The Mission: Mad Max (part 3)

Deborah Hendrick on Wednesday, July 19th, 2006

Maxwell Madden was surprised and pleased beyond belief. “Oh that girl,” he said out loud. He’d already examined her resume and employment application; it was concise, precise, and impeccable. Ginny was one of Coastal’s new cartographers, hired last month for a large project they were starting. She also had a minor degree in Art. That made sense, as he studied again the gift she had left on his secretary’s desk while the office was empty at lunch.

Exquisite in execution, exacting in detail, and childlike in composition, Ginny had painted an F-15 Strike Eagle flying upside-down. It was bathed in brilliant light, but the sleeping countryside below was still dark, and dotted with tiny lights. She’d placed a eyelash-thin crescent moon settling down in one corner, and a rising sun in the other. And on the side of the airplane, underneath the canopy in neat letters: MAD MAX. Delighted at seeing his call sign, he rotated the painting 180 degrees to read it again, and got another surprise. Spelled out in faint twinkling lights on the ground below, he read HELLO.

Max had seen a lot of aviation art in his day, but he’d never seen anything as charming as Ginny’s F-15, and charming wasn’t a word common to Max’s vocabulary. It looked like an illustration for a children’s book. It was certainly gallery quality; he knew that for certain. He’d kept Air Force memorabilia to a minimum in his office at Coastal Mapping and Survey, but this would be an exception. He took down the very expensive seascape his wife had bought for the office, and hung Ginny’s F-15 in its place.

He stared for a long time out his top floor window … the ninth floor. From his office he could see most of NASA’s Johnson Space Center spread out before him. He liked that he was close enough to Ellington Field to hear the F-16 Falcons going out on patrol. He especially liked that he was close enough to go flying for lunch, now that he’d been reminded of it. He’d start doing that, once a week if at all possible.

That night as he and his wife, Sandy, were propped up in bed, each with lots of pillows and their reading lights on, he thought about how well she’d made her life fit around his. They’d worked out the give-and-take strategic details of their marriage a long time ago, but he knew she was long on the giving and much too short on the taking. She cried over little things, never allowing herself to cry over the big things.

Except for the day when their son, Elijah, found a rattlesnake in the pantry. That was in New Mexico. Sandy killed it herself, with his 20-gauge shotgun. Three times. She cried and raged for days. But by the time he and the squadron returned the mess was cleaned up and repaired. The men gave her a call sign after that: Dirty Harry.

“Sandy? What’s your schedule like tomorrow–Can I take you to lunch?”

“Sure. Where do you want to go?”

“How about Smitty’s?”

“Smit–You want to drive to Smitty’s in Lockhart for lunch?”

“No I want to fly to Lockhart, and take my best girl to eat at her favorite barbecue joint.”

“Max, you sweetie. Are you nuts?”

“Maybe, but the weather forecast for tomorrow is perfect, and I don’t have any meetings. Would you meet me at the office, because I have a painting I want to show you, and then we’ll go to the airport. And let’s take that big ice chest with us; we’ll buy some barbecue to bring home.

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Topics: The Mission

3 Responses to “The Mission: Mad Max (part 3)”

Eric Says:
July 20th, 2006 at 10:20 pm

Sandy killed it herself, with his 20-gauge shotgun. Three times.

I love it.

Deborah Says:
July 21st, 2006 at 8:22 am

Good thing Max’s shotgun only held three shells!

Kelly Says:
July 24th, 2006 at 9:55 pm

Love it, good work. lori


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