“Wait a second,” said Gary, who was all suited up and had paid his $97-dollar skydiving fee and had gone so far as to make plans to go see a movie for AFTER the skydiving event to keep celebrating his 47th birthday. “What do you mean ‘if for some reason? It’s going to open, right?”
“It should,” said the instructor. “But if for some reason it doesn’t, then you pull this other cord over here, and that should open the secondary chute. I’m pretty sure it’s in there.”
“What do you mean you’re pretty sure?” asked Gary, who was beginning to wonder about whether or not this was a good idea, even though his entire bowling team was gathered outside with cameras to document the leap. His family didn’t want anything to do with this, so they were staying home and preparing little silent bags of cheap candy for later, when they were all going to see Inception in 3-D and then later watch as Gary tried to eat a 6-pound hamburger so he could get the $25-dollar coupon.
“Look, I’m a heart surgeon in my spare time,” said the instructor. “And if there’s anything I’ve learned from heart surgery and skydiving, it’s that there are no guarantees in life. You want a guarantee, you can take a job filling in Excel spreadsheets for 8 hours a day and I can pretty much guarantee that you’ll be bored and will die of a stress-related illness up to 15 years before your time. Pretty sure is as good as it gets, believe me,” said the instructor, who had just been getting ready to ask out a woman who made artistic espressos at the Irritable Drip coffeeshop and then he found out she was married. He found out because she was flirtatiously stirring his coffee with her bare finger and her wedding ring fell into the coffee and he had to fish it out and give it back to her, which was awkward, and then he was left with a coffee that someone’s fingers had been in, and he sat there for a while trying to decide what to do and then he got up to go to the bathroom and instead left and went to a bar instead, where he had a thick IPA and listened to a fat guy at the end of the bar complain about his wife for 45 minutes. That was right before he met Gary for his jump.
“Fine,” said Gary, “Fine.” Gary was not one to wuss out at the last moment. He had the thing on and his people were ready with the cameras and Inception was later tonight and there was nowhere to go but into the plane, which was to be flown by a 91-year-old pilot named Lars who had been flying for 75 years, so he certainly knew what he was doing, although what Gary did not know was that “for 75 years” meant that Lars only flew once every 5 years for 75 years, so in fact he only had 15 flights under his belt. Also he flew with a giant German Shepard, and Gary didn’t get along well with dogs.
But he went up anyway. Lars took the plane up on the far runway, which was shorter than the others, and as they pulled up into the sky Gary could see his team gathered below on near the tarmac. They circled in the air and came back around to the jump site. Gary inched over to the door.
“Go,” said Lars. “Go now, jump!”
Gary hesitated. The dog snarled and Gary jumped. Arms and legs splayed, he sailed through the air like a man-pancake. A man-cake. He felt like he was perfectly still in the air, a nice delusion to have when you’re plummeting at 70 MPH towards the earth. He thought about a few things. Stuff that he didn’t think he’d be thinking about when doing something like this. Gary thought about that burger, and if eating it was really a good idea. Maybe they should all just go to a Thai restaurant instead. And Gary thought about why dogs didn’t seem to like him. Maybe because he didn’t trust them. He didn’t trust them because they had sharp teeth. Maybe he was focusing on the wrong thing, thought Gary. Maybe he should focus on their furry bodies and wet noses, thought Gary, plummeting towards an uncertain end. Maybe then they would sense the benevolence under his useless fear and would approach him as though he had beef jerkey in his pockets. Heck, maybe I should PUT beef jerky in my pockets, thought Gary.
Gary looked at the ground. It didn’t look any closer than when he had started. Maybe he WAS really moving that slowly, thought Gary. But then he remembered when he used to swim outside in lakes, and the shore always looked exactly the same distance away until he was right on top of it. Small small small small small small, and then RIGHT THERE.
Gary thought about his ING account. How he needed to take advantage of the feature that allowed you to create several different named accounts so you could be more specific in the things you were saving for, rather than just having a generalized single account, where all the money went but you didn’t really have a solid plan f0r—
Just then Gary’s wristwatch went off. The freefall was over. He was pretty sure that the chute would open. But knew that if for some reason it did not, he was pretty sure that there was a second chute that was probably there that would likely serve as a backup. If for some reason the first didn’t fly.
Gary reached back and he pulled the cord.