Once upon a time there was a little boy. He lived in a backwoods town. The other children were into sports and dating and such. But the boy was not. He thought a lot. He thought about history, and where butterflies came from, and why things were the way they were. As you might expect the other children didn’t understand him. They teased him and tripped him and took his lunch money. The boy tried not to get upset but he made a promise. He made a promise to himself that once he could, he would leave the town in the woods and go to the big city. In the big city he would be accepted. People would be nicer in the big city. They wouldn’t try to take advantage of him
After college the boy, man now actually, moved to a big city in the centre of everything. He met and married and to all that knew him had a happy life full of a job and family. In reality the man was still not happy. He looked around and on all sides were people trying to get his money. People trying to take his stuff. People trying to hurt him with drugs or ‘little crimes”. People that were out for themselves. The man however saw that people should try to help each other, to work together to make the world better for everyone. The man still saw the world could be a beautiful place if people would put aside their petty greed and selfishness.
The man tried to be a good person. He helped others. He donated. He tried to do good things for people. For a while he thought he was doing some good, actually making a difference. Then he learned the truth. Some were openly suspicious of him. “Why would you want to do this?” they would ask. “What’s in it for you?” Others would gladly take his help, his time, his money but in reality only for their own gain. They’d even lie to him to get his help. They would not learn from what the man did. They would not help others, only take. They started calling him “Patsy” behind his back. When he found this out the man was sad.
One of the man’s friends told him he should get involved with politics. “this is a democracy” he said. “in government you can change things for the better.” So the man got involved. For a while he thought he was doing some good, really making a difference. Then he discovered that politics wasn’t what he hoped it would be. The people running things were taking his time, taking his money, taking his support and then doing things, making laws, changing the country for their own profit. They were all struggling to get to the top, fighting over who would lead, who would get the power not who they could help. The man realized that they did not care about him or anyone else. They were just in it for themselves. The man stopped taking part in politics. Democracy, Homeland, Mother Country, he realized that these were just more lies to get people to work for the benefit of those at the top.
Then his wife said he should try Religion. The man looked into it, started gathering with all the others, singing the songs, donating, volunteering, taking part in a big way. For a while he thought he was doing some good, really making a difference. Then he discovered that religion wasn’t what he hoped it would be. The people running things were taking his time, taking his money, taking his support and then doing things for their own gain. They were struggling to get to the top, fighting over who would lead, who would get the power, not who they could help. The man realized that they did not care about him or anyone else. They were just in it for themselves. The man stopped going to church. Heaven, Hell, Angels, God, these were all just more lies to get people to work for the benefit of those at the top.
Then the man decided that maybe the problem was the particular country he was in. He decided he needed to leave, to go somewhere else, somewhere where people were ‘better’. He was old enough now to retire and could afford to live wherever he wanted. He found this sunny country far far to the south. From everything he read the people, the government, even there churches were better there. One day he told his wife he had to go. She was very sad. She had friends. She liked the government. She got a lot of satisfaction from her religion. She would not go with him. So the man gave her most of his stuff, got on a plane and flew for a very long time. A couple of days later he landed in the country far to the south. Not just in the new country, he landed on an island off of the south coast of the country. He wanted to be as far away from his old bad country as he could be.
At first the man was happy in his new country. He got to study butterflies, and history, and learn the customs and language of his new home. But after some years he started to realize that this country had the same problems his old one did. Its politics were run by nasty people who were struggling to get to the top and didn’t care who they hurt on the way up just like his old country. Its religions were run by nasty people who were struggling to get to the top and didn’t care who they hurt on the way up just like his old country. The people themselves didn’t notice because they were also out for themselves and didn’t listen to the man as he tried to get them to work together for the betterment of all.
The man was very sad. He wasn’t sure what to do. He was now very old and knew that he only had a few years left. He wanted to spend his remaining time somewhere that he would be happy. Somewhere that nobody would try to take his money, or lie to him, or try to use him for their own gain. “If I could just spend one day in a place like that I would be able to die happy” he told himself.
Then one day he was looking at a map and he hit upon a plan. On the next clear moonless night soon thereafter he rode the bus out to the airport. He was dressed all in black with a medium sized bag over his shoulder. The other passengers got off the bus and walked into the terminal to catch their planes. He got off, turned and disappeared into the darkness. Nobody noticed the figure in black walk past the back of the rental car lot. Nobody saw him slip through the dark, quiet construction site. Nobody saw him climb over the fence into the general aviation area. Nobody saw him slip from plane to plane until he found one that would fit his needs. A plane with enough range and full gas tanks to get him to where he wanted to go. It bothered him that he was taking something that wasn’t his. But the old man consoled himself with the thought that unlike when people had stolen from him, he was only borrowing the plane. He was going to make sure they would get it back. He got in, sat in the pilots seat and put a package in the seat next to him.
The old man started the engines and taxied out to the runway. The men in the tower were unaware of what he was up to. For them it was just another plane that wanted to go somewhere. When it was his turn the old man pushed the throttles forward and took off. In the air he pointed the nose of the plane south and turned the radio off. Finally he was alone. They couldn’t stop him now. Oh they sent jets up to intercept him but they could do little more than wave and try to call on the radio. The old man waved to them and finally with their fuel running low the jets turned back.
After a few hours the sun came up and the old man could only see water in every direction. The sea stretched to the horizon and not even a ship was in site. The old man sat at the controls and was happy. For the first time in his life he was as free as anyone could be. He sang and talked to himself, and occasionally looked at the package. On the airplane sailed through the southern skies. The old man was happy, and the fuel got lower and lower in the tanks.
Finally with the tanks under one quarter, ahead there appeared a line on the horizon. It grew and finally the plane flashed over tall ice cliffs. The plane flew on over the flat white land below. It was the most remote part of Antarctica. Here the old man knew he could at last be happy. He knew that he had found a place where people would not try to use him or steal from him or be mean to him. He lowered the wheels and pulled back the throttles. Though he had never flown a plane before the landing was simple. He could land anywhere, in any direction in a million square miles of flat hard ice. The plane settled to the ground onto it’s wheels and rolled to a stop. The old man didn’t even have to touch the brakes. When the plane finally stopped he turned off the switches and looked around. Then he got out of the pilot’s seat. He had one other thing to do.
A week later the rescue team reached where the plane was parked. Next to it was the old man. He was sitting in a lawn chair, dressed in shorts, a t-shirt and straw hat with rubber flip-flops on his feet. In his hand was a glass. When the rescuers, all dressed in their parkas, boots and goggles climbed out of their Snow-Cats and walked up to the old man they saw that the contents of the glass were frozen solid as was the old man. He was facing away from the airplane looking toward the horizon, with a frozen smile on his face. It was the first time he’d smiled in decades.
One of the rescuers went into the plane. He found the package on the seat. In it was an envelope and a note. The note said
“Forgive me for borrowing this airplane. In the envelope you will find more than enough money to pay for the fuel to fly it back home. Please leave me here. This is the only place I’ve known true happiness. ”
The rescuer in his parka read the note, looked at the bundle of cash in the envelope and then stuffed both in an inside pocket of his parka. Exiting the plane he said “No there’s nothing in there”.
They fuelled the plane with the gas they had brought and flew it back home. The man they left in his chair on the ice with the glass in his hand. Not because of the note, which the one rescuer had not shown to anyone, but because they had only come to recover the airplane. The old man was not important enough for them to bring back.
Somehow, the old man knew it would work out that way.