Finally, one month ahead of schedule, the runway was complete. Marta and the excited villagers had watched as Steve’s Cessna 182 spiraled into the valley. Some of them became jumpy as the engine suddenly went quiet about a mile from the runway. “A young boy named Tucker thought it would crash, but Marta had only smiled. She knew it was part of the procedures to bleed of speed and slow the airplane enough to land.
Marta had seen Steve smiling from ear to ear as he climbed out of his aircraft. In mass, the whole village had moved down to see him, surrounding the man from the sky and touching his blue and white bird. They wondered what kind of magic made this machine soar so high. Some had tried to find out as they anticipated the chance to experience flight; they would become legendary.
“You handled that new runway like the professional you are,” Marta had said.
“It was a pleasure. We worked hard, and it paid off. I’ll try out the takeoffs, as soon as I get some of the weight out.” Steve had pointed to his plane.
“You mean there is more?” Marta had marveled at the supplies Steve had already unloaded.
“Just come back to the plane with me and see,” Steve had said, smiling mischievously.
Together, Steve and Marta had walked back to the plane.
“Do you remember when I told you I had another project to take care of?” Steve’s eyes had hardly contained his excitement.
“Yes, I guess you got it all done. What did you need to do?”
“Only this.” Steve had reached in and with both hands had struggled with a heavy burden. He pulled half of a canvassed object out and asked one of the men to help remove the covering. “I don’t think an airfield should be without a dedication.”
Marta’s heart had stopped. Her sparkling eyes had blinked rapidly in an attempt to dam the welling tears. She had bitten her lip hard to stop her quivering chin, but all efforts had failed her. She had read the sign over and over again in those few seconds to capture each letter in her mind. Her tears had fallen, but her face had beamed with pride and approval.
“Oh, thank you, Steve, thank you. It is so wonderful.”
One of her closest friends, Numah, who had also lost a husband in the same battle as Raymond, had come to Marta’s aid. Numah did not understand the reason for the happy crying, but had known Marta needed a hug.
“It’s okay, Numah, this is a wonderful gift from our friends in Tiom,” Marta had said.
“I hope you like it, Marta. I took a collection up and had this made,” Steve had said.
“It’s truly beautiful. I know the perfect place for it.”
Together they had erected the sign reading, “RAYMOND SPRINGER MEMORIAL AIRFIELD.”
Marta returned from her thoughts as she focused on the plaque. It looks as if it had been made yesterday. She wiped tears and memories away as she forced her mind to the present, then stooped to pull some weeds from the base of the sign and nodded with approval.
Jeffrey W. Bennett, is the author of Commitment-A Novel and other non-fiction books, novels and periodicals.