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"Millie Earns Her Wings" — An original short story

Hello, GL girls! Enjoy reading this light-hearted short story written by author, Timothy Tocher! Tell us what you think in the comments below.

Millie Earns Her Wings

“We’re losing altitude! Pull back the stick, Linda!”

“I am pulling, Kay. The controls are jammed!”

“Oh, Linda, we’ll crash into a mountain!”

“Look, Kay. Is that a valley between those two peaks? Maybe we can land there. The deep snow might cushion our fall.”

“We’ll be killed, Linda!”

“It’s our only chance. Fasten your seatbelt. We’re going to crash!”

“Will the Flying Ladies survive? Tune in tomorrow at 8:00 to find out. But right now, why not head for the kitchen and ask Mom for a healthy, hearty bowl of Olsen’s Oatmeal? It’s Linda and Kay’s favorite brand.

Don’t forget, Listeners. There is only one week left to earn your wings. Send 20 boxtops from Olsen’s Oatmeal, the healthy, hearty snack, with your name and address to Flying Ladies care of this station. We’ll send you a set of shiny, silver wings just like the ones Linda and Kay wear on their flight jackets. Don’t miss out. Orders must be postmarked by Saturday, July 21, 1934.”

———————————————————————————————————————

Millie switched off the big, wooden radio. How she’d love to fly like Linda and Kay. She wasn’t at all worried about them. Linda would set that plane down as gently as a snowflake. Millie was the one with a problem. After saving for six months, she had only 13 Olsen’s Oatmeal boxtops and no hope of reaching 20. She could never eat 7 boxes in a week. Even with sugar or honey added, it tasted like library paste.

Millie was walking to the corner store when she met her friend and fellow flying fanatic, Jerry. Since reading a book about Charles Lindbergh’s 1927 solo flight across the Atlantic Ocean, he insisted on being called “Lucky Lindy.”

“What can I do, Jerry?” Millie asked. “If I don’t come up with 7 boxtops by Saturday, my chance to earn those wings will be gone forever.”

Jerry kept walking as if Millie hadn’t spoken. She sighed and said, “Lucky Lindy, can you help me?”

“What would Lindbergh do?” Jerry wondered. “A looming deadline, a life threatening cereal - it’s a dilemma.”

“Do you have any ideas, …Lindy?”

“Let me sleep on it, Millie. I’ll come to your house first thing in the morning with a plan. Though Lucky Lindy is great solo, he can be a team player too.”

Jerry gave a half wave, half salute that he had seen Lindbergh use in a newsreel and strode off, head held high.

The next morning, Millie was in the kitchen, bravely trying to choke down a bowl of Olsen’s Oatmeal. Jerry sat at the opposite end of the table. Millie slid the cereal box toward him in invitation.

“Nice try, Millie,” he said. “But I want to live long enough to fly.”

“You promised to help, Lucky,” Millie complained. “and now you won’t eat even one bowl of oatmeal.”

“Ah, but I have an idea. One that would make the great Lindbergh proud.” Millie was so excited that she managed to swallow an entire spoonful of Olsen’s Oatmeal without gagging. “What is it?”

“Why do you buy this horrible stuff, Millie?” he asked, sliding the box back to Millie’s end of the table.

“Not for the taste,” Millie answered. She attempted to stir the oatmeal left in her bowl, but stopped when the spoon bent.

“You buy it for the boxtop,” Jerry answered his own question. “We’ll put on a show and charge boxtops instead of money as admission.”

“What kind of a show?” Millie asked.

“What do kids dream about more than anything else?”

“Flying?” Millie guessed.

“Flying!” agreed Jerry. “We’ll write a play about a brave aviator and his faithful assistant who …”

“Excuse me,” interrupted Millie. “Don’t you mean a courageous aviatrix and her dumb, but faithful, assistant who …?

“We can work out the details,” Jerry said.

Writing the play was easy. They had both listened to so many radio dramas that their heads were filled with ideas. Jerry’s uncle’s barn would be their theater. They plastered posters on every tree in the neighborhood. Millie drafted her twin cousins to work backstage. The performance was set for 7:00 on Friday night. Admission was 5 cents or one boxtop from Olsen’s Oatmeal.

A curtain stretched across an old, hay wagon which would serve as their stage. A second curtain hid the twins from the audience. Sacks of chicken feed provided seating.

Jerry collected admissions while Millie set up the props on the stage. At 7:00, Jerry squeezed behind the curtain, a big grin on his face. “Eight boxtops and three nickels!” he crowed. “Three of the boxtops are still attached to the cereal boxes. The kids were happy to get rid of the oatmeal.”

Millie beamed. “Let’s make sure to put on a good show so no one asks for a refund.”

“Don’t worry, Millie. They’ll love it.”

Jerry pulled on his uncle’s leather football helmet - the closest thing to a pilot’s headgear that he owned. He ducked through the curtain. When the audience quieted down, Millie heard his voice.

“Future flyers of America, welcome to tonight’s drama. Daring aviators Amelia Earhart and Charles Lindbergh are attempting to break the record for an around the world flight. As our story begins, Earhart is at the controls. Lindbergh is searching desperately for the small Pacific island where they must land to refuel. If they don’t find it, their plane will crash into the ocean.”

Jerry slid open the curtain. He joined Millie behind a cardboard cutout of an airplane, the name World Traveler painted on its side. The propellers were only drawings, but a loud buzzing noise made them seem real. Backstage, one of the twins was spinning the tire of his bicycle wheel while the other held a playing card against the spokes.

“Do you see anything, Lindy?” Millie called over the racket.

“Nothing but water. What does the fuel gauge say?” Millie leaned forward.

“It’s on empty. Soon our engine will start to miss.”

She and Jerry cocked their heads, but the steady buzz continued. “I said, soon our engine will start to miss,” Millie shouted.

The twins slowed down the spinning bicycle wheel and intermittently touched the card to the spokes.

“Wait, Amelia, I see something.”

“What is it?”

“Land! Dead ahead!”

“I don’t think we can make it,” Millie shrieked.

The plane sputtered more and more feebly as the curtain closed. The twins banged pots with spoons. Millie and Jerry crashed the lids of garbage cans together like cymbals, while screaming their heads off.

When the curtain opened, a stunned Lindbergh and Earhart lay near their battered plane. The nose was dented and there was a hole in the fuselage, just in front of the wing.

Jerry limped over to Millie. She lay motionless until he crouched to feel for a pulse. “Hey, that tickles!”

“I’m just trying to see if you’re all right.”

“I’m fine,” Millie said, “but look at the World Traveler.”

“Crashing into those trees saved our lives. We’ve got the barrel of fuel we stored here, but we can’t fly with that hole in our plane.”

“Isn’t there anything we could use to patch it?”

“Let’s empty our pockets and see what we have, Amelia.”

The actors piled their belongings at center stage. Jerry had a jack-knife, some matches, and a Tailspin Tommy, Boy Aviator book. Millie dumped her pack to reveal a yo-yo and a box of cereal.

“Is that oatmeal?” Jerry asked.

“Olsen’s Oatmeal, the healthy, hearty snack,” answered Millie. “Why don’t you have a bowl right now?”

The audience booed. “The last time I ate that stuff I couldn’t fly for a week,” Jerry said. “Why did you bring it with you?”

“I figured if you got hungry enough, you’d eat it, and I’d finally be rid of it. It’s been in my closet for a year.”

“Great. We’re stranded with nothing to repair our plane and inedible cereal for rations.” Jerry paced.

“That’s it!” Millie shouted. “We’ll use the oatmeal to patch the plane. I came down for breakfast five minutes late one morning and the stuff had set like cement. My mother had to throw it away.”

“Do you think it will work?” Jerry asked. “We’ll need a fire.”

Millie and Jerry pretended to light a fire and heat Jerry’s metal canteen over it. Jerry poured water into his leather helmet and Millie sprinkled in Olsen’s Oatmeal. While Millie stirred, Jerry flattened the oatmeal box. Millie held it in place, covering the hole in the fuselage. Jerry used his jack-knife to coat it with layer after layer of the quick hardening oatmeal. The scene ended with the aviators admiring their work and agreeing to take off at daylight.

When the curtain reopened, the audience saw a new backdrop, this one painted to look like a busy city street. “Well, Amelia,” Jerry shouted. “We made it to New York.”

“And we beat the old record by four days, Lindy.”

“That’s why the city is giving us this ticker tape parade.”

The twins burst from backstage, their arms loaded with boxes of Olsen’s Oatmeal. They had Millie’s three boxes and the three that had been paid as admissions. Jumping from the wagon, they began pouring oatmeal into the hands of the kids who had come to watch the show.

Jerry and Millie paraded around the barn. The twins and the others followed, pelting them with dry oatmeal. At last, Jerry and Millie stopped by the barn door and took their bows. The kids cheered.

The next morning, Millie mailed for her wings. Within a month they were hers. She pinned them onto her collar each night when the Flying Ladies came on the air. Millie still loved the program, but she tried not to listen to the offers for premiums. When Jerry’s uncle’s chickens got sick from eating the cereal scattered around the floor of the barn, she vowed never to eat Olsen’s Oatmeal again.

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by GL READER | 3/10/2018
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