Fiction 2013 / flash fiction / Volume 43

The Driving Instructor Dreams of Flying — Nick Bertelson

While getting to know his students, the driving instructor rarely hesitated to delve into his dreams. Dreams were something everyone, no matter what age, could relate to. And it concerned him that he had not, in his forty years of life, dreamt he could fly. It seemed to him the most common dreams were of falling or flying. As a child, he dreamt plenty of falling, only to awake in a cold sweat, but he felt like he was missing out on something in adulthood since his dreams, when he remembered them, had never taken him into the sky.

“You’d think by now, I’d have dreamt I could fly.”

The white-knuckled and wide-eyed kids always gawked through the windshield, hardly heeding what was being said.

“It’s not as cool as it seems,” one kid commiserated. “When you wake up it’s kind of a let down.”

The kid couldn’t have cared less about the driving instructor’s dreams, however. Like most students, he was waiting for the driving instructor to doze off in the passenger seat, whereupon he set the clock ahead to cut his driving time in half. It was an old trick that had been handed down from past students.

When the driving instructor awoke, he stared at the clock and panicked. “Okay, switch drivers!” he said. “We only have twenty minutes left!”

His students acted differently then while exiting the car: their plan had worked and the drudgery of following the speed limit would soon end.

“Did you dream of flying?” his students asked, buckling themselves in. “I wasn’t sleeping!” snapped the driving instructor.

On the last day of Driver’s Ed, the driving instructor always took his students to the Dairy Sweet and treated them to ice cream. Some kids felt bad then for setting the clock ahead and duping the driving instructor. Some kids hadn’t done anything wrong, so they only needed to keep their scoops of ice cream from toppling off the cones. And some kids grew up and died in car wrecks. But to the driving instructor, they were all forever eating ice cream.

Year after year, the driving instructor recited the old lament to new students about the gravity of his dreams. Even one of his older students, an elderly immigrant who’d never had a license, found herself in the driver’s seat one morning, listening to the instructor.

“I never used to dream I driving,” the woman said in her broken english. “Thirty years and no dream of the car. But then I start driving the car and now I go to sleep and I drive every night.”

“Maybe 1 need to experience it,” the driving instructor said. “Like in the airplane?”

“No! I’ve been in airplanes. I’ve dreamt of airplanes.” The driving instructor stared wildly through his window. “I need to know what it’s like to be… up there.”

The driving instructor used his last paycheck to buy two tickets to Mexico. His first day there, he bought his wife margaritas until she let him go parasailing. This is it, he said to himself. He’d now have what he needed. He paid men on the beach 450 Pesos. They took him out in a boat and harnessed him to a giant sail. He felt it lift him upward. He heard the unexpected quiet over the ocean. He saw the backs of flying birds. And when he reached the pinnacle, his heart quietly exploded in his chest. The boat, however, kept going, because no one realized he was gone until they reeled him in from the sky.

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