Estes Nighthawk

“People are always shouting they want to create a better future. It’s not true. The future is an apathetic void of no interest to anyone. The past is full of life, eager to irritate us, provoke and insult us, tempt us to destroy or repaint it. The only reason people want to be masters of the future is to change the past.”
― Milan Kundera

The Blue Angels over my work parking lot.

Something that has surprised me about getting old (not getting older... getting old) has been the transformation of the future into the past. Where life used to be dominated by hopes and dreams it is now (and this happened with awful speed) possessed by memories.

Especially certain powerful, yet unpredictable memories. Something I have not thought about in decades will bubble up from the vast ancient soupy mess of my mind and… there it will be.

Often this memory will be so unexpected and ancient I’m not sure if it is even real or not. And with a memory, what is real? If a memory is of an event, person or an item that never happened or never existed – is it still a real memory? All memories are at least somewhat inaccurate – if not a complete fiction. What difference does it make?

And, to complicate things now, there is the internet. If a memory is of something that can’t be located online – how can it be real?

Por Ejemplo

Out of nowhere a couple of days ago a vivid memory came to me of a model rocket – a boost glider to be exact – that I think I made when I was in high school. Model Rocketry was a hobby of mine – as it was to many boys of my age. It was actually pretty cool – I’d order kits through the mail, build them, paint them, put a cartridge motor in them, launch them in the air – and finally watch as something went wrong. They would burn, or streamline straight in (called a Lawn Dart), or fly around in an uncontrollable tangle, or (if their parachute worked perfectly) drift away forever lost on high lofty Kansas winds.

Just kidding – often times… some times they would work – swoosh upward in a jet of smoke and the smell of black powder then have the ejection charge pop off the nosecone and deploy the plastic chute at the perfect apogee – a clot of kids would run after the slowing falling bits of paper tubing and balsa.

Now this memory was of a glider – a balsa airplane with a rocket attached to the nose. It was a difficult craft to build and fly – it was one of the last ones I built. My skills had improved over the precious few years of my youth.

The glider was unusual. It was tail-less with the wing an odd (and hard to make) swept inverted gull-wing – sort of an “M” shape. Gluing the wing panels in the proper angles and alignment with the correct balance and airfoil shape wasn’t easy. I was very proud of it.

But had I actually built it? I wasn’t sure. It was fifty years ago.

So it’s off to Google. I did a lot of searches on “tail less boost glider” and “model rocket glide recovery” and such without success. There were a lot of boost gliders out there but they all looked like regular airplanes – nothing with the strange shape I remembered.

I tried a different tack. I knew it was probably an Estes kit – I was an Estes rocket builder (as opposed to the Centuri models – which seemed flashy and unserious to me) and I figured that company might have it in its history. I found and downloaded PDF copies of their catalogs from 1970 through 1974. Then I went through the offerings (which brought the nostalgia tumbling back – either I or one of my friends had built and flown many of these kits).

I found it. It was an Estes Nighthawk.

Estes Nighthawk. Once I had the name, I found several photos. It looks just like I remembered it.

The kits were discontinued in the mid 70’s. They cost two dollars at the time. There is an old kit for sale online for $140.

It seems that I am not the only one that has memories. There are plans, instructions, and diagrams online. Some folks have been building these.

And now once the memory has been confirmed and all this extra information uncovered… I have a conundrum.

Should I build one? Should I build two? (one to keep and one to fly – destroy or lose)

Should a memory stay a ghost or can it be resurrected.

Short Story Of the Day – Rocket Launcher by Bill Chance

The Diabolical sometimes assumes the aspect of the Good, or even embodies itself completely in its form. If this remains concealed from me, I am of course defeated, for this Good is more tempting than the genuine Good.

—–Franz Kafka

Helicopter shadow, Pacific Plaza Park, Dallas, Texas


I have been feeling in a deep hopeless rut lately, and I’m sure a lot of you have too. After writing another Sunday Snippet I decided to set an ambitious goal for myself. I’ll write a short piece of fiction every day and put it up here. Obviously, quality will vary – you get what you get. Length too – I’ll have to write something short on busy days. They will be raw first drafts and full of errors.

I’m not sure how long I can keep it up… I do write quickly, but coming up with an idea every day will be a difficult challenge. So far so good. Maybe a hundred in a row might be a good, achievable, and tough goal.

Here’s another one for today (#72) More than two thirds there! What do you think? Any comments, criticism, insults, ideas, prompts, abuse … anything is welcome. Feel free to comment or contact me.

Thanks for reading.

Rocket Launcher

We sold the last three cows in the village. They were not worth much; they were as much skin and bones as the rest of us. But it gave us the money we needed.

The gunrunners met us in a hidden spot in the mountains. We had to climb all night to get there. They said we hadn’t brought enough but we told them it was all we had. In the end, they sold us the rocket launcher for a promise to pay more later.

It was even harder to climb back down lugging the heavy crates through the jungle. By the time we reached the bluffs outside the village the helicopter had already been by once and its machine gun had already raked our huts – killing many, some in my family. We were too late.

While we were setting it up, putting it together, the helicopter came back again. We were too slow.

Now I wait. The helicopter always comes back a third time. It waits until right before dark, when the survivors have to return to their huts to escape the nighttime jungle dangers.

I look at my rocket launcher and run my hands up and down its long shape. It is dark gray and covered in yellow writing I can’t read in letters I’ve never seen.

The feeling I get when I touch the rocket launcher is the same one I used to feel when I was around the young girls in my village before the revolution came. It’s only been a year but my memory has faded. They are only blurred ghosts now – in my memory and in the real world. The army carried off the ones that weren’t killed by the helicopters.

From up on the bluff, next to my rocket launcher, and covered in tree branches we cut this morning, I can peer out and see what’s left of the village, a drab oval in the middle of the bright green of the jungle. The river winds around, its brown slow water coursing past. I look at the shallow spot where I used to take the cows for water, where I would sit and watch the girls bathing or doing laundry. That was another time.

In the distance, I can hear a faint thumping noise. The helicopter is coming back. Someone is going to die. It might be me. It might not. I don’t really care.