Johnny grumbled under his breath as he grabbed the squished metal hanger lying beside him on the bed. It was bad enough that he'd fallen out that dumb tree in front of all the other kids. Then Dad came home and had spent almost all his time doing fun things with the family, except for Johnny. He was stuck in his dumb bed with a big, old, stupid cast. And just when he thought it couldn't get any worse, his dumb leg started to itch. This morning it seemed like it'd never stop itching.
"Stupid leg!" he muttered, exasperated.
It just wasn't fair!! Tears threatened to well up in his eyes as Johnny thought about it. Dad had been gone for just about forever. First he was gone to officer's school, then to flying school, and pretty soon he'd be leaving again - for a long, long time. Nobody said Dad was leaving. They wouldn't say where he was going or how long he'd be gone, either. Everybody just talked about all the fun things to do with him while he was home. Johnny figured that Dad must be going someplace bad, that's how come nobody talked about it. Dad was a soldier in the Army now, and soldiers went bad places. Sometimes they'd come home hurt real bad, and sometimes they didn't come home ever. The Army'd make Dad leave soon and send him someplace far away. Johnny might never see him again, but instead of getting to play with him before he went away, Johnny was stuck in his dumb bed with his stupid broken leg.
Slam!! Johnny heard the front door close. Wham! Wham! Wham! Everyone'd piled into the big old station wagon and was on their way to church. That was one nice thing about his stupid broken leg, at least he didn't have to go church and listen to boring old Father Hogan. Johnny could hear footsteps coming up the stairs and towards his room. He hoped it was Kitty that had gotten stuck with babysitting him, instead of Mommy. Kitty was a lot more fun. She always played games with him. Argh! Johnny shoved the hanger back inside his cast and scratched a new spot. Stupid leg!
'Hey, Sport!" Cpt. McKay smiled as he entered his Johnny's room.
"Dad!" Johnny responded, a huge grin spreading across his little face. "I thought you were Kitty."
"Oh, well, sorry to disappoint you, kiddo," his dad apologized, trying his best to look hurt.
McKay knew Johnny was delighted to see him. The two of them hadn't had much time together during his leave. The other kids had each had the opportunity to pick something fun to do with their dad - one on one, but Johnny's broken leg had made it difficult to do to find an activity to share with him. McKay had really enjoyed getting reacquainted with each of his other kids. Man! They were all growing up so fast, he hated thinking about how much he was going to miss while he was in Korea.
"I didn't mean that, Dad," Johnny sputtered, "I'm glad its you."
"I'm glad that your glad," his dad responded, laughing. "I've got a surprise for you, but first lets get you dressed."
McKay moved over to his son's dresser, pulled out a t-shirt and tossed it to Johnny. The little boy put it on as he watched his dad stand, arms folded, in front of the dresser looking perplexed. Opening Johnny's bottom drawer, his dad pulled out an old pair of jeans - one of the pairs that were too short now, and then left the room. Johnny sat on his bed with a perplexed look that nearly perfectly mirrored his father's.
"There we go," his dad announced as he returned, tossing the jeans on the bed.
Johnny giggled as he grabbed them. Dad had cut one of the legs off, Mommy wasn't gonna like that very much. He giggled again as he imagined the look on her face when she saw the jeans. Then his face pinched into to a look of serious concentration. Even with the pant's leg off, it was a struggle to get the jeans on over his stupid cast.
"Here." his dad offered, coming over to the bed to help Johnny with his jeans. "Think you can manage the rest by yourself, kiddo?"
Johnny nodded and put on one of the socks his dad had left on bed, and then shoved his foot into his sneaker. He was still puzzled. His dad had walked to the window to look out - like he was expecting to see something. Dad must be taking him somewhere, but Mommy had the car at church. Why else would he need to be dressed, though? He wondered where dad would be taking him on a Sunday, and if Mommy knew about all of this. She never let them go anywhere on Sunday, except for boring old church or visiting old people whose own grandkids didn't ever visit them - probably because they were awfully boring, too.
"There's our ride!" McKay announced, grinning as he turned towards his son. He and Johnny were finally going to get some to spend some fun together.
Moving to the bed, he lifted Johnny and carried him down the stairs. With his arms full, the front door was a bit of a struggle, but Johnny helped his dad open and close it. Then he marveled as his dad carried him towards a car. There was a strange man standing outside the back seat door.
"McKay," the man greeted, nodding his head at Johnny's dad, before opening the door for him.
"Pete," McKay acknowledged, nodding is head at the stranger.
The car lurched into motion and Johnny felt his heart begin to pump faster up as he wondered what sort of adventure was ahead. The grown-ups chatted to each other, but Johnny was too focused on trying to figure out where they were going to really pay any attention. He was too focused to even remember that his leg itched. Johnny watched the scenery as they drove...and drove...and drove. Finally the car jerked to a halt and McKay turned to look at his son's face. The little boy's eyes were wide with wonderment as he stared out at the airplanes parked nearby. Johnny's dad got out, opened the backseat door and carefully maneuvered his son out of the car.
"Where'd you get it, Dad?" Johnny ask as his father turned him toward the helicopter parked a few meters away.
"My buddy Pete," McKay explained, nodding his head in the direction of their chauffeur, "rounded it up for me and flew it all the way over here, just so I could take you for a ride. That is....if your brave enough to go up in one of those things with me?"
Johnny nodded affirmatively, his eyes still huge. As his dad carried him closer and closer to the helicopter, Johnny began to grin. This was too neat. He couldn't believe his dad was actually going to take him flying. None of his brothers and sisters had ever gotten to fly. Johnny was sure of it. There's no way they'd have kept that a secret. Johnny glanced up at his dad, who smiled down excitedly.
Soon Johnny found himself strapped into the passenger seat, next to his dad, who was strapped into the pilot's seat. The helicopter started to whirl to life, and Johnny's heart began racing again. He looked out the window as they took off and Pete waved. The ground dropped further and further away, and everything beneath him got smaller and smaller. Johnny felt his whole body laugh as his dad pulled back on the stick, sending the helicopter soaring higher into the sky.
McKay stole a quick glance at his son. Delight and wonder filled the little boy's face as he gazed out the window of the chopper. Johnny turned and smiled at his dad, and McKay wondered what his son was thinking. Of all his children, he knew Johnny the least. There simply hadn't been time to get to know him well. As he peered at the sweet face of his little boy, he prayed he'd come home from Korea. He just couldn't bear the thought of never having the chance to know the amazing person sitting next to him.