One month and counting. Unless you count a month as 31 days, and then it's less than a month. It'll be the biggest homecoming anyone has ever seen. Could I hire a sky writer? Do they still do that? I should give the airport a call.
Said they didn't know. Seemed a little irritated too. Well, I thought the flight traffic control people would be the ones to talk to, seeing as how they'd have to keep track of where the pilot would be flying in the sky. What if he went to dot an i just to get whanged by an arriving jetliner. I was only trying to be considerate. Guess I'll just have to go down there.
Harry glanced at his watch and undid the straps. He walked through his front door and down his front path, where he turned left and walked 32 paces and sat down. A bus arrived in 2 minutes and 47 seconds. Four transfers later he disembarked at the Monterey municipal airport and approached the Thrifty Rental Car counter.
"Good afternoon, Lady. Who do I see about a skywriter?"
The girl was new on the job. "Umm."
Another woman came out of the back room. "Hi, Harry, how can we help you?"
The new girl boggled. She kind of had brown hair. Maybe it wasn't her original color. It was hard to tell.
"A skywriter," Harry repeated, addressing the second woman, who had stylish silver hair. "Who do I see?"
"Let's see your map," she said. She indicated a small hangar on the far end of the tarmac. "Ask for Dave."
Harry continued to stare at her.
"He has dark brown hair," she said.
Harry turned toward the picture windows, which overlooked the tarmac. It was difficult to know how many steps he was going to take. But he had the map, which guaranteed some measure of finitude. He set off.
Oh, there's no missing a message in the sky. But...I can't remember, is she coming by bus or by plane? She'll see the sky more easily from a bus, but the windows on those airplanes look awfully small.
He heard a beep from behind him and a small cart whizzed by. He lost track of counting his footsteps.
What luck! Here comes another.
Harry stuck out his thumb. When the next cart did not slow, he waved his arms and then began to shout. The cart only swerved to miss him and whirred on.
Of course! They wear earplugs. The jet liners sound loud enough at my house.
What about the fog? What if it's cloudy in a month, or one day less than a month, depending on reckoning? If I hire a skywriter, I will have wasted my chance. My one sweet chance.
He approached a hangar and checked his map to see if it was the right one. It wasn't, but in the course of his investigation he saw a helicopter sitting on a helipad. Two men stood outside it talking. He couldn't be sure what color hair they had. One had a helmet and the other a baseball cap that read "Google". Here was some action! Harry strayed from his course.
"O-L, not L-E," said Harry conversationally to the man in the baseball cap.
"Googol. I guess that's easier than putting one hundred zeros on your cap."
The man looked carefully at Harry. "Are you lost?" he asked politely.
"Oh, no, I have a map. I just came to see your helicopter. It was then I spotted the misprint on your cap."
"I work for a company called Google. It's spelled that way on purpose."
"What's that got to do with helicopters? "
"Well--" both men shifted their weight uncomfortably.
Harry tried to ease the situation. He could do this; people usually got a little nervous around him. "You're not a skywriter, are you? I couldn't see your hair. Anyways, I don't see how you could skywrite with a helicopter."
They looked at each other. Then the Google man spoke again. "You have a map, you say?"
"Why yes," said Harry. He could see that he had successfully negotiated a rocky patch. He handed the man his map.
"Aha. What if you could have a map that was a real photograph of the airport from the sky?"
"Then I could see us standing here, and count the airplanes."
"Exactly. Well, this helicopter has a camera that can take big pictures of the earth, and we're using it to make a map of your town."
"Mm, no..in about a month."
"When you think of a month, do you think of thirty days or thirty-one?"
What a wonderful idea! I wish I thought of it myself! Though I don't know how he expects me to find the map.
Maybe I could get the pilot to carry a banner behind his plane, like you see at ballgames. "Eddie's: no cover with stub!" But I always have to squint to see what's printed on the banner. I want it to be a place where everyone will look. She's got to know everyone's anticipating this.
Here he was at the hangar. A dark haired man stood working on the engine of a biplane.
"Do you write messages in the sky?" asked Harry.
"I carry banners sometimes."
"Is there a bus stop near here?"