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A Wise Fool This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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   "Oh, Mister Lindbergh, or is it ALucky Lindy?', I have the five sandwiches that you ordered to go!"

"That's quite all right, young lad, just set them down over there and I'll see to them later."

"Strange order - five Swiss cheese on rye with the crusts cut off- I was telling my boss just this afternoon after you stopped by..."

"I'm a simple man... I've never felt the necessity for condiments. I think it goes back to my childhood in Little Falls, but why am I discussing this with you?"

"Mister Lindbergh, could I have your autograph?"

"Absolutely not!"

He seemed such a shy man, just like the papers had said he was. Awful skinny though.

"Do you mind if I call you Slim?"

"My friends call me Slim, but I suppose that you can if you want."

It was a great job, being a delivery boy for Saul's Deli. I had only been working there a month, but I had already been promoted from luncheon meats to cole slaws and potato salads. Saul liked me. He said I reminded him of his long lost cousin Anthony. I was sure to go places, perhaps even take over when Saul was gone.

I jumped at the chance to deliver the Swiss cheese sandwiches to Roosevelt Field on that fateful morning of May 27, 1927. I knew who would be there. Heck, practically the entire United States knew who was there. It was the "Flying Fool," bound for a journey of 3,600 miles across the misty crimson-brown Atlantic Ocean. I was determined to meet the real Charles Augustus Lindbergh and no one could stop me. I knew that if I could talk to him, I would see the man behind the myth.

"Oh, please can I have your autograph, Slim? All the kids at school will be so impressed!"

"Mr. Lindbergh doesn't do autographs, kid," interjected a rude reporter. "He says he isn't more of a man than anyone else. Can you believe it?"

As I was rudely interrupted, Lindbergh was meticulously going over his craft inch by inch, inspecting each and every dial, checking the tire pressure again and again. He inspected the fuel tanks with care, which held 400 gallons of fuel, and he stood and admired his $100,000 Spirit of St. Louis.

"You know, it really is a beautiful machine resting there on the field in front of the hangar, trim and slender, gleaming in its silver coat! All our ideas, all our calculations, all our hopes lie there before me, waiting to undergo the acid test of flight. For me it seems to contain the whole future of aviation."

"I couldn't agree with you more, Slim. It certainly is a beautiful plane."

"Doing it for the Orteig prize, huh?" said the obnoxious reporter. "Twenty-five thousand big ones; that's quite an incentive."

"He is not doing it for the prize money!" I screamed. "He's doing it for the sense of adventure. He's doing it to prove that he's the greatest pilot in the world!"

"Please relax. I'll have no bickering in the hangar. Oh, and Joseph, that's Aaviator' not pilot."

"I'm sorry, Mr. Lindbergh."

The weather was turning harsh, and the runway looked muddy. Conditions were terrible for take-off. As I sat and waited for Lindbergh to embark on his journey, I wondered if Saul would fire me for coming back so late. My thoughts wandered to the magnitude of Lindbergh's task. I realized that I, like my fellow countrymen, wanted to go with him. Everyone wanted to escape everyday doldrums for a little excitement.

The race to be the first man to cross the Atlantic Ocean non-stop by airplane intrigued everyone. It was like a grand sporting event. Would it be Byrd in his America, would it be the Columbia, or would it be Lindbergh in the Spirit of St. Louis? The New York-Paris contest had all the elements: death, drama, and competition. Who would not want to brave the dangers of a trans-Atlantic flight for the obvious rewards it would reap? I know I would.

I couldn't think of a better person to make the trip with than Charles Lindbergh. A man of such virtues could not be found elsewhere. He was only twenty-five, but he seemed to have the wisdom of an ancient man. You could see it in his eyes. He was more modest than anyone I had ever met, and I admired that quality. Others might have played up to the flattery of the media or tried to be the legend they had created, but not Lindbergh. To him, the trans-Atlantic flight was like a barnstorming stunt of his youth, another obstacle to topple. There could be no other more virtuous than he, and no better an individual to travel with. Alas, I knew I never would be able to travel with him. His plane was meant to have only two passengers - Lindbergh and his fuel.

When Lindbergh finally took off for Paris, I watched him clear the wires and the trees with ease. When I went back to Saul's Deli and as I scooped out piles of potato salad into the wee hours of the night (my punishment for tardiness), I had a revelation. Once in a great while a person comes along who is meant to meet the challenge wherever and whenever it occurs. He captures the hearts and minds of millions and leaves our planet, only to remain on history pages and in memory. Such a person is Charles Lindbergh.

Perhaps tomorrow I'll buy a plane, or at least ask Saul for a raise.

n


This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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