'The Flying Machine' by Leah Mueller



I lay on the beach beside my husband, Jon. The two of us had traveled to Mazatlan for our honeymoon. After three days, we were thoroughly sick of each other and couldn't wait to go home. Meanwhile, we reclined in the sand with an endless supply of weak, overpriced umbrella drinks.


Trying hard not to argue, we sulked and watched the parasailers. Bikini-clad women hovered in mid-air, attached by their waists to brightly colored parachutes. Laughing, they soared through the clouds, landing effortlessly on the beach when their flights were over. Motorboats bounced through the waves, piloted by young, muscled Hispanic men who joked with the customers. Everyone was having a wonderful time, except us.


“I'm going to do that,” I said. Jon shrugged. “Whatever you want,” he said. His tone was indifferent, even hostile. I rummaged in my purse and pulled out a fistful of money. Jon flopped onto his stomach, pressing his face into his towel. “Have fun,” he said, his voice muffled.


I approached one of the boats and extended my handful of bills to the driver. He smiled and placed them into his pocket. Expertly, he wrapped the parachute straps around my waist, tightening them with firm yanks. “Now, please listen,” he said, pointing to one of the straps. “You pull this when you want to veer left.” He gave another strap a brisk, practiced tug. “This one is for when you want to veer right.”


I swallowed as I watched his hands. The apparatus looked as complicated as a calculus equation. “Here's the most important of all,” the man said. He jerked a third strap and stared at me with a stern expression. “When I wave my shirt, pull on this, and you'll descend to the beach. Got that?” Not wishing to appear stupid, I nodded. The man waded towards his boat, climbed aboard, and revved the engine.


I soared into the air. The view was breathtaking. I could see the entire city—cars, buildings, people, even an amphitheater. I squinted at the amphitheater and noticed a bullfight in progress. A miniature bull ran in circles, chased by a tiny matador on horseback. In the stands, clusters of people undulated like ants.


I shifted my gaze back to the beach. Jon's body was a tiny black dot in the sand. He had never looked more inconsequential. As the boat spun in huge, lazy circles, I felt happy for the first time in days. I had no desire to ever return to the earth. My husband wouldn’t miss me anyway.


The driver waved his shirt, and I pulled one of the straps. Nothing happened. He waved it again, harder. I tugged the other strap. Still my body remained stubbornly aloft. Feeling frantic, I hauled on the third strap, to no avail.


Even from a distance, I could see the driver was irritated. He gazed up at me, scowling, as he flailed his shirt above his head. Finally, he threw up his hands in disgust, reached inside his boat, and cut the parachute line.


Parachute still attached, I plummeted into the ocean. A few seconds later, I surfaced and swam towards the shoreline. A line of tourists ringed the water's edge. A few of them looked concerned, but most of them were laughing. I was a spectacle for their amusement, the funniest goddamn thing they’d seen all day.


Once I reached the sand, the driver scowled. “Some people don't know how to follow instructions,” he announced. The crowd laughed, and an elderly man in Bermuda shorts gestured in my direction. “She’s cute when she’s wet,” he guffawed.


Fortunately, the driver had a spare parachute. I spent the rest of the afternoon watching other tourists land on the beach with no difficulty whatsoever. Jon continued to order watered-down, overpriced beverages, but no amount of umbrella drinks could soothe our pain. Our honeymoon was half over, but our marriage had just begun.





Leah Mueller is an indie writer and spoken word performer from Tacoma, Washington. She is the author of two chapbooks and four books. Her latest book, a memoir entitled “Bastard of a Poet” was published by Alien Buddha Press in June 2018. Leah’s work appears in Blunderbuss, The Spectacle, Outlook Springs, Mojave River Review, Drunk Monkeys, Atticus Review, Your Impossible Voice, Wolfpack Press, and other publications. She was a featured poet at the 2015 New York Poetry Festival, and a runner-up in the 2012 Wergle Flomp humor poetry contest. Find her on Facebook and Twitter.

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