Red Bike Publishing Books

Monday, June 10, 2013

Not There Yet; Miles to Go-Commitment a Novel

Along the way, Matt told John of his own experiences in Papua, New Guinea, and several visits to other missionaries in the West Indies and New Guinea. “Irian Jaya has only in the last ten years been handed down from United Nations’ control after the Dutch released control. What amazes me is that they have a national language, but it doesn’t matter because each village is remote and has its own dialect,” he said as he drove the bouncing jeep down secondary roads.

“You mean I just wasted all this time learning Bahasa?” John reflected on his three months of missionary basic training.

“It’s not a waste of time; you’ll need it in dealing with government workers. But in the remote areas it’s a different and primitive game. But don’t worry; the local missionaries can translate for you.”

“Well, I don’t plan on doing too much talking–only flying. Shouldn’t here too long.” John watched the tall trees lining the road like soldiers standing at attention.

“If I may speak frankly,” Matt didn’t wait for permission. “If you are here to log enough flying hours to land a job with an airline, I think the nature of your work will change your heart, or send you packing.”

“Maybe.” Don’t count on it. I’ll fly in, and in nine to twelve months, fly out. John yawned, too tired to continue the conversation.


“Are we there?” John asked groggily a few hours later.

“Finally here. You slept through most of it, but I imagine it wasn’t enough rest,” Matt replied.

“Sorry, I guess I wasn’t much company,” said John.

“That’s all right. Let’s take your bags in and get you on your way to your new life.”

John unloaded and checked in with the POW administration. His fears were relieved when Matt told him his flight would be out the next afternoon with the mail delivery.

“John, have a safe and productive visit,” Matt said, extending his right hand. “Just a word of advice. Be careful to show the utmost respect to the indigent people as well as the missionaries under their care. They can get really nasty when offended.”

John thought about Mathew’s last words as he pulled back the sheets to his temporary bed. He laid his head on the pillow and fell asleep.

Red smoke drifted above the primitive helipad. Like a butterfly to sweet nectar, John and his helicopter flew to the clearing where the smoke grenade belched its crimson message. Soldiers injured during intense fighting needed to be evacuated, and John swore to get the job done.

“Hurry up and get in!” he screamed over the swishing of the spinning rotors. He could see the blinding flashes and the quaking of the earth as artillery exploded around him. “Just throw them in here and let’s go.”

The soldiers moved incredibly slowly as the explosions of artillery walked closer to the chopper. John could feel his hands sweating, and pulse quicken.

“Let’s go!” he screamed.

Finally, John felt the change in cabin pressure as the large cargo door slammed shut and the aircraft began its ascent. Even the air seemed to shake as explosions rocked the atmosphere. John watched medics wave frantically, begging him to land for the newly wounded. “I can’t land!” he screamed in frustration. “We’re too heavy!”

The helicopter seemed to float in slow motion as John increased the throttle and pushed the stick forward. He heard new screams coming from the passenger area of the Huey as they reacted to every bump and turn. They continued to scream horribly, until John turned to face them.

John bolted upright. He thought the days of nightmares were over since he’d quit flying helicopters in Vietnam. In the darkness he saw a motion in his peripherals, startling him. He gasped and nearly panicked until a stealthy figure put out a hand in gesture of friendliness. “Please, I do not mean to harm you,” the faceless shadow said

“Never, ever sneak up on anyone, especially me!” John ordered, fully intending to register his distress.

“I am very sorry,” the shadow said quietly. “It is breakfast time, yes? Everyone awake and waiting for you at table.” The ghost faded away.

John stretched and reached for his cloths and the towel provided. Could he be one of the natives? Maybe the people in Irian Jaya will have the same command of English... fat chance.

After showering in the lukewarm water, John shaved, dressed, and found his way to the dining area. The woman who checked him in the night before introduced him to the director.

“So good to finally meet you, Mr. Braddham.” Ted Jackson extended his hand enthusiastically.
“Thanks to Matt Smith, many of our missionaries find their way here easily.” He pulled a chair from the table and motioned for John to sit.

John thought for a minute about Ted’s definition of ‘easy’ before taking the extended hand and pumping it firmly. “Good to meet you too, Mr. Jackson. Sorry if I look a little rough, but I feel like I was dragged from Texas.”

“That’s quite all right. You should get used to the time change soon enough. Here at the home base we receive missionaries who travel to our sphere of operation. Be it Indonesia or New Guinea, our philosophy is to get you to your assignment as soon as possible. That’s the sure way to motivate your biological clock to adjust faster,” Jackson said.

“I was looking for a few days of napping, but working my body into this time zone makes better sense. That’s exactly what happened to us when we were sent to Vietnam–we hit the airport running,” John said in reflection. “Besides, I’d really like to get to flying, if you know what I mean, Mr. Jackson.”

“Call me Ted. I know your military background has taught you respect for your elders and those who are appointed over you. But it’s not as necessary here as it is in battle, even though ours is a spiritual one. Just be patient about flying. The routes you will fly are harrowing, even for the best pilots.”

“So, this past training is somehow not enough?” John asked hoping not to sound desperate.

“No, not at all. It’s just the foundation you will build upon. We need to hone your abilities. In the meantime, your first few weeks will be spent as an apprentice,” Ted said.

“As long as I get to fly.” John wondered if he sounded like a broken record.

“Eat up, there’s plenty of food,” Ted offered, changing the subject while glancing at his watch. “You will be leaving in an hour or so.”

While eating, John found himself updating fellow Americans on their favorite TV shows including The Brady Bunch and Ironside.

Others wanted to know the latest in news and sports, the kind of information one doesn’t see too often or acquire quickly enough. The foreign missionaries snickered at the attentiveness to American popular culture. But what they had in common was a desire for their precious work, though they seemed generally homesick.

John heard the approaching engines of a light plane. “Is that my ride?”

“That’s it. Daryl will probably come in for coffee while the cargo is transferred,” said Ted.

“Great, I’ll get my bags together. Tell him it’ll be just a minute.” John got up to leave.

Quiet snickering filled the room then hushed as the screen door creaked open.

“No need to wait, she’s here now,” said Ted.

Jeffrey W. Bennett, is the author of Commitment-A Novel and other non-fiction books, novels and periodicals.

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