About a year ago I read a novel called The Pilot's Wife. I read it because it came recommended by my mom, and also because I am a gigantic idiot. Any story about a pilot and his wife living long lives together before he dies of non-airplane related causes would NOT be in paperback and would NOT be an Oprah pick. And this book was both in paperback and Oprah's book club.
The story begins with the crash of a commercial plane at the fault of the pilot, whose wife later learns of his secret life including another wife and family in France. The story didn't affect me on a personal "I hope that doesn't happen to me" level, because my husband flies mainly what are called smallish planes, and he flies them to nearby locations. If he had another family stashed in, say, Lansing, I probably would have heard through the grapevine at Meijer by now. But the one little chapter in which she receives the news of the crash was reason enough for me to have passed up the title.
Last week I came home from work and walked over to the maintenance shop to ask Pete what his plans were for the evening. Dan, his boss, told me that he was flying with his student, and that they had flown to Claire. I found a couple more guys in the flight lounge and asked them what time Pete had left for his flight.
"He left at two," Chad said. Then, "Have you, uh, heard from him at all?"
"No..." I said. "Why?"
"Well, I might need his help swapping planes in a hanger. Let me know when you hear from him, okay?"
An hour later I was chopping vegetables and trying not to look at my watch when Nate knocked on the door. I greeted him and asked him why he had stopped by. "Pete and I are hanging out at 5:30," he said, peering into the living room, expecting to see Pete. So it was then, around 5:30, that a dull sick feeling started to grow in my middle parts.
I called Chad and asked him what I should do next, but he did the next things for me. He called the airports to track down his flight plan, then called me back to tell me that Pete wasn't following a flight plan. Nate hung around as gracious company and I chopped all of the vegetables that I could find in my house. Another hour passed, and suddenly I could no longer distract myself from the fact that my husband's plane had been missing in a snow storm for three hours.
It was then, mercifully, that I got news: Pete's student had called a friend to tell him that they were grounded and waiting for someone to pick them up. The only remaining question was, Why had Pete's student called a friend while Pete had still not contacted me? Strangely calm, I knew their had to be an explanation. There was, and it was this (in a ten step sequence):
1. Pete flew to Claire with his student, Scott.
2. Pete and Scott set out from Claire to return to Lowell, whilst forgetting Pete's cell phone.
3. Pete and Scott became surrounded by storm cells, and eventually decided to land the plane in a potato field.
4. Pete and Scott screamed, high fived, and hugged each other after successfully landing the plane in a potato field.
5. Later, at the potato farmer's house, Pete tried in vain to remember my phone number.
6. He tried in vain to remember his parents' numbers.
7. Pete remembered his childhood best friend's phone number. Mr. Searles answered.
8. Mr. Searles didn't have Pete's dad's number, but he did have Mr. McGowan's phone number.
9. A very confused Mr. McGowan gave Doug Neal's phone number to Pete.
10. Papa-in-law Neal gave his son my phone number.
Sometimes you find yourself in a situation when you know there are multiple potential outcomes and only one good one. I fell asleep that night thinking that of all the possible outcomes of the day's events, I was given the very best one. I was given the outcome that will never be in paperback and which Oprah will never read, unless Oprah is a blog surfer, which I doubt.