Toys in Cross: His Airplane


Flights of fancy ought not to be mocked.

Mr. Gabriel Riordan served as the interim principal for Cross Elementary in 1946, and, in 1947, he took over the duties of Mrs. Sandoval when she retired from teaching the fifth grade.

Mr. Riordan was displeased when he was not offered the position of principal on a full-time basis. He took his anger out on Ernst Heckler, a refugee from Austria. Ernst’s father had managed to smuggle his son aboard a ship before the Germans clamped down on those of Jewish ancestry trying to flee the country.

Ernst was a bright, personable boy who was fascinated with airplanes, and who spoke with a lisp in addition to his accent. Ernst’s classmates adored him, as did everyone else in the school. The only one who disliked him, it seemed, was Mr. Riordan.

Each day Mr. Riordan would belittle the child for his accent, his lips, and his faith. Ernst took it all in stride, accepting the ridicule without any reaction. When Mr. Riordan would finish his tirade, Ernst would go back to his schoolwork, and when it was time for recess, he would play with his favorite airplane, a transoceanic vehicle that, according to his foster family, he wished he could take back to Austria to search for any of his family who might have survived the Holocaust.

On a warm May day, Mr. Riordan crossed the line with his students.

He took Ernst’s plane from him.

When I spoke with Mr. Riordan that night, he said the class had gone silent when he threw the plane down and broke it, and that all refused to go out of the room for recess. Furious at the disobedience, Mr. Riordan had stalked out of the room to get the principal for assistance with his unruly class.

When he returned with the woman, none of his students were there. The broken airplane, he saw, was missing as well.

It was at that time that a transoceanic airplane rumbled over Cross.

None of the children were found that night, or the night after, or ever again. They and Ernst had somehow repaired the airplane, and they had left upon it. Of that, I am certain.

I don’t have Ernst’s airplane in my study, but I do have Gabriel Riordan’s skull.

He forfeited it when he broke the boy’s toy.

#horror #monsters #supernatural #death

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Nicholas Efstathiou

Husband, father, and writer.

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