The single-engine pilots put on their aerial show every Saturday afternoon at 2:00, weather permitting.
Families watched from the lawn area near the runway, their blankets sprawled on the grass, camping chairs popped open – binoculars out and pointed skyward. The smell of popcorn and cotton candy floated in the summer air like lazy hot air balloons.
“Look!” children called as the stunt pilots did barrel rolls and large, swooping loop-the-loops.
The entry cost was only ten dollars per vehicle – it didn’t matter if it was a ten-passenger van or a compact car. But for the kids at the nearby, dusty baseball field, watching the show was always free.
Many of the kids who hung out there showed up in the morning and stuck around until dinner — or dusk — not wanting to go home. Some of their reasons were darker than others. Either way, with school out for summer, the ball field had become their new reprieve, their new sanctuary.
Johnny Hayes, one of the stunt pilots, never forgot about those kids at the baseball diamond. A long time ago, he used to be one of them.
At the conclusion of his show, he dipped out momentarily and flew over the baseball field. Even from such a height, he could see the kids jumping around, presumably waving their hats and gloves, trying to catch his attention.
Johnny chuckled. The kids must have spray-painted a red bullseye in centerfield. He could see it clear as day.
He made his descent, readied the large box filled with peanuts, popcorn, and sunflower seeds, and let it fly — let it go.
“Incoming!” he yelled, smiling widely, though he could barely hear his own voice.
When he made a U-turn, he assumed he had hit the mark — or at least hit close to it. The kids waved up at him from the outfield, holding salty snacks in their hands.
Johnny flew back toward the runway, knowing he’d see the same kids at that same dusty diamond next Saturday — and the Saturday after that.
The kids — crunching on salty seeds and free popcorn — knew the pilot in the yellow plane would be back, too.
Weather permitting, of course.
Thank you so much for reading “Incoming!” — I hope you enjoyed it.
Take care, everyone, and have a great weekend!