LIKE OLD TIMES • by Claudia Falzarano

“Danny, it’s a well-known fact that a man needs a good watch to have a good time,” my pun-prolific dad had said when I graduated college.

For years the velvet-lined box lay buried in the back of a dresser drawer kept company by my unrealized dreams. The time had come for it to make good on its promise.

“Let’s go for a ride,” I said, snapping the linked metal band onto my wrist.

A ding-dong chime announced my arrival. I plunked the watch onto the scratched glass surface with a clang. The man behind the counter in a misshapen cowboy hat eyed it and then me.

Scooping up the timepiece, he seemed impressed by its weight. “Looks like—” he began, wiping greasy fingers down a pant leg before squeezing a loupe into his left eye. “Yep. This here’s the real deal.”

“How much?” I asked. The locked gun case and stacks of power tools caught my attention, but not as fully as the smell of fried chicken that hung in the air.

“All y’all bring me stuff with writin’ on it,” he replied, scratching a tuft of beard.

I reached out to take it back.

Pressing the watch against his ear, he said, “It’ll sit here for months with writin’ on it. At least there’s no name nor initials. Only a date. And it is a Seiko,” he mumbled in a dual dialogue with himself.

“Sir?” I asked during a break in the chatter.

Ignoring me, the monologue continued as he shuffled to the cash register and pulled six $100 bills from underneath the tray.

Gravel kicked up behind my Ford truck as I hightailed it to San Antonio’s nearest drop zone.

“Nice to see you again,” the sunburnt beauty called as I entered the humid office.

“Been a while,” Jake the manager said. “When you lookin’ to go, Danny Boy?”

I glanced out the window, squinting into the Texan sun. “If y’all can manage it, I’d like to go today while it’s clear.”

Jake checked the logbook and said he’d need an hour or so. With a “thank you, ma’am” I gave $300 to the young woman whose name I never thought to ask and headed back to my pickup. I watched a Cessna take off followed by a gleaming Piper that roared down the runway full throttle. My dashboard rattled with each high-speed passerby. Settling back into the headrest, my thoughts shifted to food — a sloppy chicken burrito with extra guac — until the office girl finally waved me back in.

I climbed into the Twin Otter plane with Jake. We sped off due north after a quick instrumentation check. He angled the steering wheel, and we rose from 3,000 to 7,000 feet. At 10k he yelled “almost” above the din.

I saluted him and adjusted my goggles. “Say when, Jake,” I shouted.

At 12,000 feet, he gave me the thumbs up and turned on the red light. I unfastened my seat belt and hoisted up the garage-style door. Cold air smacked my face as adrenaline spread through me like heat from top-shelf tequila. The blue and white polka-dot sky beckoned. I jumped.

I soared horizontally near the plane like two birds in formation. Breaking free, I positioned myself vertically to speed up to 125 MPH. I hovered in the wind in an accelerated free fall. The heft of my body fell weightlessly to about 4,000 feet as the ground loomed larger beneath it. I yanked the ripcord hard to pop open the chute. Gliding slowly like a kite on a lazy afternoon, I prepared to touch down. Closer. Closer. Inches away now.

The earth reached up to greet me like an estranged friend. I felt both feet land squarely on the terracotta soil. I collapsed onto it and waited for the approaching Jeep. One rigger gathered the canopy. The other handed my crutches to me.

Tossing them into the back seat, I swung one leg in. The stump followed automatically.

“How was it, Danny?” the driver asked.

“I had a good time,” I said, hankering to go again. “A damn good time.”

Claudia Falzarano, an NYU alum, has had several short stories published and is currently working on a novel. She enjoys both the diversion and sense of accomplishment writing flash fiction provides.

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