Lindy Bird Fly by Melissa Rotert

Lindy dreamed of birds and balloons, clouds and Cessnas, anything that could take her away from the ground and into the sky. What can one expect from a child named after an aviation great? But it wasn’t her namesake that drew her inexorably towards flight. For that, she owed her father. Walter “Wingless” Marshall flew helicopters for the Navy long before Lindy landed in his life. Two years before her birth, Walter was permanently grounded and honorably discharged following a crash that left him half a leg down.

He came home to his young wife and put his time in the skies behind him. Walter didn’t want to talk about it with anyone. That was, until his little Lindy Bird was born. He shared with her the secrets of his life on high: daring missions of rescue, storms that froze his rotor blades, and tales of camaraderie in his squadron. Lindy would perch on her father’s good knee and listen for hours, never seeing him smile so brightly as he did in those stolen moments. It was only natural that she would spend her days, head in the clouds, searching for her father’s joy.

Seven-year-old Lindy had finally plucked up the courage to climb out of the attic window and onto the highest branch of the mighty oak that shaded her front yard. All summer she’d cycled through plan after meticulous flight plan for a way to safely land at the bottom and share her adventure in the skies with Walter. Lindy was certain her father would beam so full of pride that he’d forget to stop smiling. She’d cut flimsy cardboard wings and tied balloons around her waist, but nothing seemed flightworthy. Having run out of ideas, Lindy snuck into the attic with a flashlight after supper. It was her father’s poker night and her mother was covering a night shift at the diner. Little Lindy Bird was certain that if she could just find her father’s old military memorabilia—the one thing she was forbidden from touching in the dusty crawl space—then she would discover the secret to a successful flight.  

Having found the worn leather-skinned trunk that held Walter’s treasures, Lindy set to searching through the contents, respectfully displacing those that would not aid her mission. Under a pile of documents and love letters from her mother, her fingers thrilled at the crinkle of paper packaging. Carefully lifting it from the base of the large trunk, Lindy wondered why this bundle alone had been so tenderly packed away. She’d discovered medals in small cases and her father’s old dress uniform tossed haphazardly into storage. Even the tiny set of wings she so admired in the photos of Walter that hung on her grandmother’s rose-papered walls was loose within the box. Whatever her father hid within the delicate brown paper and thin cord of twine must mean something special to him. 

Everytime Lindy moved the package she feared the boisterous crackle of starched paper would call attention to her invasion of Walter’s past. But with each pause, her betrayal went undiscovered. Delicately, Lindy Bird pulled the knot from the twine and parted the paper folds to reveal a wooden box. She gulped at the fortitude necessary to go one step more for an answer, feeling in her bones that the secret to flying lay within. Lifting the lid, Lindy frowned at the crumpled mass of nylon that revealed itself in the silvery light. It wasn’t until she unfurled the lightweight fabric that she realized what she held. The object in her hands was both a parachute and the answer to her problem.

Impatient to try, Lindy used the twine to tie the parachute around her thin torso. If either parent discovered her disloyalty to her father, breaking his one rule, she would never be allowed to return to the attic. Her flight test became an emergency operation. The very idea of it tingled with electricity up her small spine. It took some doing to pry open the paint-sealed dormer frame, but eventually her window for takeoff was clear. 

Stepping out carefully onto the heavy wooden branch, Lindy had not anticipated the wind. Nor had she expected her father’s head to crest above the narrow stairway that led to the attic. No small feat for a one-legged man.

“Lindy!” Walter called in panicked desperation as the chute began to billow in the evening breeze, rippling with desire to take off. Her grinning face turned in delight to see the sheer terror on her father’s face. There was no smile of pride as she expected. Only helplessness and fear. “Lindy!” he shouted again, as she lifted off the branch in a harsh jolt backwards into the dimming blue sky.

Lindy didn’t know the importance of the parachute. She couldn’t have guessed why her father had put so much care into preserving such a strange relic of his military days. Little Lindy Bird didn’t know that when Walter “Wingless” Marshall was shot from the sky, the nylon sail had saved his life. Walter didn’t know if it might save hers too.

Melissa Rotert is a University of Buffalo graduate who writes speculative fiction for all ages. Her short works attempt to capture the whimsy of her full length kidlit. Born in the Midwest and raised in WNY, Melissa is a theatre geek turned writer with work published in INKbabies literary magazine.