A thing which happened to me last December.

For most of the last year, my little yellow rubber-powered balsa and tissue Piper Cub had lain in disrepair in the cupboard. It was attacked by kittens, you see. The tailplane was chewed off, and there were gouges in the tissue paper. The undercarriage was also absent, but that owed more to a bit of stupid design in the kit than to the kittens.

We were packing up to move house, and trying to be ruthless about what came with us, and what went in the trash. I took the brave decision that, since the little yellow airplane was beyond reasonable repair, and most of the fun is in the building rather than the flying anyway, the little yellow airplane would be 'retired'. It's a brave decision. Little yellow airplanes are things of boyhood dreams. Piper Cubs in particular; they're about the most 'affordable' of aircraft.

So, on my way down to the Co-Op to buy some magic markers for writing on boxes, I took a big black bag of trash, and my little yellow airplane downstairs to the bins.

As there frequently is, there was a homeless guy sitting in the street next to the bins. Maybe 20 years old, huddled against the cold, my bin bag went 'clank' and he turned and spotted me. As he saw my little yellow airplane, his eyes lit up in some spark of recaptured youth. I knew that spark all too well. "Are you throwing that out?!" I made a noise that was intended to convey that yes, I was throwing it out, but there were parts of me that really didn't want to. I think it came out more like "Eh." He smiled and stretched out his hand, and there was only one thing I could humanly do. I gave him my little yellow airplane, and went to the Co-Op to buy my magic markers.

I was overwhelmed with sadness. I'd seen something of myself in him. From my fiver, I had a pound or so change, and there was absolutely no question of what would happen to that change.

As I left the store, I spotted that the street was littered with yellow tissue paper. I thought that perhaps the inevitable but fitting thing had happened: he'd given the little yellow airplane its final flight, but thanks to concrete, only half a horizontal stabiliser and no undercarriage, the thing had been destroyed. This made me sad too. As I approached the homeless guy and stooped to give him my change, I realised that wasn't at all what had happened. He was holding the cracked carcass of the little yellow airplane, and swearing as he ripped its insubstantial little airframe into shreds. Broken dreams in splinters of wood and tissue that were barely there in the first place.

I spotted the aerosol can, and as I dropped my change, from a higher height than I'd intended, my head swam and I walked quickly past and into the building.

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