First it was one engine and then the other. At three thousand feet of altitude the left propeller nacelle smoked and then the prop jammed to a stop. The plane shuddered. The right prop kept them aloft for a while, but what happened to the first happened to the second.
A mechanic with a grievance and an anger management problem had sabotaged the plane.
Wayne was waiting at the lake.
Carolyn was on the plane.
They had meant to fly out together, but Carolyn had to be at an emergency meeting at the company district office. She’d catch the next one. Wayne could camp for a day and then they’d start the makeup camping trip.
Wayne said he’d forgiven Carolyn for her affair.
As night fell he lit a campfire more to have something, anything to do, than because he needed it. Things happened to planes. Things happened to marriages.
That evening he had a lot of time to think. He tried to steer his thoughts to airplane mishaps that ended happily. Those thoughts slowly melted into thoughts of Carolyn in a hotel room with Garry.
He took a walk with a headlamp as the light failed – dark enough that no pilot would make a lake landing without an extremely compelling reason.
The trees lit up from below with the lamp and then returned to darkness as he passed. He walked away from the lake.
The pilot was now resigned. Whoever (that fucking Elijah) knew enough about their route knew to make it happen with no soft landing anywhere anywhere. Nothing was burning, nothing was exploding nothing was going to save them from tearing up a long swathe of trees. That was the best that would happen. Dark too dark to see which section they would tear up.
“You know where we’re going down…” He managed to get out before the gas tank blew up.
Carolyn knew she was going to die without seeing Wayne again. An absurd thought occurred to her.
“How bad was that? He’s going to think for a week that I used this opportunity to leave him for good.”
Wayne had saved “17 Ways to Rekindle Love”, “Six Ways to Spot a Liar” and “One Weird Trick to Get Your Lover’s Attention” to his phone. There were even more blog posts like these. Saved. Why. The battery was at sixty percent and he knew he shouldn’t. OCD. He would review “Six Ways…” again for when Carolyn showed up and that would be that. He’d turn off his phone and put it at the bottom of the pack under the food and camp stove.
He hiked a few miles around the lake – he’d hear the plane from miles away when it did turn up. With her on it.
Planes had mishaps. Marriages had mishaps.
All the sights he was used to from an Alaskan summer were clearer, more detailed. He saw… He smelled…
He tapped a tree twelve times. An even number divisible by three, two and two. An even number meant she was coming back. Later, he would be forced to come up with a justification for all the even numbers he counted out before she didn’t.