This story is by Stu Ducklow and was part of our 2017 Fall Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
Juliet was getting old. Her skin had been replaced during her last physical so she looked shiny and new, but she was older than almost all of her partners.
She had never been easy to love. She was uncompromising, demanding and skittish. Young people were afraid of her. Old friends appreciated her authenticity but they’d grown up in a different era, when truth was more important than ease of use. Most of them were too old to frolic with her but some still visited occasionally just to talk and maybe take a picture. They admired her elemental beauty.
Juliet knew her life would soon come to an end, probably because of an accident. She couldn’t tell anybody but she could feel a fundamental weakness in one of her joints. She had felt it give while she was with Steve, not one of her favourite lovers, though she admired his tenacity. In his anxiety he handled her roughly, but she was patient. He would learn the true meaning of love before long.
She’d helped thousands of young men and women in her career. The women, it seemed, were better. They were sensitive, like Juliet, and their movements were considered and thoughtful. The guys felt they had to prove something and Juliet would wind up bouncing around under their spastic clutching and grabbing. She hated that.
But they all fell in love with her eventually. They learned she could be quick and powerful, lively and energetic. They learned how to exercise control with gentleness and skill not brute force. Juliet didn’t know how other females felt but she yearned for the skilled, deft hands of an experienced lover, one who would appreciate her unique qualities and come back often.
Steve was no such partner. He’d kick her and grab her limbs and twist them. She could feel that he was nervous and afraid and she sympathized but she hated the pounding she took from him. He didn’t know what to look for. He wasn’t sensitive or caring. He’d never notice her aching joint.
Steve had come to see her again this afternoon. She could feel the extra force he put into his poking and prodding of her body– part of his dreadful preliminaries. It put her in a bad mood. The weather didn’t help. Outside, a thunderstorm was brewing filling the air with static electricity. It made Juliet jumpy and skittish, but she had to cooperate. She had to do what her partners demanded, whether it hurt or not.
Her aching joint burned under Steve’s rough handling. The thunderstorm erupted with hail and furious winds filling her world with an unearthly light. Steve’s fearful hands gripped like a vice. She bounced, and twisted and struggled in protest. If only he’d relax and let her guide him she could show him how their partnership was designed to work– the perfect joy of control and submission. But in his fear he handled her with mighty heaves and jerks, back and forth, tearing and pushing. She moaned and held herself rigid, willing him to finish. And then suddenly it was over. She felt her weakened joint flutter and then give way. She was torn, broken, unable to perform.
It was the end for both of them. Juliet had always wanted her life to finish with a bang and it did, in one last glorious spin into the ground from 800 feet over the airport.
She was crushed by the fall, her classic monoque fuselage crumpled like a candy wrapper. Steve was dead inside. A colourful brigade of fire and emergency vehicles raced cheerfully to the scene and sprayed Juliet with flame retardants before the firemen hacked the flimsy doors away and confronted the bloody remains.
Then they swaggered around looking important in their day-glo fireproof jackets and waited for the ambulance to take the body away.
Bystanders gathered taking pictures with their cell phones. “What do you call that thing,” shouted one of them.
“A Canuck,” said an older man. “A Fleet 80 Canuck. We all trained on her — a real good plane to learn on. I’ll be she’s over 70. Don’t make ‘em like that anymore.”
“What did I hear you call her? Does it have a name?”
“We all called her Juliet. Juliet Delta Quebec– that’s radio talk for those letters on her tail. CF-JDQ. Hey, can you send me one of those pictures? She was a good friend.”