A tribute to the 82nd Airborne division on this Veteran's day November 10, 2018- Earthbound Ernie a short story.Nov 102018
Ernie, the terrier crouched beneath the gray mesh trampoline in his backyard. He scratched at the soldier’s dog tag hanging from his collar. 82nd Airborne Ernie barked at the small figure standing on his roof. His heart raced like it always did when a storm was on its way.
But this was no storm. It was his boy, Timothy. What was he doing so high in the air when Ernie had sworn to protect him and keep him earthbound?
Timothy scooted to the edge of the roof near his bedroom window, the trampoline looming like a dark thundercloud below.
Suddenly, Ernie’s ears pricked to the frightening sound of a familiar word. Then his eyes widened at the sight of his boy’s thumbs up signal.
“GERONIM-O-O-O-O-O-O!” shouted Tim excitedly.
“Aaaaaarooooo!” Ernie howled. His black mustache twitched when the boy bent his knees and soared off the roof. Tim’s ten-year-old body flipped. His laughter filled the air! With delight, he executed a perfect triple somersault, then shouted to Ernie.
“Might as well get used to that thing,” said Tim as Ernie chewed at the small brightly colored pack attached to a harness. “Dad bought it at the Army Surplus store. A genuine dog parachute. Now you’re a real parapup!”
“We’re all going to the mountains, Ernie,” BOUNCE-BOING-BOUNCE, “with Dad’s airborne jump team,” BOUNCE-BOUNCE-BOING, “and yours truly will be going on his first solo base jump!
“GERONIM-O-O-O-O-O-O!” Tim laughed.
“Aaaarooooo,” chorused Ernie. He bristled at those awful “O-O-O-O” sounds knowing they meant something airborne. How he hated those words.
Airborne, airborne, in the air, was where Tim longed to be while Ernie vowed to keep him safe and earthbound. Earthbound, earthbound, bound to earth was his motto.
Now Ernie panted in alarm as he watched the boy and his father load their jeep with brightly colored packs of material, water bottles and lunch baskets.
“O-O-O-H, Man, this is S-O-O-O-O cool!” laughed Tim jumping in the front seat and whistling for Ernie. “I can hardly wait ‘till we get to the jump site.”
Ernie sat in the rear and scratched at the uncomfortable pack. A small round ripcord dug into his side. The terrible harness itched and the smell of gasoline made his mouth foam reminding him of a big toad he had tried to eat.
Then as Ernie’s sides began to heave, the back of the jeep flew open. Tim leaped out and raced to a small picnic table.
“W-H-O-O-OA! This place is awesome! You’re going to love it!” shouted Tim as he hooked the dog’s leash to the leg of the table.
“Okay, Tim,” began his dad, “let’s get our gear unpacked. We’ll all come back here for our picnic, and pick up Ernie. The guys will get a kick out of his official canine parachute.”
Ernie sat quietly under the picnic table and watched the pair happily struggle into their parachute gear.
“Okay, let’s hit the silks!” said Tim’s father as he gave his son the thumbs up sign. They headed up a winding mountain path and disappeared from sight.
The earth was cool and welcoming under the picnic table. How he loved the smell of dirt. An afternoon breeze brought the scent of grilling hot dogs and onions. A blue jay scolded a hawk in a towering juniper tree. Ernie’s eyes grew heavy.
Then suddenly the air rang with familiar voices.
“Aaaaaarooooooooo!” Ernie howled with dread.
The word made his whiskers bristle, and his heart skip a beat. Ernie sprang to the call. He had to get to Tim.
The collar and leash slipped off easily with a firm tug backwards but the awful pack stayed in place. Bounding ahead Ernie soon picked up the scent of bubble gum on Tim’s old sneaker. What he saw next made the hackles stampede down his back like a pack of coyotes.
There was his boy standing shakily near the edge of a cliff, staring down at something on the ground. His legs trembled but his thumb stood courageously in the afternoon light. No blue jay chattered in the trees now. The world stood silent.
Ernie ran, the pack bobbing on his back. Rushing past a thorny shrub bush, its branches brushing his side, he heard a snap as the ripcord released.
Then with all his spunk, he raced toward the familiar figure. An encouraging voice echoed from below.
“Come on, Son, Airborne all the way!”
“G-E-R-O-N-I-M-M-M-M-O-O-O-O-O-O-O-O-O-O-O-O-O-O!” came a nervous shout near Ernie’s ear.
“Aaaaaaroooooo!” yelped Ernie. With one final desperate rush he leaped out into the blue cloudless sky. Jaws open. Teeth clamping onto Tim’s airborne sneaker.
Too late. Boy and dog tumbled down into the sky.
“What? Ernie, Ernie!” Tim’s voice squeaked, his eyes wide with surprise. Above him fluttered an open parachute.
“Ernie, you crazy dog!” his boy laughed. “Look at you! Why you’re Airborne. Airborne all the way.”
Ernie felt the rush of wind in his whiskers. He saw the sunlight glinting off bright silks. He heard laughter. His own tiny chute fluttered above his head and Tim, the Airborne Boy was safe at his side.
Yes, this was truly a grand feeling! No longer was he earthbound, earthbound, bound to earth. He was Ernie and he was airborne. Airborne, airborne all the way!