Swan Dive! Ch. 35: Feeling the Flutter

Flapping his arms as he picked up what speed he could muster in the hard-packed sand nearest the water, Sam Bennett began his wobbly practice run up and down the beach. Every morning at seven he practiced his takeoff, running as fast as he could to gain enough speed to lift off. Sam knew he’d never take flight from the ground but believed he needed all the flapping practice he could get before one day soaring from the edge of a tall building roof or bridge.

Watching from a distance, Ruby Arenas asked Santa Muerte for help.

“Help Sam fly, Mother Death,” she said. “Just once.”

The notorious Mexican death saint only interceded when she saw fit. Maybe she would bestow generous favor on Sam Bennett as he struggled to save himself, the gulls and the planet. Santa Muerte knew a soul aligned with the universe when she saw one.

When Sam abruptly stumbled in his mad dash he seemed to hover for just a second, seeming to rise an inch or so from his forward momentum before crashing and coming down face-forward into the water. Getting to his knees he brushed himself off and slowly stood facing east when he spotted Ruby and watched her jog to his side.

“I felt it,” he said. “I felt the flutter.”

“I felt the flutter too, Sam,” she said.

The flutter was what Sam once told Ruby he called the natural instinct of real flight, a bodily sensation he knew he possessed that would lead one day to a full-scale climb into the heavens.

“What goes down must go up,” Sam said.

Ruby patiently let Sam riff on the aviation theory that worked overtime in his brain.

“I thought it was the other way around, Samuel,” she said.

Ruby was the only person Sam let call him Samuel. In return she knew he liked her formal attention. You could see Sam blush even through the crimson webbed complexion of broken blood vessels in his nose and cheeks the gin in his countless martinis had caused.

“Pay attention to the gulls,” he said. “When they’re high they dive, what I call a swan dive minus the swan, of course, then they catch a wave of air and pick up speed to climb like surfing the atmosphere. Riding the waves is like riding the music. Only then do the gulls dive. I wonder if they hear psychedelic music in their heads when they fly the way I do when I try?”

“Far out, Sam,” Ruby said. “You’re really too much.”

“If I sound crazy it’s because I’m not,” Sam said.

“You’re a conundrum wrapped inside an enigma,” she said.

“Yes, yes,” Sam said. “A puzzle. A riddle.”

“Keep practicing,” Ruby said.

“You, too,” Sam said.

About to leave Ruby stopped short at Sam’s suggestion.

“What do you mean, Sam? What should I keep practicing?”

“Your voodoo spells, the Mexican magic, the Cuban Santeria witchcraft,” he said. “Hoodoo mojo sorcery power for the people will help save the world. I sense that vibe the same way I feel the flutter.”

“What exactly do you sense, Sam?”

“We share a destiny,” Sam said. “I perceive goodness, courage, a vow to protect Mother Earth from evils our self-absorbed species wrought.”

“Yes,” she said.

“Wrought sounds like rot,” Sam said.

“Yes,” she said.

“You felt the flutter?”

“Yes,” she said.

“Did you know swans and gulls are friends?” Sam asked.

“Uh, no,” Ruby said.

“In ancient times gulls taught black swans how to dive, swan dive, if you will. Black swans taught white swans. One day gulls will teach me to swan dive as well,” Sam said.

How could Sam Bennett know black swans sometimes guided Ruby in her dreams, carrying her high as she rode into a sunset sky of purple and orange haze before gently lowering her on their wings into the bosom of soft green grass that blew on mellow winds nourished by clean clear water?

“I, too, admire swans, Sam,” Ruby said.

“I saw you once in the sky,” he said. “We passed by as we rode our black swans into the night.”

“I didn’t see you, Sam,” she said.

“Maybe that’s because my magic sometimes makes me invisible,” he said.

“Maybe we were both just dreaming,” she said.

“Maybe our dreams are real,” Sam said.

“Maybe we both can fly,” Ruby said.

“Maybe you are a swan,” Sam said.

“And maybe you are a gull,” Ruby said.

“Birds of a feather,” Sam said.

Turning and puffing out his chest he walked away flapping his arms and talking to himself, clucking and cackling like a chicken in a language Ruby trusted she, Sam and Santa Muerte clearly understood.