Japanese flak shot out the controls of my fighter plane. I went into a steep dive.
My plane shattered when the Pacific rose to meet it. Don't know how deep I
“Mom!” I yelled. Then nothing.
“Joey, I got fresh baked bread and homemade butter,” said a familiar voice. “And
ice cold chocolate milk. Your favorites. Come this way and have all you want.”
“Grandma? Is that you? Where are you?”
“Over here. Hurry while the bread's still hot.”
“Wait, Joey, come this way,” said a second voice. “Let's play hide-n-seek.”
“Yeah. I'm over here. Try to find me.”
How wonderful to hear Stevie's voice again. My favorite cousin. My partner in
bike riding, roller-skating, mischief-making.
“Watch out for cars, Stevie,” I called. “Your mom still cries for you.”
I felt pulled in two directions. On one side were Grandma's hands, full of
tantalizing bread, butter, and chocolate milk. On the other was a misted forest
“Grandma, can you wait until I play with Stevie?”
“After twelve years, a few more minutes won't matter,” she said.
“Stevie, after I find you, let's go skating....”
Gagging. Coughing. Spitting.
Ocean waves. Rustling palms. Hot sun.
Nausea rippled through my gut. I threw up.
How the hell did I get on this beach?
It was late afternoon when I had enough strength to push myself up. I staggered
toward the jungle's edge. When my eyes focused, I saw a campfire. The breeze
pushed odors of frying fish my way.
“Hey! Whoever's there. Help me.”
I managed to crawl to the fire.
The fish was delicious. So was the open can of crushed pineapple. I drank from
coconut shells filled with fresh, chilled water. Surprisingly, one contained ice cold
Saw a pack of cigarettes. General MacArthur's picture and, “I Shall Return” were
on the side of the pack.
Puffing away, I lay on my back surveying the stars. Then, the full reality of what'd
happened, struck me, and I began to shake. Thank goodness I was alive. But
where was I? Did anybody back at the base know I'd survived?
I'd ask my benefactor about everything, tomorrow. I owed him my life. Some
thanks I'd shown him by raiding his dinner and gobbling everything. I'd make
So good to know the island was populated. Maybe a crashed pilot. Gotta be
American, what, with Lucky Strike cigarettes, Delmonte Pineapple, and Coca
Feeling somewhat comforted, I fell asleep.
I woke up a distance from where I originally lay the night before. Did I
sleepwalk? Was this the psychological aftermath of a horrendous crash?
Following my footsteps on the beach, I returned to where I'd dined. I saw canned
bread, Corn Flakes, powdered milk, sugar, powdered eggs, juice, smokes, cooking
tools, and a fresh fire.
After whipping up breakfast for two, I yelled, “How do you like your powdered
eggs? Green, or burnt?”
Figured I'd hear a good-natured laugh, and jungle brush crunching as he headed
my way. But nobody responded.
I looked around the small island. Didn't find a soul. “Hey, Buddy,” I called over
and over again, to no avail.
I hid in the bush, hoping to glimpse my provider. Whenever I did, the fire and
meals showed up elsewhere.
After several days, I tried to
figure how to get rescued.
Didn't dare build a fire at night.
The enemy would send patrol
boats to bombard the place. I
sure as hell didn't want to be
taken prisoner or get killed
after all I'd gone through.
On the other hand, why be in a
hurry? This was an island
Once rescued, they'd give me
a physical, maybe a few days
off, and put me be back
patrolling the skies over New
Guinea. Might even get shot
Then I chided myself. This was war to the death. They needed every hotshot pilot
they could get. I had to find a way back.
On the tenth day, I saw a black mass toward the horizon. Scared me. I hid in the
Talk about relief. It was one of our destroyers. Sailors in a skiff headed my way.
I ran like hell to greet them.
Maybe it was delayed shock. But once the doc checked me out in sickbay, I slept
on and off for three days.
“Who saved you?” the doc asked.
“Where'd all the provisions come from?”
“I have no idea.”
“You absolutely sure there aren't any natives on that island?”
“I don't think so. I looked every day. Didn't see a soul. By the way, how'd you
know where to find me?”
“You'd never believe me. Doesn't matter. You're here and in good health. You'll
be back in the air in no time.”
My commander said the King of all the
islands wanted to see me.
“So you are the pilot beloved by the
Gods,” the King said, circling me,
pinching my arm, as if testing to
ensure I was human.
“I don't understand your meaning,
“The dolphins told our fishermen about
you. How you fell from the sky. How
they saved you. How they fed you with things they gathered from sunken
warships. Where you were. Our fishermen told your Navy.”
“Dolphins?” I didn't dare laugh at his superstitious stupidity.
“Oh yes. You are beloved of the dolphins, and more so by the God of the
”Why would the God of the Dolphins love me, your Highness?”
“Perhaps he has found your sacrifices pleasing.”
“But I don't worship any god.”
“Perhaps it is time to start. What is there to lose? After
all, you have been given a second chance.”
To humor the old King, I agreed.
Then I had a strange dream.
From then on, I took a pile of gum and chocolate bars on
every mission. On my return, I'd fly as low as possible
and toss them into the waves. One particularly large
dolphin would hurl himself up so high I'd catch him on my
I'd open my canopy, and we'd speak of many things.