Into the Wind
by Adrian Hoad-Reddick

On yellow and blue summer days, Paul's father took Paul across green hills to a meadow void of trees, overhead lines or buildings. He would peer into the sky and stand quietly, the large box held under his arm. He would turn and breathe in the wind and only then would he stoop to the ground and unpack the Dart. The Dart, a four-line kite with a will of its own, was a dexterous stunt kite, more than capable of launching an eight-year-old boy into the air in only moderate winds.

The Dart featured a bold red eagle, wings raised to the skies. It measured 8 feet across and 3 feet nose to tail. The Dart required four 80-pound test lines to anchor it to earth and its human controller.

Paul's father was careful and predictable. He would set the kite on its back, roll out fifty feet of line, take the hard plastic controllers in hand and untwist the line. Paul's job was to take the top edge of the Dart and hold it off the ground, freeing and separating its lines. Occasionally, a gust of wind would topple the kite - Paul would leap out of its way or let go quickly enough to avoid being pulled on to it.

When all was ready, Paul's Dad would yell "Ready!" and just as he flicked back on the controls, Paul would let go of the kite and step aside. The Dart would catch air and soar aloft. Paul's Dad was adept at controlling the Dart's movements. Paul often stood in front of his Dad, watching the push and pull of his wrists rolling the controllers fore and aft like a joystick. The Dart would dip its head left or right in response to his subtle directives.

The Dart seemed to have a mind of its own some days. It wavered, laughing at the sun. It dove at gophers and retreated with a sadistic roar as the winds fluttered across the plane of its fabric.

Paul's Dad wrote messages across the clouds using a large loopy cursive, the Dart his pen writing in the invisible ink of the imagination and memory. Sometimes Paul would fly a kite of his own and the Dart would weave in a game of tag aloft among the summer thermals.

Paul would remember his father just like this - his dark laughing eyes squinting into the glare of the sunny skies, his bare hairy arms exposed below a short-sleeved t-shirt, his elbows tucked in against his sides, his wrists flicking their will on the airborne Dart. He would laugh and holler at the Dart, and he would invite Paul to yell out commands to the Dart.

"Up. Down. Down some more. Race after that bird," Paul urged.

On rare occasions, the Dart would unleash its powerful anger and pull and tear at its earthy tether. The more the Dart resisted, the more loudly would Paul woop and laugh in response, chastising the Dart with his good-natured admonishments.

One afternoon in late July, Paul's father tripped backward over a groundhog hole, twisting and spraining his ankle. The full power of the kite wrenched through one hand controller, breaking his father's wrist.
"Ah," he yelled, releasing the kite from his control.

Paul ran after the trailing and bouncing controllers, as his father rolled onto his stomach.

"Paul! No!" Paul's dad screamed.

Paul stopped short, frustrated because he knew he could have reached the controllers as they skittered along the grass. He'd always regret not having tried to stop the Dart. He always regretted not having felt the feral strength of the Dart in his forearms and shoulders and chest. Later, his Father would list the possible horrors: Paul may have been carried aloft. He may have lost a finger to the razor sharp line.

Freed of all control, the Dart soared high and fashioned an ambiguous looping message.

"Well, I'll be damned," responded Paul's father, speaking more to himself than to Paul. "I do believe it is bidding us a farewell."

The Dart wasn't about to spiral out of control to the ground and crash in the sun-baked grass, awaiting return. It took all of Paul's energy to help his father hobble home. The shadows were long across the foothills when they returned. They'd explain to Paul's mother how Paul's father had sprained his ankle and broken his wrist, and how they'd lost everything.

And a kite sailed high and sliced through afternoon clouds, showing no intention of ever returning to be yoked to the green hills on yellow and blue days by the laughing man and his boy.

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