John Cuneo

What good is a wind without a kite?

I have a thousand things I wanted to do.

I wanted to catch a fine blue marlin, or a swordfish, or maybe a big tarpon, but I fear I might be too feeble to do so without help, and that would be like not catching one at all. I used to want to drive a fine Italian sports car; I used to, but now my reflexes are so bad I would just drive it into a ditch. I’d just have to sit in one, and go “vroom, vroom.”

I wanted to run away to Wyoming, or maybe New Mexico, and ride a tall horse across a wide and open space, and wear a big hat, and chase the buffalo. But the thing about a tall horse is that it’s a long way from the ground, and I am brittle now, and it would hurt too much when I hit the ground.

I wanted to do a lot of things—some I did once, and others were only dreams. Most are unrealistic now. But not everything. Once more, I’d like to fly a kite.

I think of it every March, on those days when the sun is bright and yellow and the wind blows in my face, hard enough to make a sound in the trees still bare from the winter. When I was a child, in elementary school, the teacher read us poems about March winds, and what good is a wind without a sail, or a kite? To me, with a little imagination, they were the same thing.

We made them from thin sticks and old newspaper, and I flew The Anniston Star proudly across the blue sky. We cut and pieced a tail from quilt scraps, all of it amounting to a feat of aerodynamic engineering that I couldn’t repeat now, no matter how hard I tried. I know it, somehow, the way I know my hands are too big for the gloves I wore in second grade. But in 1966, I was a kite-building fool.

Later, after I begged long and hard, my mother bought me a kite with the skull and crossbones of the Jolly Roger printed on its front, and I would lie in the tall broom sedge near Germania Springs, stare into the blue sky, and dream about great battles throughout the Spanish Main.

A lifetime later, a friend of my father’s, Jack, told me that he and my father did the same when they were boys, and built a kite so sturdy and perfect it flew out of sight. And when another boy ambled up and asked what they were doing holding to that string that seemed to vanish into thin air, my daddy said, “We’re fishing.” And when the boy asked what for, my daddy told him, “Why, for the man in the moon.”

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Every March, I think I might like to fly one again. I think I might like to find an open space, free of what Charlie Brown called those kite-eating trees, and see if—at the very least—I can get the thing off the ground. My imagination, and my dreams, may be a little worn, too, but now I have memories to send aloft. It may not seem like much to you, but it beats falling off a horse.