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Stories from the Verse
For Better or Verse
Chapter 34: Brown 66
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"Well, everyone is a bit different. Some are already flying at your age, and some don't learn for a while yet. There's no need to rush. You've done so many things so young, we sort of expected you to fly young, too. But you're certainly not behind for your age."
Lelach's assurances were not so helpful for Derek. Of course he walked early, and talked early. He had done those things in another life, maybe several other lives, in another body. It was just a matter of training this body to do what his mind remembered. He had never flown. He had never even imagined flying, at least, not in any sense of imagining he would ever be able to fly for real. Now he had wings, and he had determined how to move them, but he had no idea how to fly.
"How do I learn?" he said. "I'm afraid I'll fall if I jump from somewhere, but I don't know how to get into the air from the ground."
Lelach thought about this for a moment.
"I don't know how to explain it, really," she said. "It's just something you do. I don't think about how to walk, or how to chew; and I don't think about how to fly."
"Yes," Derek answered; "but if someone asked how you do those things, you could tell them quite a bit about it. You know that when you walk, you put all your weight on one foot while you move the other forward, and then you switch. If you think about it, you realize that you must move back and forth a little bit, so you'll be balanced on one foot at a time."
Lelach seemed to reflect on this. "I'd never thought of that," she said. "You are a remarkable boy."
Derek decided that the rather complex motions of chewing, including the manner in which the tongue moved food in the mouth and the functions of different teeth, were probably too much to bring into the conversation at the moment. "It must be the same with flying. You know what you do; and if you think about it, you can probably figure out a lot about how you do it that would be helpful."
"Well," she said, and then again, "well, you have to curve your wings to catch the air in them the right way. You have to do that different to move forward than you do to move up. But first I think you have to learn to move up, just to lift yourself off the ground. Let me see." And as she continued to describe what she did, she also did it, as if she were learning how it was done as she explained. "You have to lean forward a bit, so your wings are leaning forward. And then," she again paused, "then you have to curve the tops of your wings forward, and the outer edges in a bit, to make a kind of a, a bowl maybe? Only not so deep as a bowl, more like a flower, like a dogwood blossom or a daisy. And raise them, so the tops are above your head. Then you have to," she twitched her wings, as if trying to see which way she was going to move them," to push your wings down as much as you can. It's forward, but it's as much down as you can manage." And saying this, Lelach lifted off the ground with a single push of her delicate yet powerful wings.
"Of course, if you want to stay up in the air or go anywhere, you've got to keep moving them; but this is probably the easiest way to start."
I'll take your word for it was what Derek wanted to say; but he didn't. He tried to figure out how to do everything she said, repeating some of it aloud.
"And…and curve the wings?"
"Yes. Curve them in."
"In? Sometimes you curve them the other way?"
"Sometimes, but not at your age; and I don't think boys do it very well."
"Boys are different than girls?"
"Yes, boys and girls are different. You'll understand that when you're older."
"Oh, I know that boys and girls are different," Derek said. "Otherwise, they wouldn't have different names. But I mean, boys and girls fly different?"
His mother looked at him, as if trying to figure out how to explain something.
"Girls have more flexible wings. We can easily fly on our backs, dance in the air, spin, hover. Boys have more powerful wings. They can fly faster, higher, and longer, and can stop faster and make sharp turns while flying fast. I don't think the differences are so great at your age; but as you grow they'll be more different."
Derek wondered why the wings would be different in that way; but this wasn't the time to be concerned about that.
"So, curve the wings in a bit, lean forward, and push down--no, wait." He had been doing this as he said it, but now paused, realizing he'd forgotten a step. "I have to raise the wings up high first, and back a bit, and then," he went through the motions, "push down."
Dust and dirt flew up all around him; he coughed in the cloud. Lelach was laughing. She had a delightful laugh, which took some of the sting out of it, but it annoyed him anyway.
"What did I do wrong?"
"Nothing," she said. "You just didn't do enough right."
"If you want to fly, you have to do it right. You have to lean forward enough, but not too much. You have to curve your wings to catch enough air. You have to raise them to the right place, and bring them down fast enough and hard enough. You didn't do anything wrong. You raised and curved your wings, leaned forward, and pushed down. You just didn't do it all quite right enough."
"Fascinating." Derek was taken by the concept. The idea that you could have not done anything wrong and yet not done enough right had not occurred to him, perhaps in any life. Yet here it was, staring him in the face. He had done everything right; he just hadn't done it right enough.
"So if I keep doing this, and I work on it--" he let the thought fall. It was not different from learning to walk. He knew exactly how to walk, in his head, long before his feet understood the process. You didn't learn to fly merely by learning the formula; you had to practice it, to go through the motions and refine them, until you had it right.
Lelach smiled. "Yes, if you work on it." She, too, let the idea fall. He knew what she meant; he knew she knew he knew.
There is a behind-the-writings look at the thoughts, influences, and ideas of this chapter, along with ten other sequential chapters of this novel, in mark Joseph "young" web log entry #174: Versers Achieve. Given a moment, this link should take you directly to the section relevant to this chapter. It may contain spoilers of upcoming chapters.
As to the old stories that have long been here: