy over the headphones.

“Your seat belt fastened?” McWiggen asked him.

I called Monmouth Executive Airport on the radio while McWiggen pushed us over into a steep, diving left turn. I felt the drop and heard the wind rushing past us faster.

“Oh, God,” the guy in the back was saying. “Oh, God. Oh, God.”

When he straightened us out I saw that McWiggen was aiming at a dirt road along the edge of a farm, no close trees, no phone poles. He adjusted the elevator trim, crabbed a bit into the crosswind from the right, and flared. The nose came up and I got heavier, then the stall warning buzzed and we touched down and rumbled to a stop. I turned around and the guy in the back had his face buried in his hands.

“Aw, shit,” said McWiggen.

“What is it?” I asked.

“You have no idea how much paperwork this is gonna be.”

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David Bassano
David Bassano is a History professor at Brookdale Community College in New Jersey. He is a human rights activist, an author of academic and literary works, and an avid hiker and cyclist. Trevelyan’s Wager, published by Harvard Square Editions, is his first novel. You may learn more about him and his work at

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