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Can You Spare a Quarter

by Tigerpaw

Chapter 6

Taking Flight

Jamie suddenly came awake and for a moment did not remember where he was. For a brief moment fear overtook him but then his eyes focused and he recognized the small room where he was. Remembering the previous day's events and how he had met Graham at the North Road Mall Jamie relaxed and luxuriated in the warm softness of a clean bed. It had been a long time since he had slept this comfortably and had not had to pay for it beforehand.

Looking over to the other side of the small living area, where a single overhead light still burned, Jamie saw Graham seated at the kitchen table. His head was lying in the middle of a sea of papers scattered around his laptop computer and the light sound of snoring confirmed that he was fast asleep.

Jamie began to worry because he had slept in the only bed available. Graham had opened up the bed for him and clearly wanted him to use it but nevertheless Jamie felt uneasy at having deprived Graham of a proper place to sleep. It had been his expectation that Graham would have joined him after he had finished with his work. Now Jamie was concerned how Graham was going to react at not having had a bed to sleep in for the night.

Jamie got up out of the bed and walked over to stand next to Graham. Placing one hand on Graham's shoulder Jamie spoke softly while shaking Graham gently to wake him up.

"Graham, you can sleep in the bed," Jamie said gently.

Graham shifted his head slightly and grunted as Jamie spoke.

"I don't need any more sleep. You should get into the bed now," added Jamie a little bit louder.

Graham's eyelids began to flutter and he slowly began to raise his head up off the table's surface.

"Oh! Oh my goodness! My neck ... my back," moaned Graham as he felt like what seemed to be every last muscle in his back and shoulders voicing their complaints at the same time over having been mistreated.

Finally sitting up completely Graham looked at Jamie with sleepy eyes and smiled. Standing there in just a wrinkled T-shirt with uncombed hair Jamie looked so innocent, not at all like the distressed youngster Graham had befriended only yesterday. It did not seem possible that this could be the same boy that Graham had seen sitting on the sidewalk hoping to get some food to eat.

"How did you sleep, Jamie?" asked Graham.

"Oh I slept great," replied Jamie. "But you should have come to bed too so you wouldn't get all sore like that."

"I'll recover don't worry," said Graham with a groan as he staggered to his feet and took a few tentative limping steps around the room to try and get his legs working and his muscles unknotted.

Glancing at the clock on the stove and seeing that it was just after five o'clock in the morning Graham decided that he might as well get busy and put together some breakfast for both of them. Shuffling towards the kitchen Graham began opening cupboards and the refrigerator to see what was available. He had not been planning on having an extra mouth to feed but a little hunting and imagination would solve the problem.

"I think I'll just go into the office early today and then I'll be able to get out early too. How would you like to have some breakfast now? I can stir something up for us both if you like."

"Anything at all would be fine," replied Jamie believing that his time was now up. Somehow he had not been what Graham was looking for and it was now time for him to leave. Jamie could not think of anything specific he had done to make Graham decide against keeping him but it was obviously too late now. Maybe if he had stopped Graham from buying so much food at the restaurant, or spending so much money on clothes last night, or maybe he should have been more persistent at trying to get Graham to get in bed with him. Whatever it was he had failed and now it was going to be back into the cold on the street.

"I promise I'll do better for you on the weekend," said Graham as he started putting things onto the kitchen counter. "There's not a lot here right now because I usually pick up groceries on Monday evening."

Jamie turned from picking up his things at Graham's words. The weekend? Maybe it was not over. Maybe he would still have a chance to make Graham want to keep him for a while. Jamie quickly put his backpack down so Graham would not see that he had been starting to get ready to leave.

"Do you like eggs?" Graham asked looking over towards Jamie.

"Yes I do," said Jamie with interest. "I haven't had eggs in a long time."

"Let's see what I can do then," replied Graham as he laid several strips of bacon into a pan to start frying.

After tossing out the waxed paper that the bacon had been wrapped in Graham began to chop up some tomatoes and green pepper that he had discovered in the bottom of the refrigerator in addition to some leftover cooked potatoes. Graham turned the bacon over and then added the chopped- up potatoes to the pan and stirred them around to let them begin to cook. A couple of minutes later he added in the tomatoes and green pepper and stirred it all again. Reaching for a bowl Graham cracked the last of the eggs into it and stirred them up with a fork. Taking a large pepper shaker from the cupboard he sprinkled some into the egg mixture and stirred a bit more. After checking that everything was cooking properly Graham then poured the eggs into the frying pan and gave the pan a swirl to spread the egg mixture evenly.

Jamie watched with fascination as Graham worked. Breakfast at home, when it had happened at all, came out of a cereal box. Jamie could not remember when he had last had a hot cooked breakfast.

After satisfying himself that everything was well on its way Graham covered the frying pan with a lid and then popped some bread into the toaster. Graham went over to the table and shifted the papers and laptop computer making room for Jamie and himself to eat. The toast popped up and Graham immediately put two more slices into the toaster and began to butter the ones that he had just taken out. Soon Graham had buttered toast ready on each plate and then peeked under the lid of the frying pan to check how the eggs were doing.

Satisfied with the results Graham removed the lid off the frying pan with a flourish, picked up a knife and divided the impromptu omelette into two, and slid half onto each plate along with several slices of bacon. Taking the pepper shaker Graham then added a healthy sprinkle on top and handed the plates one at a time to Jamie who placed them onto the table.

"There you go," said Graham as he poured orange juice into two glasses. "It's not exactly a Spanish omelette but it's as close as I could come this morning."

"It looks wonderful," said Jamie very impressed with Graham's rapid assembly of a full hot breakfast.

"Have a seat and dig in," said Graham as he moved to the table and sat down.

"This tastes great," said Jamie in between mouthfuls.

"I'm glad you like it," said Graham with a smile. "I managed to get almost everything I needed to do finished off last night while you were sleeping but I do need to go into the office this morning for a few hours. That way I can complete a couple of things that are left over from yesterday. After that however I can leave and if you're interested maybe we could spend the weekend together. What do you think of that for an idea?"

Although Jamie had initially thought that Graham was going to send him back to the street after breakfast things were definitely sounding like that was not going to happen now. While still unsure what Graham had in mind for him based on everything that had happened so far, Jamie felt that staying, at least for a while, was the right choice.

"Yes that would be nice," Jamie replied after a momentary hesitation.

"You can wait here where it's warm if you like while I'm at work," continued Graham. "Sleep some more, or watch TV, or whatever else you like. There's a couple of books around that you can read and there's a few DVDs in the cupboard over there if you can't find anything worthwhile on the TV."

"Stay in here while you're gone?" asked Jamie with astonishment. "Don't you want me to stay outside so I can't wreck or steal anything?"

"Why would I want you to do that?" replied Graham. "If I'm asking you to trust me on something big like letting me try to help you it's only fair that I first show you that I have trust in you on something small like letting you stay here."

"OK," said Jamie still not believing that Graham was actually going to let him stay inside his place. Although Jamie had occasionally been allowed to stay for a few days with a man, they had always made him go out while they were away from home not trusting him sufficiently to leave him alone in their homes.

"I should be back by about ten o'clock roughly. While I'm gone you can clean up and get dressed in your new things. Then when I get back we can go and have a little adventure this weekend."

"An adventure?" Jamie asked dubiously.

"You'll like it I promise. But I want to surprise you so no details right now," added Graham secretively. "But you don't need to worry. Nothing will happen to you and no one will touch you or hurt you."

Jamie did not totally believe that it was going to be something he would like but he was willing to go along with whatever Graham had in mind. Things had been pretty good so far and Graham had certainly been generous with everything up front. With any luck perhaps it would continue like that for a while before Graham got too rough with him.

"OK, I'll wait here for you," said Jamie.

"Great," replied Graham. "I'll get changed and head for the office then. In a few hours I'll be back and then we can go."

Graham went into the bathroom and started to get ready for work. While looking at himself in the mirror and shaving Graham wondered what he was getting himself into. Letting a street boy stay in his place while he was away? That was not like himself at all. Would he return to find the place had been trashed or cleaned out? It was certainly possible but on the other hand there was something about Jamie that suggested to Graham that everything would be fine when he returned and that it was worth the risk. Jamie was quickly growing on Graham and again there was the feeling that something was coming together. Graham was not completely certain about it but doing this felt right somehow.

Showering quickly Graham threw on a fresh shirt along with the suit and tie he had worn yesterday. Once finished in the bathroom Graham went over to the kitchen table and collected up the papers that had been his pillow during the night putting them into his briefcase. Unplugging the laptop computer from the wall he added it to the top of the pile and closed the briefcase.

"I don't have a spare key to give you," said Graham. "Do you think you'll need to go out for anything?"

"No, I don't need to go out," replied Jamie still not quite believing his ears but feeling sure now that Graham did not mean to dump him, at least not right away.

"I'm sorry I have to leave you but you know how it is. If you don't keep the boss happy he gets on your back," joked Graham.

"It's OK. I understand," replied Jamie.

Walking towards the door Graham said, "I'll see you in a few hours then Jamie. Remember to get ready for when I get back," and then he opened the door and went out closing it behind him.

Jamie looked at the closed door and was completely perplexed at this man. How did Graham know that it would be safe to leave him alone in his place? How did Graham know he would not steal something and run? Jamie knew himself that he would not do that but how did Graham know that he could trust him? Why had Graham not tried something last night after spending all that money on him? None of it made any sense at all.

While Jamie pondered the mystery that was Graham he picked up the remote control for the TV set and began to flip through the channels. It would be several hours before Graham said he would return so Jamie hoped that he could find something interesting to watch.

Graham decided to take the car to work this morning rather than the bus. Since he was planning on it being a short day he did not want to waste time waiting for buses and the introduction of Jamie into the equation added to that desire. The early morning traffic was very light and before long Graham was pulling into a spot in the parking lot underneath the NCS office tower.

Graham went up the elevator to his floor and hoped that with a bit of luck he would be able to finish up everything that needed to be done fairly quickly. Graham normally worked a short day on Fridays so he could catch the afternoon flight over to Valdez Island for the weekend and he was now planning on this being an even shorter day than usual.

Graham threaded his way through the maze of cubicles until he found his own desk. Sitting down he opened up his briefcase and pulled out the papers and laptop computer that he had put into it back at his apartment. He connected the small machine to the large display screen sitting on his desk and pressed the power button. After waiting a couple of minutes for the system to finish beeping and playing the inevitable start-up music, Graham was finally able to begin working. His fingers rapidly picked up from where they had left off last night and the conclusion to his status report on yesterday's business meeting began to take shape.

Other people in the office were gradually beginning to arrive just as Graham was putting the final touches on his report. He carefully proofread it and then satisfied with how it looked he ordered the machine to send it off for printing. By the time Graham's boss arrived at nine o'clock the report was completed and ready for presenting. After waiting about ten minutes for his boss to get settled Graham walked into his office with the report tucked under his arm.

"Good morning, Alex," said Graham cheerfully as he entered.

"Good morning, Graham. I saw your note on my desk late yesterday afternoon along with the signed agreement. Is that your report there?" asked Alex.

"Yes, this is it. Full details on the final agreement with Haida Forest Products," answered Graham.

"You've got it all wrapped up?" inquired Alex.

"Yes, it's all here. Revenue versus cost projections, service level descriptions, response time agreements, the whole thing," said Graham.

"What do the financial numbers look like?" asked Alex.

"I did a two-year projection on that and payback for the client starts after eleven months and after only six months for us," said Graham.

Graham's boss took the report and thumbed through it. A few minutes later he smiled broadly, "This is superb. This is going to make both sides happy and it's going to give a nice boost to the numbers for this department just at year-end. I'm not going to forget this when it comes to bonus time in January either."

Graham smiled and said, "Thanks very much, I really appreciate that."

Knowing that all pay for managers was directly tied to the financial results of their divisions Graham knew that the figures in the report were going to make his boss happy. By closing one final deal just before the end of the year his boss was going to get a significantly larger bonus than he had been expecting and as a result it sounded like some of that happiness was now going to flow downhill to Graham as well.

"You deserve it. I can always count on you to do a thorough job when you tackle something and that's why I knew you were the right one to push this proposal through to completion," Alex added.

"Now that this is out of the way I need to ask for a bit of time off," began Graham. "I have some personal business that needs looking after and I'd like to advance my Christmas vacation so it starts now if you don't mind."

Graham's boss leaned forward in his chair and asked, "You've got everything tidied up? No loose ends anywhere?"

"No, this finishes off the last project I was working on for the year and it's all complete now," answered Graham.

Knowing Graham to be a man of his word and always meticulous Alex agreed, "Fair enough. You have a good vacation and I'll see you back here at the start of January then."

After leaving Alex's office Graham went back to his desk. For a minute he busied himself putting away the papers that he had used to finish off the report that were scattered all over the top of the desk. Graham's hands moved quickly and most of the papers went into the filing cabinet next to his cubicle, the remainder then went into the recycling bin underneath the desk. Once he had everything put away and the desktop was cleared Graham reached for the telephone and dialed.

"Bear Lake Air, how I help you?" came a woman's voice over the telephone.

"Is David Greene there please?" said Graham.

A few moments later a voice came over the telephone, "Dave Greene speaking."

"Graham here, how are you doing Dave?" said Graham.

"Oh pretty good. I'm just getting loaded up for the morning run over to Valdez," said Dave. "What's up?"

"I was wondering if you'd have any room on the eleven o'clock flight today?" asked Graham. "I'm finished early at work and if you have the room it'd be great to be able to leave this morning. Also I need a second seat. My sister dropped her son off with me for the weekend so I want to bring him over with me."

"It's mostly cargo this morning with only a couple of passengers so I still have room left," said Dave. "If you need two seats though it'll depend on the weight. How big is he?"

"Not very big," said Graham. "Under a hundred pounds."

"Oh that's no problem at all," said Dave. "I can leave the back seat down to fit more cargo in and he can sit up front with me."

"I think he'd like that a lot," said Graham with a chuckle. "Besides your insurance company might appreciate you having a co-pilot keeping an eye on you."

"Watch it there," laughed Dave. "If you don't behave there might be an unscheduled water landing and then we'll find out just how well you swim."

"OK, you win," said Graham surrendering. "I'll be good."

"Think you'll be able to make it here in time for the morning run?" asked Dave.

"It'll be tight but we'll be there," said Graham. "I'm just about to leave the office now. Then off to my place, pick up Jamie, and then we'll head straight for the airport."

"No problem," said Dave. "Since I know you're coming if you're a couple of minutes late I'll hold the flight for you."

"Thanks a bunch Dave," said Graham. "Just tack the extra fare onto my bill."

"I'll tell Ida and she can figure it out," said Dave. "See you soon."

Graham hung up and looked at his cleaned off desk for a moment. Then for reasons he did not quite understand he reached into the top drawer of his desk and removed the mug he used for drinking tea. The mug went into his now empty briefcase and he closed it.

Putting on his overcoat Graham picked up his briefcase and took a couple of steps away from his cubicle. He paused for a moment and then looked back at his desk and chair and then around the office as a whole. Graham did not know why but he had a strange feeling that things were going to be quite different by the time the holiday season was over. Finally he turned on his heel and strode out of the office to the elevator. When it arrived he got in and punched the button for the parking level.

Back at Graham's apartment Jamie was getting ready to give up on the television set. It was true what they said, ninety-nine channels and nothing on. Morning television did not exactly provide a lot of choices that were interesting to a youngster. Between right-wing political pundits ranting on about how they would solve the latest world crisis given a free hand, yet another interview with a pseudo-psychologist on how to have a more fulfilling life, and lesser fare seemingly designed to encourage people to humiliate themselves to win prizes it was pretty bad all around.

Jamie finally settled on a detective movie that was on a channel that specialized in old programs. Jamie could tell that the show was somewhat dated but it had a lot of subtle humour that he found enjoyable. The main character was tracking down a murderer and was gradually backing the suspect into a corner through a combination of deception and skill rather than through the usual car chases, fistfights, and gunplay that were now used as substitutes for a plotline.

While he was watching the movie the image of Graham flashed into Jamie's mind from last night as he managed to stand down the security guard simply by using his wits. For almost all of Jamie's life those around him had always resolved problems or disputes through physical force - it was all that he had ever known and frequently he had been the target of the attacks. Nevertheless the movie and Graham's actions the previous night fit in with what Jamie had learnt once he was out on the streets. Unlike what he had seen at home Jamie's experiences taking care of himself once he had run away had taught him that having an alert mind was worth far more than having a large fist. This also fit with Jamie realizing that there was more to Graham than was visible on the surface. It would take time however to find out what was underneath and whether it was something for Jamie to fear or not. Nevertheless Jamie had the feeling that if he was given the opportunity he would like to learn more about Graham.

Preoccupied with his thoughts about Graham, Jamie suddenly heard a key opening the door to the apartment and he leapt off of the sofa. Quickly running into the kitchen area he peeked back around the counter to see who was coming though the door.

"Sorry I startled you," said Graham noticing Jamie's reaction to his opening the door. "How are you doing?"

"Pretty good," said Jamie. "There wasn't much on TV but I found this old movie that was interesting and I've been watching it."

Graham glanced at the TV screen for a split-second and smiled as he recognized the rumpled raincoat that was the signature of the main character. The movie that Jamie had settled on was one of a series that all involved the same classic detective, the choice raised Graham's already positive impression of Jamie even higher.

"Sometimes the best way to catch someone isn't by trying to shoot them," said Graham with a grin.

"I was just thinking the same thing and how you handled that guard last night," said Jamie.

Graham smiled at Jamie's appreciative comment and said, "We'll be able to go soon. I just need to pick up a few things and throw them into a bag."

Jamie who had already gotten washed and dressed earlier looked back at the TV as Graham got a small suitcase out of the closet. It only took a couple of minutes to throw the couple of things that Graham needed into it.

"Did work go OK?" asked Jamie.

"Pretty good. No job is great but this one is tolerable," Graham replied as he went into the kitchen area meaning to tidy up the dishes from breakfast that he had forgotten about in his rush to get to the office. Much to his surprise, however, the plates, glasses, and other items were already washed and dried and were sitting carefully laid out on the counter. Graham's eyebrows went up in surprise seeing that Jamie had carefully cleaned everything already.

"Thanks very much for washing up everything for me. I wasn't expecting that," said Graham as he put the dishes and cutlery away in the cupboards.

"It's only fair after everything you've done," said Jamie.

"I've not done that much," said Graham feeling a bit uncomfortable.

"To me you sure have," said Jamie with marked sincerity.

Feeling embarrassed Graham changed the subject and asked, "So are you ready to go on our weekend adventure?"

Jamie was not at all certain that he was but given that Graham had been nothing but kind to him thus far he replied, "Sure. What are we going to do?"

"You collect your things together and then I'll show you," said Graham.

Jamie got up off the sofa and picked up his old clothes from where they had been sitting and pushed them into his backpack. Jamie's old running shoes went into a plastic bag and Graham put them into the suitcase he was packing. Lastly Jamie passed Graham the extra new clothes that they had bought last night and Graham laid them on top of everything else inside the suitcase and then closed it. Graham then cast a quick look around the place to check nothing had been forgotten.

"Need anything else before we go?" asked Graham.

"No, I'm ready," said Jamie getting up, shutting off the TV, and picking up his backpack.

"We'd better get moving then. We don't want to be late," said Graham.

"Late for what?" asked Jamie.

"You'll see," said Graham with a twinkle in his eye.

Jamie accepted Graham's comment quietly despite still feeling nervous about what Graham was planning. Jamie was beginning to feel a bit more at ease with Graham but was still rather skittish.

They headed out and after putting the suitcase in the back of the car Graham unlocked the doors and they got in. A few moments later Graham had the car moving down the road.

"So where are we going?" asked Jamie.

"If I told you that it wouldn't be a surprise now would it?" replied Graham with mystery. However, seeing the troubled look on Jamie's face added, "Don't worry Jamie. You'll like it, I promise you will."

Jamie decided to wait before making up his mind. Things with Graham had been good so far. Actually far more than simply good Jamie admitted to himself. The question was how long would they remain that way before he would have to run again? He knew all too well that no matter how good things might appear at first they would eventually change - they always did.

Graham quickly navigated his way through the city, in, around, and through the traffic doing his best to get from the suburb where he lived during the weekdays to the opposite side of town with a minimum of delay. It seemed to Graham at times that there were traffic lights almost every block but gradually they made their way through the tangle of city traffic. When Graham got closer to the west side of town Jamie recognized the suburb they were headed for and was perplexed. What was out here that could be classified as an adventure? Then Graham made one more turn and Jamie saw the big blue sign on the side of the road pointing the way to the airport.

"We're going to the airport?" asked Jamie with surprise.

"Sort of," replied Graham somewhat cryptically.

The car then made a turn to the left off the main route to the airport and went along a side road that was adjacent to a small river inlet. Graham then turned off that road and pulled into a parking lot next to a small building perched on the side of the riverbank.

"We're here," announced Graham opening the car door and getting out.

"Here?" said Jamie picking up his backpack and getting out of the car. "There's nothing here. The airport's back over that way."

"Oh I think there is," said Graham with a big grin.

Picking up the suitcase out of the back of the car Graham pointed towards the little building next to the river bank and they began to walk the few hundred yards towards it. Approaching the building Jamie looked above the door and saw an old sign with the paint peeling off and a name carved into it: Bear Lake Air. The name certainly did not sound like any airline Jamie had ever heard of and the rundown look of the building and the sign did not exactly inspire confidence. Graham opened the front door to the building and waited for a hesitant Jamie to pass through.

"You'd better hurry if you don't want them to leave without you," Graham said with a smile.

"What kind of place is this?" asked Jamie with some apprehension in his voice.

"Just a moment and I'll show you," said Graham.

Going up to a Dutch door that had the top half open Graham announced himself. A woman inside the small office recognized Graham and waved.

"You made it," she said. "He said you would."

"I'm sorry we're a couple of minutes late Ida. We got here as quickly as we could," replied Graham.

"You'd better go down right away," Ida added as she ticked off Graham's name on a clipboard attached to the wall. "We don't want the other passengers to start complaining."

Graham motioned for Jamie to join him as he walked towards a door on the opposite side of the little building. Opening the door Graham let Jamie go through first.

Stepping through the door and back into the bright winter sunshine outside Jamie found himself looking down at a white floatplane with green markings sitting at the edge of the river inlet. It was tied up to a small wharf just below the level of the building and the native-inspired emblem of a bear on the tail shone as the sunlight reflected off it.

"We're going in that?" Jamie asked with astonishment.

"You can't get to where we're going in an ordinary plane you know," replied Graham smiling.

Jamie looked down at the floatplane as a large burly man hopped out of the door at the front of the plane and came up to Graham and Jamie. Taking the suitcase out of Graham's hand he went back down towards the plane with Graham and Jamie following him.

"We're only a couple of minutes off schedule," he said while putting the suitcase into the back of the plane after which he secured the latch on the cargo door.

"Sorry for making you wait Dave," said Graham. "I had to finish a couple of things at the office before I could leave."

"It's no problem. I knew you'd get here. Ida just gets her feathers in an uproar if things aren't exactly on time," said Dave with a laugh. "She keeps everything running efficiently even if I forget sometimes."

Dave held open the side door while Graham climbed up and into the plane. Then Dave helped Jamie climb up into the passenger cabin. After they were both inside Dave closed the door from the outside.

Graham had sat down in the only remaining seat in the passenger cabin and Jamie was looking about puzzled because there was nowhere left to sit. While he was trying to figure out what to do Dave had untied the floatplane, pushed it off from the wharf, and climbed in the door next to the pilot's seat.

"Hey, where's my co-pilot?" called out Dave after giving a wink to Graham.

Graham grinned at Jamie and motioned towards the seat in the front next to the pilot.

"Me?" asked an unbelieving Jamie.

"Better hurry up, I'm not allowed to take off without someone at the controls over here," continued Dave in a mock gruff voice.

Jamie looked towards Graham for support but found him completely engrossed in a close examination of the air safety pamphlet. Graham peeked over the top of the card to watch while Jamie nervously climbed into the seat at the front of the plane on the right side of Dave. After getting into the seat, Jamie took his backpack off and put it down on the floor between his feet.

Jamie looked back at Graham hesitantly but then seeing a big smile on his face realized that this must have been the plan all along. Jamie put on his seatbelt after seeing Dave buckle himself in and then looked over all the gauges and switches on the console wondering what they all did.

"You'd better put these on too," said Dave handing Jamie a set of headphones that he had just plugged into an audio jack on the side of the bulkhead overtop of the young boy. Once Jamie had the headphones on Dave said into his microphone. "Can you hear me OK?"

"Loud and clear," said a smiling Jamie into the microphone attached to the headphones while adjusting the headset for a better fit.

Calling out loudly to the people sitting behind him Dave said, "OK everyone my name is Dave and I'm going to be your co-pilot. For a change we're lucky today and actually have someone with us who's been properly trained on these new-fangled flying machines. So instead of hanging on by your knuckles while I'm reading the instruction manual I'm going to turn the controls over to our Captain here. If you have any questions just read the safety card, all the pictures are in English for your convenience. So hold on tight and if anything goes wrong remember that the passenger next to you can be used as a flotation device."

Jamie blushed as he heard the chuckles coming from the passengers behind him but he was still pleased to have such a good seat. From where he was sitting Jamie could see everything not to mention the fact that he would get to watch Dave up close as he flew the plane. He wondered if Graham knew that he had never been inside a plane of any sort let alone sitting in the cockpit of one. Whatever kind of adventure Graham had in mind it was certainly starting to look interesting.

Looking out of the plane's front windscreen Jamie watched as the floatplane slowly drifted to the centre of the river inlet, but when the plane remained silent he looked over at Dave curious why he was not starting the engine.

When Jamie finally turned in his direction a placid Dave sitting with his arms folded said, "You'd better start the engine up pretty soon or we'll drift too far. After all that is part of the captain's job you know."

Jamie's mouth opened and he did not know what to say at first but eventually he managed to say in a very small voice, "But I don't know anything about flying a plane."

"What?" said Dave with overemphasized shock, "I was told you were certified on the de Havilland DHC-2 Beaver."

"No, I don't know anything about floatplanes," said Jamie with worry showing all over his face.

"Oh dear. I suppose that also means you don't know why this red light is blinking do you," said Dave pointing at the power light on the GPS navigator's display on Jamie's side of the console.

"No I don't," said a nervous Jamie in a very small voice.

"That's OK, neither do I. We'll just have to cross our fingers that it's nothing important. I still need your help though; I want you to move the red mixture lever up to about here and then pump the white throttle lever up and down twice while I hit the ignition switch," said Dave pointing towards the three engine controls located in the middle-top of the console. "Hopefully there aren't any union reps around from the International Brotherhood of Airline Pilots and Skateboard Technicians to register a complaint."

Realizing now that Dave was only joking with him Jamie reached over and slowly pushed the mixture lever up as Dave had directed and pumped the throttle. The engine sputtered once and then roared into life when Dave flipped the red ignition switch up and Jamie looked towards Dave and grinned.

"You want to do the takeoff yourself or do you want me to give it a try?" asked Dave.

Now feeling more confident and into the flow of things Jamie giggled, "You probably need the practice so I'll let you do it."

"Oh a wise guy eh?" laughed Dave. "All right everyone, it looks like you're stuck with me. Hang onto your hats, here goes nothing!"

Jamie looked back towards Graham who grinned at him and winked and Jamie gave him a big smile. It was clear to Jamie now that Dave, their pilot, was a total character. However despite his fondness for humour he was obviously very well trained. Dave quickly guided the floatplane up the inlet away from the boats that were alongside the banks, and then smoothly turned it around getting it into takeoff position in the centre of the river inlet.

Jamie looked back towards the front of the plane just as Dave was throttling up the engine to full and the plane began to pick up speed rapidly. In a matter of seconds the plane was soon skimming along the surface of the water at high speed.

"Oh wow!" exclaimed Jamie as the floatplane then rose up out of the water, banked slightly, and headed out over the marshy river delta and away from the coast.

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[For those who use webmail, or whose regular email client opens when they want to use webmail instead: Please right click the author's name. A menu will open in which you can copy the email address (it goes directly to your clipboard without having the courtesy of mentioning that to you) to paste into your webmail system (Hotmail, Gmail, Yahoo etc). Each browser is subtly different, each Webmail system is different, or we'd give fuller instructions here. We trust you to know how to use your own system. Note: If the email address pastes or arrives with %40 in the middle, replace that weird set of characters with an @ sign.]

* Some browsers may require a right click instead