TWAS BRILLIG

by Chad S. Ehler

(with the mimsiest of words by Lewis Carroll)

I’ll tell thee everything that’s passed;

I remember that day by rote.

I saw a young, young bonnie lass,

A-flying in a boat.

I. SNICKER-SNACK!

He was airborne in his Spitfire fighter 10,000 feet high in orbit above the lighthouse. With a left bank, he began a wide descending spiral like a falcon to keep his prey in sight. His elliptical wings cut through the air with the ease and cleanliness of a vorpal blade. With a quick blip of his throttle, his altimeter needle spun backwards as his Spit screamed toward his target at 500 feet a second. Powerful G forces forced him backward into his seat as he dropped faster than he could ever fall on his own.

And there it lay before him. Long time the manxome foe he sought. The German bomber’s dark upper wings were betrayed by the low grey cloud bank underneath. He steadied his rudder and placed the crosshairs of his optical gunsight on the head of the Nazi flying beast. Steady now. I’ve got you. He clenched the control column and pressed the smooth solid brass “fire” button with his thumb. Four machine guns in each wing responded with a lethal mix of armor piercing, tracer and incendiary rounds.

One, Two! One,Two! And through and through.

The bolts of each gun slammed forward in rhythmic time.

Snicker!

The bolts blew back to rack more rounds.

Snack!

Over and over again, Snicker-Snack! Snicker-Snack! The guns bucked in unison leaving behind a sinewy cordite trail as white Karman vortices slipped from each wingtip. Snicker-Snack! Snicker-Snack! A withering cone of copper jacketed lead converged at a pre-arranged point in space four hundred yards ahead of his Spitfire. Every second, 170 bullets went zinging hypersonic towards their jub-jubbing prey.

As the last of the five second burst caught up to the first, the thin eggshell plexiglass of the severed nose disappeared into the slipstream in a thousand pieces. The forward gunner dropped away like Humpty Dumpty and without benefit of a chest parachute. Air rushed in through the gaping front hole as the German pilot dropped speed and banked his bomber back to France.

That’s it then. They’ve had it. He pondered his victory as he again circled the crippled enemy bomber from above. But it was, at most, a “Probable Kill” in his logbook entry. That would do little to vault him into the rarified air that was a five victory ace. Yes, that’s it then.

He moved left stick and dropped like a hammer towards the faltering metal bird. While rocking his rear elevators up and down with the spade grip, he stitched a diagonal line of armour piercing and incendiary tracer bullets from the front of the left wing to the back of the right wing. The bullets ripped jagged holes in the camouflaged wings as the engines caught fire. He saw the wide open bright eyes of the upper gunner as the gunner’s canopy burst into an excited and shimmery mist of sanguinated pixie dust.

Nose bloodied and back broken, the stricken beast sank out of sight into the clouds. “Well done,” they’d say with honours for him all around. His squadron CO at Hawkinge would be chuffed to no end. “Come to my arms, my beamish boy!” he’d say. It had been such an easy kill. And yet, turning home, he felt a pang without a name. A silent sinking in the gut. When asked back at base, he’d struggle to explain. But what exactly has thou slain?

 

II. LARCHES GODDONS

Thirty-two hundred tons of quarried Cornish granite formed the 200 foot tall Tumtum tree that Larches Goddons called home. Like a metronome’s weighted blade, he patrolled the widow’s walk outside the lantern room of the Bellwether Bight lighthouse. A patchwork of tulgey fog and clouds lingered another 500 feet above his lofty perch. With large binoculars at the ready, Larches scanned deep into the slithy toves up and down the coast. His two glass eyes peered outward in search of the singular bulbous glass eye of a furtive unterwasser monster.

Far above he heard the lone Nazi photo recon bomber passing overhead. The black hearted devil. The HE-111 bomber followed the exact same pheromone route as yesterday. Soul-less. Efficient. Timely. Just like clockwork. He heard the distinctive, sickening jub-jub-jub of both Daimler-Benz V12 engines. They droned on. Jub-jub- jub-jub-jub. Every Britisher knew the warning all too well. “Beware the Jubjub bird.”

And then the sound of long far away whistles permeated the air. He had heard the sound too many times in the last month. It was getting closer. Much closer. A hard rain. A hard brass rain. Larches leaned back against the warm glass of the lantern room. Hundreds of spent .303 machine gun shells fell onto the top of the metal cupola. Sharp impacts rattled the roof with reverberating hollow pings.

Then silence. Maybe they got something. He scanned the clouds above with his naked eye and spied a cascading trail of shimmering flakes. And then, a dark mass hurtling to earth. Not at all what he expected. A body fell from the sky head first as if in slow motion. Emotions flooded over him. Dread. Shock. Wonder. Surprise. With some wild arm maneuvering, the man turned his body upright. Larches saw the dread, shock, wonder and surprise in the young man’s blue eyes. The man landed feet first with a splash, smaller than Larches would have thought. The wabes snatched the sound of the thud as the falling flesh hit the water at 122 miles per hour. Uncertainty turned to jubilation turned to revulsion at having seen the exact moment of an enemy airman’s death.

A persistent streak of black lit across the sky like a charcoal smudge on fine linen paper. An interloping Nazi bird was falling from the sky. Odd bits of this and that fell away from the stricken aircraft as the crew threw anything overboard to lighten the load. The bomber streamed away into the early morning haze of the distant marine fog layer. A parachute poofed open but then withered unattached, as it was, to anything. The engines jubbed, puffed and chugged black, oil burning smoke. The bomber lost its grasp on the air and sent up a large impact geyser in the Channel. Larches scanned the wave tops with his binoculars. As the thin T-shaped tail section slipped under the surface, a burst of yellow appeared as a large life raft inflated. Blast. Survivors. He couldn’t believe it. The mome raths outgrabe. They were stuck in the perishing cold of the Channel. No Man’s Sea. Welcome to Ole Blighty’s Moat.

Inside below the light room, Larches poured himself a large snifter of “war emergency” rum. By God that smells good. They were Jerries after all. By God that tastes good. Why shouldn’t he let them slip into the chilling embrace of a fatal Channel swim? By God that warms the bones. He lowered his glass with a shaky hand. For a moment, all mimsy were the borogoves. He steadied himself, and so rested he. He glanced back out toward the Channel, but what he sought wasn’t out there. By God indeed. And still, the black hearted devils. As he stared out to sea through the salt stained window, he stood in uffish thought.

Larches looked at the black bakelite telephone with two preset calling buttons, one red and one black. Under the red button were the handwritten letters: “Dover ASR.” Under the black button were typed the words: “RAF Hawkinge.” Taking a long look out to sea, he held the bulbous handset to his to gray face, and pressed the button.

 

III. CHORTLING

From the cockpit of her Air Sea Rescue Walrus flying boat, she spotted a large bright yellow life raft bobbing on the grey-green English Channel. Two men in kapok filled “sausage” life vests were splayed out inside like rag dolls. She banked back around, and eased her biplane in on the gentle, rolling swells. With the flick of a switch, the whirring six foot pusher propeller sputtered to a halt near the back hatch.  

She used a long wooden rescue pole to bring the life raft in close. She fingered the butt of her holstered flare pistol, but when she saw the German flyers, there was no need.  The two survivors flopped into the belly of the Walrus like spent arctic ling cod shivering in shock. Their flying boots were long gone having been sucked away by the weight of the water. From a leather clad flask, she poured a stout shot of brandy into a small aluminum cup for each man. With greedy eyes, they slurped the brandy down through chattering teeth.

What was that?  She stood up in the rear hatch.  Thunderous booms.  Far away movement on the water caught her eye. A summer squall perhaps. But this was an upheaval the likes of which she’d never seen . . .  or heard.   A great wall of sea rose up in white frothy columns of water 100 feet tall. Geysers shot upwards one by one in step filling the gap between sea and sky with a massive curtain of spray and mist.  The spectacle was at once beautiful and horrifying. Shock waves travelled through the water, and rattled the control wires in her flying boat like strings on a stand-up bass. The roiling sea took aim at them.  The jaws that bite, the claws that catch! Pressure waves detonated two bombs in midair creating the flash of red pupils in the aberrant beast. It came whiffling and burbling with eyes of flame.

Unseen above them, squadrons of British bombers dropped hundreds of 500 pound bombs from thousands of feet high  —  a bomb dump!  Swell after swell pounded the flying boat. The wood hull groaned.  She stepped on the soaked Germans as she struggled inside the dark fuselage to get to her cockpit.  With the press of a button the Coffman starter sent the Bristol Pegasus engine into instant revving motion.   She slammed the throttle lever all the way to the wall. In the trough of a large swell, the Walrus’ lower wingtip caught the water and spun her plane around.  Hammering the right rudder didn’t help. It was too late.  The jaws did bite, the claws did catch! A great explosion rocked them to and fro. Great misty columns of water crashed over the wings and engine. The throttle lever went slack.  And then an eerie silence fell over them as odd as the previous tumult.   She poked her head out of the cockpit. Dead fish littered the surface.

As the wrinkled sheet of sea drew taut, a dark grey tube with a bulbous glass eye ripped a frothy “v” in the surface one hundred yards behind the Walrus.  The tube moved upward at astonishing speed and frightened her as it did gyre and gimble beneath the wabe.  The froth gave way to a U-Boat conning tower breaking through into daylight. “U-100” was painted in large red letters on the side. She fired her starter. The engine coughed, sputtered, then fell silent. But the cartridges weren’t the problem. She grabbed the brandy flask, and clambered up through the cockpit to the engine nacelle between the two wings. Water gushed from U-100’s ballast tanks as the submarine breached the surface, and then began to level off in a line of white slithy foam.  With breathless urgency, she checked her Rolex Oyster watch.  Kriegsmarine gunners would be on the U-100’s deck within 60 seconds. She poured the brandy into a carburetor valve. Glug, glug, glug.

She slid back down into her cockpit and jammed the starter button with her thumb. The engine coughed again, tck-tck-tck’ed, and throated up to full, glorious life. She had ten seconds or so until . . . a bright red German star shell flare exploded over the Walrus with a booming report.  Rifle bullets zinged through the canvas wing fabric as the deafening roar of the Pegasus engine pulled all three of them out of range, foot by precious foot. She felt the weightlessness of being airborne, and sighed in relief as she galumphed away into the crisp morning air.  An involuntary shudder pulsed through her body. She banked hard left to get a better view of her pursuer but the U-100 had vanished beneath the wabes like the frumious Bandersnatch it was.  

“O frabjous day. Callooh! Callay!’ she chortled in her joy as a huge smile crept across her face.

 

POSTSCRIPT

If I were to read just so,

This anecdote of note.

I have for you this small cadeau,

This suite is mine to quote.


I grin, for it just serves to show,
That bonnie lass I used to know  —
Whose look was wild, whose face did glow,
Whose heart was purer than the snow,

Whose courage I did come to know,

Who never sought a quid pro quo,

Whose oyster said that she must go,

As waves did swell and seas did grow,
Who rocked her wings both to and fro,
And flew her Walrus low and slow,

Dodging blow after blow after blow,

To give those saved a tomorrow,
That summer morning long ago,

A-flying in a boat.

–L.G.

 

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3 Responses to “TWAS BRILLIG”

  1. Defenestrationism.net » Blog Archive » TWAS BRILLIG: Larches Goddons Says:

    […] « TWAS BRILLIG […]

  2. Defenestrationism.net » Blog Archive » TWAS BRILLIG: Chortling Says:

    […] read more of TWAS BRILLIG  […]

  3. Defenestrationism.net » Blog Archive » TWAS BRILLIG: postscript Says:

    […] Read all of TWAS BRILLIG  […]

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