right moment to say what he had to say. A
breeze flapped Mike's hair across his fore-
head and he glanced down at his shoes and
the black clay dust in his shoelaces. He stared
up at the dome-like canopy with the curios-
ity of a man who hadn't seen a thousand, ten
thousand, canopies just like it. "If he lands in
the Zschiesche's cornfield, they aren't going
to be happy about it."
"So you keep saying."
"Okay," Clark said.
"I wouldn't have asked if you weren't
ing turn and pointed his chute at the jump
center. A breeze whipped around the side
of the building and lifted a puff of dust. In the
sky the kid pulled on a toggle line and rotated
the canopy, and for several seconds he moved
quickly across the sky and then slowed again.
ground, inch his way closer to the pea gravel
pit north of the Center, the bulls-eye. "I'll be,"
Mike said, seeing that the kid might make it.
"There's something else."
own the place, if I'm in the mood."
he added, "For free."
"Just a thousand?"
The jumper with the blue canopy hit the
pea gravel but not too far away, his legs bent
to one side. He rolled, jumped to his feet, and
gathered the parachute before the wind picked
up and dragged him across the field.
was a hitch in his voice, a softening that be-
trayed the gruffness of his tone, the way an old
man might holler at a grandson, though Mike
wasn't old, but the kid didn't hear him. By now
he had the lines tangled, wrapped around both
legs, and a gust pressed the blue fabric in the
kid's face, and if Mike were in the mood he
would have grinned--not laughed, because he
didn't laugh at people, students especially--
but today he didn't even grin. "Geez, I'm go-
ing to miss this place," Mike said.
and the Austin Parachute Center on the
weekends. By 1975, he had saved up enough
to buy the Cessna 182 for $7,500 and once the
paperwork was completed, he quit his week-
day job and put all of himself into the Austin
Parachute Center. Jump centers make mon-