Journey

The elderly man looked through the window at the runway starting to roll past. The plane was beginning its ascent and he gripped his arm-rest tightly. No matter how many times he flew, he could never quite get used to the churning sensation in his stomach. Maybe it was all the times he’d crashed.

To take his mind off it, and so he didn’t have to watch the stewardesses ridiculous charade, he pulled out a thick scrapbook from his hold-all and began idly leafing through it.

A smile began to crease the corners of his mouth as he turned the pages, each one triggering a fond memory of years past. A little white dog chasing a butterfly through the Amazon undergrowth. A bearded man in a captain’s hat yelling at a snow-capped mountain.

He paused, and wiped a tear away from his eye. An elderly man swinging a pendulum on the deck of a large ship. Two impeccably dressed fellows flat on their faces in the middle of a desert.

His reminiscing was interrupted by the arrival of a young boy sitting in the seat next to him. At once, the youngster’s attention was on the scrapbook perched on the elderly man’s knees.

“Wow, have you really been in a rocket, mister?” he gasped, eyes wide.

The man chuckled and glanced at the picture of the red and white rocket, standing proud on the launch pad.

“As a matter of fact, young man, I have. To the moon and back.” He spread his hands wide to emphasise the distance. “But that was so long ago now,” he added, his voice cracking slightly.

He looked again at the picture, and the clean-cut young man stood in front of the rocket, the baggy, brown trousers, the blue sweatshirt, the cowlick. His hand went up to his forehead. It was still there, although it had greyed considerably over the years.

“Can I have a look?” The boy reached for the scrapbook, and the man placed it onto his lap.

Whilst he eagerly turned each page and drank in everything it had to offer, the elderly man looked out of the window in silence. Every now and then, the boy would gasp in amazement or laugh in disbelief, and it would bring a teary smile to his face.

The pilot’s announcement over the intercom brought the elderly man around from a sleep he didn’t realise he’d taken.

“Now beginning our descent into Switzerland.”

The plane bumped down onto the runway and pulled up in view of the terminal without incident. Makes a change, thought the man. As he rose from his seat to leave, he felt a hand tug at his jacket and turned to see the young boy offering him his scrapbook back.

The elderly man smiled and shook his head.

“I don’t need it anymore, could you take good care of it for me?”

The boy nodded and hugged the book tight against his chest.

“But I need you to promise me that you’ll add your very own pictures to it when you start to have adventures.”

Again, the boy nodded, wide-eyed.

“Then let your adventure start now!” chuckled the elderly man, walking off up the aisle of the plane.