Swan Dive! Ch. 43: Eight Miles High

All Margo could think to do was spin in circles.

That’s right.


Humans reject the notion that gulls like Margot think or feel or do anything but scarf french fries and crap ketchup. Humans scarf fries and crap ketchup too. But Margot thought deeper philosophical thoughts than most Florida tourists, residents or the sitting tyrant governor and his airhead wife.

Sam Bennett’s favorite gull spotted her friend flying high as soon as she drifted toward the beach and saw the speedboat pulling a massive yellow parasail imprinted with a smiley face climbing into the sky. Two passengers sitting side-by-side rose like souls ascending into heaven on Judgment Day, lifted above brilliant blue waters of the Gulf of Mexico beneath a billowing nylon canopy.

Becky hugged Sam Bennett’s arm like a child clutching a stuffed bear to help keep the monsters away.

“I’m so afraid,” she said, doing her best to stifle a laugh.

Kicking stumpy almost hairless bare legs the way he did as a disheveled little kid on a playground swing wearing the same kind of madras patterned Bermuda shorts he wore today, Sam felt his heart thump in his chest. He looked around excitedly, craning his neck left and right. Other than flying in Navy airplanes while in the military, he had never before soared this high, the connection between body and sky filling him with wonder.

“Fear not,” Sam said. “We are one with wind.”

 “You’re so strong, Sam,” Becky said. “This is the best first date ever.”

“We’re friends, Kim,” Sam said. “I only agreed to parasail when you invited me because I hoped you might come to your senses.”

Good-natured Sam worried Kim might have gone over the edge, that this grating unpredictable personality that called herself Becky might forever control Kim. Sam had never before parasailed, but the thought of flying in a harness provoked giggles. Obsession, training, dreaming and preparation to take off would soon culminate in a one-man maiden flight sans harness, parasail or parachute. In the meantime Sam craved anything even close to the hoped-for freedom of what he now called “the trip.”

Gliding past the fully inflated parasail Margot squawked to get Sam’s attention. But he ignored her for the first time ever, signaling an issue or problem and not a snub between allies. Turning and banking to the left, Margot flew past the frazzled passenger she didn’t know, a wild woman whose hair reminded Margot of the ratty abandoned nests mother gulls leave behind after sending their growing chicks on their way and into lives of their own. Missing her mother terribly, Margot had all the more reason to embrace Sam’s friendship. In turn she sensed his mission to one day join her in flight and ride the breeze side by side. Rooting for this unkempt human to succeed winging it made Margot feel a little human herself.

Gulls can and do think deep philosophical thoughts – whether humans know it or not. Sam knew. So when he ignored Margot she understood he faced a deep dilemma and needed help. But what’s a gull to do?

Leaning into Sam’s shoulder, nuzzling against the pineapple pattern of his faded polyester Hawaiian shirt, Becky patted his hand.

“How high are we, honey?” she asked.

“About 500 feet,” said Sam.

“Aren’t you afraid?” she asked, tugging on Sam’s harness straps she had sliced three quarters of the way through with a new hook knife when the boat was docked in the middle of the night. Cutting into the seat, back and leg straps she gambled that the harness would hold until they reached cruising altitude. Then she could whip out her sharp-edged blade and sever the rest, sending her enemy crashing into a watery grave. Who did this bum think he was trying to rescue Kim?

Becky had also cut partially through the tow line attached to the boat just in case she made up her mind to join Sam in plunging to their deaths. Tiring of living in an asylum for the terminally inane, maybe enough finally was enough. Maybe the time had come for her and Kim to find someplace else in the cosmos to hang out. She hated to admit it, but she missed those twin Irish devil spirits she already dispatched to Hell and hoped she could reconnect with Tara and Shannon in the afterlife. Those girls sure knew how to party.

But Becky couldn’t make up her mind – indecision shaping one of the main pitfalls of a split personality.

“This is great,” Sam said. “I want to go eight miles high.”

“Like the Byrds song?” Becky asked.

“Whoa, the Byrds,” Sam said. “I always dug the Byrds.”

Just as Becky started secretly sawing Sam’s harness the tow rope broke.

Up, up, up they went, gaining altitude on building wind gusts, climbing higher and higher.

Sam readily entered the moment.

“Fly!” he said. “Fly!”

“We’re going down,” Becky said.

“No, we’re going up,” Sam said.

“Down,” said Becky.

“Up,” said Sam.






Circling in a mad frenzy, all Margot could do was stay out of the way of the smiley-faced parasail that now surged sideways, picking up speed as it raced across the gray-streaked sky, blowing unrestrainedly toward Pier 60 crowded with senior citizens pointing to the sky.