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John William Tuohy lives in Washington DC

Short Story: The Lighter Side of Metamorphosis



     When Jake Skala woke up that morning from easy dreams he never thought he would find himself changed into a wonderful bird. And because of that wonderful dream he lingered in bed longer than he should have and so, Jake Skala was late again. Dashing out of the front door of his comfortable home in suburban Edina he raced to his car which waited expectedly for him on the off white cement of the driveway.
     Jake stopped and took in the morning air and turned to gaze at the Minneapolis skyline not so far off in the distance and say the clear dark outline of the Essex building where he worked and where they were, angrily no doubt, waiting for him, again. He stopped to pause and think which was one of the primary reasons why Jake Skala was late so often. He was a man of thought and pauses.
     “You know” he said to himself “If I could fly, I’d be there already”
     Whatever it was that overtook him pushed him forward and then in an upwards direction into the air and then, with a rhythmic rocking motion that came naturally, he lifted himself higher and higher into the air. By leaning forward he glided across the sky, floating past the cars and buildings and landed, somewhat roughly, in front of the Essex Building.
     Someone filmed the whole thing, from beginning to end, with their phone camera and posted the unusual site on YouTube and within hours Jake Skala of Edina Minnesota was the center of the world’s attention. The international media flocked to his door and wanted to know how he could fly.
     “Are you an alien?” was the most popular question to which Jake replied
     “You mean” Jake replied “Like one of those illegals?”
     “No,” said the reporter with a shake of his head “like the other kind.”
    Jake nodded his head in understanding “Nope, I’m from right on earth.”
     “Then how come you can fly?” came a question
     “I don’t know how I learned to fly,” Jack Skala replied. “I was in a hurry to get some place and I just sort of,” he stopped in mid-sentence and finding the correct word, he continued, “Well I suppose I willed myself to fly. I just thought it and saw it in my head and the next thing you know, by gosh, there I was, flying.”
     “Can you explain a little better than that?” a reporter asked.
     Jake shook his head and nope, no he couldn’t, and then asked the reporters a question. “Can you explain to me how you will your body to walk?”
     No, they couldn’t. “Well,” Jake said patiently, for he was a patient man, “I can’t explain how I will my body to fly. I just sort of thought it and there you go.”
     Well sir, as you can well imagine, a lot of people wanted to fly. These people, just average folks, didn’t have any place special to fly to, they just wanted to fly, so they willed themselves to fly and they did fly. It turns out humans could always fly, just like they could always walk and move their arms and turn their necks. In the next month, after people got the hang of it, Hawaii had a lot more tourists than usual and so did the North Pole, Florida and beach towns in Southern California.
     By week’s end an emergency meeting was held at the White House to discuss the human flying issue or what was popularly known as “The Skala”, as in “let’s Skala down to Mexico for spring break”. Sitting in on the meeting at the White House that morning were leaders of industry and commerce, leading members of the scientific community, the President and the President’s top people. The first to speak was Drew Nally, the aged and powerful Speaker of the House of Representatives, a noted captain of industry.
     “Mister President” he said in a no nonsense way “this flying nonsense must be stopped until we can control it!”
     “Why? Everyone seems to be having a good time. What’s wrong with it?” the President replied with a smile.
     “Well a lot is wrong with it sir, a lot. Our hotel industry is in big trouble, sir, big trouble” he said furrowing his brow on the second use of “big trouble” to make sure the President understood that it was big trouble and not just a little trouble.
     “You see sir, most of these folks, these, these…..’ he searched for the word that offered just the right amount of condescending disapproval to it “these flying people,” he said almost choking on the words, “they’re mostly common, everyday folk.” They just drop by for the day; at best most are only staying a night, maybe two. There are just too many other places in the world for them to visit, you know, now that it’s a free for all”.
     “Same with the restaurant business,” said the man who represented restaurant businesses. “With no airline carry on restrictions, people are carrying their food with them.” He turned to the man who was sent by the hotel businesses and said with a look of great disdain, “Whole families carrying their meals in knapsacks!” He scanned the table and said “knapsacks!” and all gathered there pushed out their lower lips and shook their heads in great disapproval of families carrying food in knap sacks.
     “Mister President, I demand, in the name of the American people that we stop the American people from partaking in this sordid flying business before entire industries collapse and disappear forever, perhaps.”
     “Like what?” asked the President
     “The question surprised Nally mostly because he hadn’t expected a question, because a man in his position is so rarely questioned and because he had absolutely no answer to the question asked. In the past six decades he had simply barked his opinions at Presidents and the Presidents did whatever Mister Nally suggested they do.
     “Well,” Nally sputtered, “like…say for instance…umm…” He stared at the flag pole standing so rigidly in the corner of the room and then raised a solitary finger. “Think of those people who make stairs!”
     “Stairs?” added the President.
     Still flustered Nally, rallied with his best answer “Yes, stairs. Why if everyone is flying why would you need stairs?”
     It was a stupid answer and it hung in the air for several very, very long seconds before someone else spoke.
     “May I add,” added the eminent physicist Doctor Han Snider, “that aside from the catastrophic toll that human flying will take on the stairway industry” he said condescendingly with an eye towards the Vice President, “we must ask the all-important question….are we still human if we can fly? Were we, in fact, ever human?”
     The President turned his head slightly to the left, considered the question and then said, “That isn’t as stupid as the stairway issue but it is still epically dumb.”
     “Maybe, maybe not,” added Charles Dunning of the Intelligence agencies. “I mean…what comes next? Will we be able to shoot lasers from our eyes?” He chuckled and flashed something that was akin to a tense smile, stood from his chair and strolled across the room as he spoke. “I jest, of course, but I say we add some money to the defense and intelligence budgets and get on this thing ASAP.”
     The man from the US Department of Commerce looked angry. “Folks are just landing in the country from anywhere and everywhere and we don’t know who’s here, who isn’t here and who’s here that doesn’t belong here….” His voice trailed off angrily, for he was an angry man. In complete defeat he lowered his head and stared deeply into the rich dark grains of the oak table and whispered “People are doing whatever they want. We’re powerless.” The general from the Air Force leaned forward instinctively, and with all in the room watching him, bit his lower lip and patted the man from the Immigration people on the back.
     “Mister President,” said the Air Force general without moving his sympathetic gaze from the man from the Immigration people, “our nation is in grave, grave, grave danger.”
     The generals from the Army, the Navy, the Air Force, the Marines and the Directors of the FBI, the CIA, and the NSA nodded their heads as one in complete agreement with Mister Dunning. Then, as one, the admirals and generals and secret directors turned to the President for an answer
     “Forget it, boys,” the President said. “You’re not getting another penny.”
     The President stood from his chair and those in the room stood respectfully and watched as he collected all of his Presidential pens and notebooks and prepared to leave the room. “Gentlemen,” he said, “I see no harm in any of this. People are happy. Let’s just leave it alone. I don’t see any real problems here, unless people start to swim under water like fish,” and with that, he strode, in a Presidential type of stride, out of the door.
     Jake Skala was late again. He had taken his family to Lake Minnetonka. They flew there to escape all the media glare that his simple yet magnificent deed had created. He had been fishing at Gray’s Bay Damn on the vast lake east end and enjoyed himself so much that he’d forgotten the time and now he was late, twenty minutes late to take his wife and daughter to a Walleye Dinner at Lord Fletcher’s Restaurant. He would have flown over the lake but a thunder storm that carried the occasional flash of lightening had darkened the sky and it would take him a full half hour to drive around the lake to the cabin.
     He stopped to pause and think, for as I said before, Jake Skala was a man of thought, he considering his options, he stared at the clear blue lake water and said to himself,
      “You know, if I could swim, I’d be there already.”
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