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Chapter no 65

Spare

PA KNEW WAS living at Knights Hill, knew what I was up to. And he was just down the road at Sandringham on an extended visit. And yet

he never dropped in. Giving me space, I guess.

Also, he was still very much in his newlywed phase, even though the wedding was more than two years prior.

Then one day he looked up in the sky and saw a Typhoon aircraft doing low passes along the seawall and he figured it must be me. So he got into his Audi and hurried over.

He found me in the marshes, on a quad bike, talking to a Typhoon some miles off. While I waited for the Typhoon to appear in the sky overhead we had a quick chat. He said he could see how good I was getting at this new job. Above all, he could see how hard I was working at it, and that delighted him.

Pa had always been a worker. He believed in work. Everyone must work, he often said. But his own work was also a kind of religion, because he was furiously trying to save the planet. He’d been fighting for decades to alert people to climate change, never flagging, despite being cruelly mocked by the press as a Henny Penny. Countless times, late at night, Willy and I would find him at his desk amid mountains of bulging blue postbags—his correspondence. More than once we discovered him, face on the desk, fast

asleep. We’d shake his shoulders and up he’d bob, a piece of paper stuck to his forehead.

But along with the importance of work, he also believed in the magic of flight. He was a helicopter pilot, after all, so he particularly loved seeing me steer these jets over the marshy flats at ungodly speeds. I mentioned that the good citizens of Wolferton didn’t share his enthusiasm. A ten-thousand-kilo jet roaring just over their tiled roofs didn’t exactly cause jubilation. RAF Marham had received dozens of complaints. Sandringham was supposed to be a no-fly zone.

All complainants were told: Such is war.

I loved seeing Pa, loved feeling his pride, and I felt buoyed by his praise, but I had to get back to work. I was mid-control, couldn’t tell the Typhoon to please hold on a moment.

Yes, yes, darling boy, back to work.

He drove off. As he went down the track I told the Typhoon: New target. Gray Audi. Headed southeast from my position down track. Towards a big silver barn oriented east-west.

The Typhoon tracked Pa, did a low pass straight over him, almost shattering the windows of his Audi.

But ultimately spared him. On my orders.

It went on to blow a silver barn to smithereens.

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