Considerations Beyond Understanding: episode twenty-one
“What if we have bad weather?”
“Ah! You do remind me.” Aerendael scanned the plane’s interior. Oil-stained blankets were stacked, with housewifely tidiness, in what amounted to a cargo hold; Greta’s bags lined up and secured in a space behind one seat. With a dissatisfied pursing of the lips, Aerendael rooted about in the cockpit. At length he obtained a rag, which he folded into a neat square. He handed this to Greta, saying, “If you feel airsickness.”
It was a hazard unsuspected, and Greta feared the rag unlikely to be adequate in case of real need, but she would do her best for Aerendael…she liked him…the acquaintanceship might even have spoken something in Kneussl’s favor, but that Kneussl so emphatically did not.
Her question had been inspired by a light rain pelting the windows. She pictured the plane struck by lightning. Maybe such things never happened. Walker climbed to his seat and spread a map over his knees, the man from the shed shut them in; Aerendael taxied a short distance.
Greta felt compelled to ask it. “Could the plane be struck by lightning?”
“Of course.” Aerendael opened the throttle, the engines roared. The plane bumped over turf, not a very great distance, before it lifted into the low clouds.
Once airborne, they were enveloped in noise, buffeting, rattling, rushing. The plane sometimes gave a lurch like a motorcar rocketing over a rutted road. Greta, so far, felt un-queasy. She had never been in a plane before and was enthralled by the view. Kneussl, she thought, must be absorbed in a deep and interior contemplation of his schedule; he showed no interest in England’s villages and coppices seen in miniature.
“Oh, the ocean!”
It was impossible to share, but when they passed out of clouds into blue sky, and broke over blue water below, she touched his sleeve, meaning it this time.
Strictly speaking, it was the North Sea, and no one else on the plane could hear.
Kneussl had been trying steadfastly to think in pragmatic terms. Enforced solitude was dangerous; all one could do was consider. All his efforts to control the exigencies of unwelcome duty had gone…not wrong. Wrong can be set right. Aspects of careful plans were fissuring off on odd trajectories, creating new responsibilities, or doing unknown harm.
Unknown variables, unknowable outcomes. Normally he would clear the fog by doing any task that could be done. At present, nothing could be done, and nothing, for Kneussl, felt oppressive.
He had once seen an accident, the watchers on the ground never suspecting…as the plane had not banked into its next circle, but rather descended away from the aerodrome, coming to earth in a slow and peaceful arc. It had become lost behind the trees.
They’d looked at one another. And none had believed, was willing to believe, the column of black smoke could mean what it did.
(2014, 2018, Stephanie Foster)