I can fly. I found out this morning. I was watching a swallow as it flew out of the apple tree in our garden, away over the chimneys and out of sight. I thought, I wish I could do that. I had time on my hands and so I got to thinking that perhaps I could. So I stood up and ran around a bit, with my arms outstretched like a plane, but it made me feel self-conscious so I decided to go down to the cornfields, where it would be quiet. Once there I ran through the corn, my arms outstretched, and the next thing I knew I was off the ground. I tilted forwards, and there I was, horizontal and flying. I flapped my arms a little and I ascended. Soon I was about fifty feet off the ground, flying. I put my arms out in front of me and gently circled the cornfield a couple of times. It felt alright. I landed and tried again. It went like a dream. I wanted to tell someone about it, so I rang Sue, at work.
“I’m glad you rang,” Sue said. “Remember, we’re meant to be going to my parents’ for tea tonight.”
I’d forgotten or at least I’d tried to. It made me nervous, thinking that tonight was the night I was to meet my girlfriend’s parents.
Sue calls around for me at six o’ clock. I had kind of wanted to fly around to Sue’s parents but it might look like I’m showing off. And besides, it’s not that warm a night and she’s got a stereo in her car, and I wouldn’t mind listening to my new Jim O’Rourke CD.
So we’re sat in Sue’s car, listening to Eels, because it’s her car and that’s who she wants to listen to.
“What’ve you been up to today?” She asks.
“Not much,” I reply, churlishly, because I don’t want to listen to Eels. I want to listen to Jim O’Rourke.
“You’re not nervous, are you?”
“Yes,” I say. I like to at least make an attempt at honesty sometimes.
“Well there’s no need to be.”
I’m not so sure. I mean I can fly which is amazing whichever way you think about it, but when you’re round Sue’s parents’ house, sat in the front room opposite her father, while Sue is in the kitchen chatting to her mother, it’s a different ball game.
Her father says something totally incomprehensible.
So I reply, “Yes.”
Then he asks, much more clearly: “How long have your parents run a pub?”
This confuses me because they’ve never run a pub. However, I refuse to be confounded by this line of questioning, not least because I can fly. So I say:
We sit in silence until we are summoned into the dining room. I am shown my place at the table. There is a worrying amount of cutlery to choose from. The first course is soup. I don’t know which spoon is the soup spoon, and I have no idea which is the correct knife to use to butter my bread with. I can fly, but this is of no use right now.
“Tuck in,” says Sue’s mother, to me.
I sit there, desperately waiting for one of them to butter their bread, so I can see which knife to use, while they sit there politely waiting for me to start first. I look to Sue for support, but she seems too embarrassed to look over at me.
Feeling abandoned, I pick up what I take to be the soup spoon and start eating. Eventually they all pick up the same type spoon and follow suit. I’m about to feel relief as the first course ends. Then Sue’s mother brings in the shepherd’s pie, which I’m not too keen on.
“Do you like shepherd’s pie?” asks Sue’s mother.
“Yes,” I reply.
Having not buttered any bread I’m left with two knives to choose between, with which to eat my shepherd’s pie. I choose the wrong one. I sit and eat nervously, hoping they will politely ignore me. I hope for too much.
“So have you found yourself another job yet?” asks Sue’s mother.
No, but I can fly.
“Isn’t it a shame,” says Sue’s mother.
Sue gives me a sarcastic look, knowing I’ve hardly been trying to look for work, since I was sacked from the bank. Her Dad mumbles something which sounds like he agrees with Sue. I just nod, and then notice they are all wearing their napkins while mine is still sat next to my dinner knife. I stare at these things until the plates are collected.
Then we’re in the garden and while Sue’s dad stands there in his carpet slippers showing me his kite, and her mother stands there in a pinafore showing me her begonias, I imagine myself saying, “Oy, watch this”, before running to the end of the garden and then flying off through the night. Maybe not. I might have to come round here again. I pretend to be interested in the kite and the begonias instead.
And besides I haven’t even told Sue I can fly yet. I’m about to announce it on the way home. But as we sit in her car listening to Eels, I realise there’s something else I need to know.
“Do you think they liked me?”
“Yeah, of course. My mum said she likes a man with a good appetite.”
This strikes me as funny but it strikes me as nice too. I can fly. Sue cannot. It’s not even something we can do together. Maybe I’ll forget about the flying. It doesn’t seem like a good pre-requisite for anything.