The 4:30 Flight

Kathie Gibboney

The frogs have quieted, and the roosters are not yet crowing.  It’s that in-between time; the end of night, but not quite morning, a darkness tinged, only vaguely, around the edges with the coming promise of light.  Though having just opened my eyes, I know what time it is. I don’t have to look at the clock. I know to get ready for the 4:30 [a.m.] flight.

     It’s tough to leave sleep, to be so suddenly awake, without that cozy, lingering drowsiness to lure you back to the dream where they were all clapping. Instead, the bothersome but important details of the coming day run through the brain of what to wear and which shoes.  When that is decided one can move on to considering the exact amount remaining in the bank account, the need to get the window wipers fixed, how one goes about submitting a novel to an agent, should I take up hula hooping, how many days until Halloween and what to be when I grow up?   

Some thoughts seem circular coming round and round again, even though I’ve already thought them. Not having achieved a satisfying answer they seem to get automatically resubmitted to my mind, but I am in no better position to deal with them than I was the first time they showed up. I still can’t think of a viable restaurant space in Topanga for the Beleaguered Husband, a solution to the homeless problem or why I ever went out with that old boyfriend in the first place.

     Cat snoozes contentedly beside me mocking my wakeful state, as does my husband, dreaming of the perfect wave.  Maybe I’ll read for a while. The book is an interesting concept, a story about the four wives of Hemingway, all of whom he leaves (what a jerk).  Of course, his final desertion is achieved at the wrong end of one of his favorite shotguns and though I can admire his work, I can’t help but callously think, “It’s about time.”

   This is not the light, middle-of-the-night read to lull one back to sleep; the book about hummingbirds might have been the better choice.  I whisper, “Goodnight Papa,” and let, ‘Mrs. Hemmingway’ fall to the floor, then try to sleep again, when I hear it, far off at first, then coming closer and louder, seeming to fly right over the house.  The 4:30 flight.

   I ponder its course, as I have before. Is it taking off or coming in? And what flight from, or to where, would depart or arrive around 4:30 in the morning?  Wondering about it finally tires my poor, addled mind and I drift back to sleep.

  Though I often wake at different times in the night, there is somehow a recognizable feel to the 4:30 hour; a quiet stillness just for a brief time, as if the night and day had stopped to catch their breath as they changed places, as workers trading shifts, nodding to each other, maybe exchanging information about daylight savings time, or one saying to the other concerning the state of the world, “Still spinning.”  Even the wind chimes are silent. Then I hear it, the 4:30 flight. Then I understand: someday I’ll be on it.

     I suspect it will be in October, for like Hemingway, whose headstone reads, “And best of all he loved the fall,” I, too, can stand still and tremble at the flight of a golden leaf, marvel in the magic of a black cat, and shiver, just a bit, to hear the wind whisper my name.  When the time comes, I hope I will be good to go, even excited!

You don’t have to pack, not even a toothbrush. No need to take a phone or ID or even money because it’s no good where you’re going, except for maybe needing a penny for the Ferryman. In spite of inflation I think his fee remains the same.

    A friend recently passed quite suddenly and unexpectedly.  He was found on a bed, expired with his cap still on, surrounded by some dogs who loved him. It was an abrupt departure; evidently, he had a flight to catch.  At 4:30, when I wake, I whisper, “Bon Voyage.”

     I suspect my passing may not be so peaceful as I’ve always had a feeling I would suffer one of those undignified deaths, such as being crushed by the runaway, out-of-control Big Bird balloon while watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade; or by laughing too hard at the ridiculous movie, It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World; or being jettisoned out of a Ferris wheel or roller coaster to go flying over the midway to finally, and fatally, come to rest on top of the Hot Dog On A Stick concession.

   Alas, poor mortals doomed to die. No one gets out, although those Rapture believers sure keep on trying.  Personally, I find a bit of tribulation in every day so maybe they’re on to something. I’m sure the eruption of Hawaii’s volcano will feed into more theories predicting the arrival of The End Of Times yet again. Time to sell all you have and head for a mountaintop to be beamed up.  

Those of us who live in Topanga may be the first to go. I’m all for waiting up all night with a group of the faithful, complete with a drum circle and party like it’s 1999, hoping to be ascended well before the morning hangover sets in. I’ll have to remember to bring my sunglasses as I think the face of God might be rather bright.

   I know, however, to catch the 4:30 flight one must leave the body behind. It is not needed in the astral realm of spirit and light. It is not needed, as it only houses the spirit while on this earthly plane, and though we might have grown somewhat attached to it, it is best to let it go to return to the dust from whence it came.  

Saint-Exupery’s Little Prince knew that and made a deal with the Snake to set him free from his body, lithe and heavy with gross matter, so he could return home.  

The Prince advises his friend, The Pilot, “I shall look as if I were dead; and that will not be true…it will be like an old abandoned shell.  There is nothing sad about old shells.”

   When the snake does his part, the Little Prince does not cry out but falls gently not even making a sound because of the sand. Then he caught the 4:30 home.

     I dreamt of dying once. I know just what it’s like. For a little bit you hover above your body and you can still see things familiar to you and that’s all right.  But then there’s a ringing in your ears and your sight begins to dim and there is a powerful surge pulling you up. I was afraid to go because I was leaving all I knew, and I had to go alone.  Then something inside of me said, “Don’t fight it. Just go with it, go with it.” And I did. The next thing I knew was the feeling of my spirit reentering my body, sleeping there on the bed.

    From the dream I gleaned that the separation of spirit from the flesh may not be such an easy transition, as part of us has been so earth-bound.  I decided to stop eating meat, feeling I was already weighted in this human animal form and that when the time comes again, I’d do best to leave it lightly, as did the Little Prince.   

I must confess, however, to still nibbling a few cocktail weenies, at Christmastime.

    When we’re going to make that journey no one knows, which is the blessing and terror of it.  For now, we are still here, being given another day to work, to play, to laugh, to pray, to blunder, thunder, roar, and weep.

And, for gosh sakes, whilst these bodies remain still to us, let’s do something good for someone, before we, too, catch the last flight home.

Kathie Gibboney
Kathie Gibboney

Kathie Gibboney is the author of the monthly column "My Corner of the Canyon". She has delighted her readers for years with her anecdotes, musings and antics about family, life and love.

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