He had always tried to be a gentleman, courteous, respectful in the most thorough way, and believed he was doing his utmost to continue this philosophy when he realized he was having a heart attack, there was no way he could land the plane anywhere else, and he saw the beautifully ordered expanse of backyards open up before him like a shining path, the center line composed of fences and lit by the glint of the sun. His descent was gradual, the curve asymptotic, and after a few moments it seemed even leisurely, since the backyard-runway went on so far and so consistently, these subdivisions following the line of the Saluda River, which he could see off to the left, close enough to tempt him to change course but just far enough away to heighten the risk of falling short and landing in traffic. It was the middle of the day. Most people would be at work, most kids at school, and those that were at home would be inside because it was cold and everyone was following the war on television. He was doing the best thing he could do, given the circumstances. Tragic circumstances. Laundry. Toys. Carports. He was flying extremely low, and his progress was, or seemed to be, slow and quiet. The simplicity of the subdivision’s design was obvious to him, and the similarity of the houses, but the slight variations that made each passing yard and house unique were being stamped in his memory as the most surprising, significant details he had ever had the ability to contemplate. His point of view, he realized, was entirely, essentially new, and no one had achieved anything like this in all of history. He had flown low over towns in Europe during the war that were architecturally spectacular compared to this, and had buzzed his brother’s farm, but never had he, or anyone else, placed a moving airplane in the space between two rows of houses, and even if they had, it would probably have been over the street, facing the fronts of houses. He faced their backs, the more honest, messy, historically accurate parts, and he felt the taps and clicks of outbuildings and clotheslines as the wings touched them. He felt the fence posts pass through him, and the corners of old cement walls, and recognized the furrowed pattern just under the ground. It had all been farmland at one time, of course, and before that, the bed of a river. The clay was red down here. He felt himself curl like a wave over the houses on either side, some of him entering kitchens and bathrooms. These gardens would yield big, bright tomatoes. Dogs would become obsessed with it back here. The cable company would have quite a time restoring the coverage of the war.

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2:02 – 2:22 pm
Monday, 12.15.03
Savannah, Georgia