I’ve Got You

by Chad Ehler

Flight Lieutenant Mills never imagined that a member of the Royal Family would be giggling with glee on his very lap.  Never mind having to explain to his squadron commander how the entire situation had unfolded on an early spring day in May, 1940.  And that was assuming he got to keep his wings. Mills knew he broke the rules by landing his Spitfire in occupied France. But he didn’t care since it had to be done.  And he’d do it again.  Well done” they’d say. Perhaps there might even be a medal in it for him. Now, an eight year old boy named Edward, tenth in line to the British throne, sat happily strapped to Mills’ parachute harness with a stout canvas pistol belt.

“She’s a loverly kite and not a bleedin’ Jerry crate,” Edward said. He fidgeted for a better view forward as he sat between Mills and the Spitfire’s control column. Mills chuckled. He improvised a few bars of a Cole Porter tune:

I’ve got you . . . under my skin. Jerry’s crate . . . isn’t so great. Cause in our Spit . . . we’re going to win. I’ve got you . . . under my skin.”

Sure, it was tight quarters for the short journey but better than leaving the boy stranded behind enemy lines. And Edward was loving every fast mile of the ride home.  Just a few minutes and we’ll be home free.  Relief overcame Mills as the white chalk cliffs of Dover loomed large in his windscreen. My God it was beautiful.  With his guns empty, he was thrilled to be within sight of safety. Good ole Blighty. She’s always there when you need her. His airfield was visible in the verdant sanctum just a few rolling hills and two forests away.  Mills inched the throttle lever forward to put the big expanse of blue-green English Channel water behind them. 

But Mills’ stomach sank as a black speck appeared like a cancer in his rearview mirror. He had strafed all those Nazi planes in a French field as they sat like sitting ducks in a row.  But as the speck grew larger so did his fear.  Had he missed one? Mills altered his course left and gained speed, and as the blackness grew, its cockpit glass glinted in the high sun. Was it friend or foe? The glare blinded him even through squinted eyes.  Damn.

But then his left bank lit up the distinctive bright yellow propeller boss of a Nazi Bf-109. Holy crap. The yellow nosed bastard bobbed up and down in the mirror, now clear as day.  Mills hammered the throttle lever forward as hard as he could for more speed.  He felt the lurch in his arm as a brass wire snapped flooding the Spitfire’s thoroughbred engine with high octane fuel.  The engine growled with the violent admixture of 50 extra galloping horses. The sudden acceleration pinned him to his seat.

Red and orange filled Mills’ mirror as the 109 spat short bursts of white hot incendiary bullets.  Fiery tennis balls zipped the air overhead striking the mirror, disintegrating it into silver pixie dust.  Mills flinched.  He heard the sharp pings of Nazi pig iron bouncing off the rear armor plating of his seat.  The oil gauge needle went spastic.  A burst of 7.62mm incendiary rounds shredded Mills’ lower oil radiator.   He pulled back the spade grip to jink upwards into the sun to blind his pursuer but Edward’s body blocked his motion. Mills felt the sickening vibrations as 20mm cannon rounds ripped into the coolant tank under his engine.  Those same rounds smashed control wires in the tail and rattled the fuselage.  The rudder pedals went slack under his boots.  Intermittent puffs of fluffy white glycol smoke belched from his exhausts. The acrid, throat-closing stench of burning rubber flooded the cockpit.

The 109 screamed past them at high speed, and peeled off in a vertical victory roll.  Mills slid back his canopy hard for fresh air. A bizarre chiaroscuro of black and white smoke billowed from his Rolls-Royce engine.  It was at once beautiful and horrifying. Their Spitfire was a flaming cotton candy streamer of gliding death dropping 32 feet per second.

“Hang on as tight as you can. We’re hitting the silk,” Mills yelled. 

Edward turned and clung to Mills like a newborn koala with eyes as big as black olives. The blue canvas belt dug into the small of Edward’s back.  Mills felt a comforting warmth on his thighs as the boy lost his bladder.

“Ups a daisy.” 

But with 55 pounds of young boy on his chest, Mills struggled to gain a foothold up and out of the cockpit. He hooked his boot heel on the landing gear lever and the wind did the rest. The 100 mile an hour slipstream caught them both and sent Mills scraping back-first along the flaming fuselage.  Tumbling end over end, Mills’ flying boots went sailing into the ether.  He pulled the metal ripcord D-ring unfurling the white blossoming silk from his seatpack. The chute slithered open then deployed with a loud POOF BANG jerking them upwards. Mills felt the pistol belt go slack. He watched in horror as it twisted and fluttered away towards the Channel.  Edward remained with his arms and legs entwined inside Mills’ sturdy harness. The boy buried his small face into the warm sheepskin fleece of Mills’ flying jacket. 

Their fully engulfed Spitfire continued its odd and insistent smoky path to the white cliffs ahead with its waggly rudder and deployed landing gear.  At 1000 feet high, air rushed up Mills’ pant legs turning Edward’s clammy uric acid into stinging goosebumps.  They descended way too fast for comfort and logic.  But it wasn’t the boy’s extra weight.  Mills looked up to his canopy to see that two of the 28 wedge shaped panels were gone, devoured by hungry burning petrol.  Their downward speed increased as the licking flame gobbled its way through more fresh silk.  Without a reserve chute to deploy, Mills hugged Edward with all his might as they twisted and dropped into a fluttering freefall.

“It’s OK,” Mills said closing his eyes.

“I’ve got you.”

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3 Responses to “I’ve Got You”

  1. DEFENESTRATIONISM.NET — !Short Story Contest! | Chad S. Ehler -- Author Says:

    […] posting July 10th; “By the River” by Glenn A. Bruce – posting July 17th; “I’ve Got You” by Chad Ehler – posting July 24th; “Circe’s Bicycle” by Tara Campbell – posting July […]

  2. eatstuf Says:

    Announcing discussion forum, taking place Labor Day Monday (US)–
    AFTER winner and runner-ups are announced–
    only on defenestrationism.net .

    With such nuanced and diverse stories this year, such as I’ve Got You, and more informed, intelligent comments than any prior contest, we will offer a forum for discussion after the big announcement.

    !Surf on through and join us!
    and remember us next time.

  3. DEFENESTRATIONISM.NET — Runner Up — Short Story Contest — “I’ve Got You” | Chad S. Ehler -- Author Says:

    […] RUNNER UP: “I’ve Got You” by Chad Ehler […]

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