Volunteer

“There’s only one left.”

“Look again!” cried Frank.

“The captain took two,” said Steve after a gust of wind knocked him off balance.

They looked through the open door of the airplane at the mountains below. They wouldn’t be in the air much longer.

“Why would he do that?” Frank asked. Snow blew into the cabin and answered his question. Warmth, he thought. He’ll use the extra parachute as a blanket.

Steve loosened the strap of the final parachute.

“How much do you weigh?”

“About two-hundred on a good day.”

“We can strap ourselves together and share. Raise your arms.”

The wind caught the strap. It sailed past them and flew out the door. The mountain peaks in the distance grew larger as the plane hurtled onward.

Frank grabbed the parachute, catching Steve by surprise. The two men stared at each other, their hands gripping both sides of the parachute tightly.

“I have a family,” said Steve.

“Me too,” said Frank. A cat can count as family, he thought.

“We need to think about this.”

“There isn’t enough time. Someone has to go, and the other has to stay. It’s just a fact.” Frank impressed himself with his tough tone. No one would have recognized him back at home.

“That’s crazy!” yelled Steve. “The parachute can hold both of us.”

There was a brief silence between the two strangers.

“Who gets to wear it?” asked Frank at last. “My arms are tired. I won’t be able to hold on.”

“Fine. I’ll hug. Just strap yourself in and don’t get any ideas.”

Frank put the parachute over his shoulders while Steve stretched. He wiggled his fingers to ready himself before wrapping his arms around Frank’s waist.

“Ready?”

Frank hesitated at the door. It was a long way down. Steve jumped first and dragged Frank out of the plane and into the cold air.

“Pull the cord!” Steve shouted.

“Where is it?” yelled Frank. He could hardly hear Steve’s voice through the wind. And his heartbeat.

“Left shoulder!”

“You get it. I can’t see.”

“I can’t let go!”

Frank struggled to find the cord. He felt Steve’s arms climb up to his chest until they were face to face. Steve leaned into Frank’s shoulder and pulled the cord with his teeth. The parachute opened and the two men jolted.

They floated down the mountain side quickly, the wind pushing the parachute to its limits.

“We’re too heavy!” cried Frank before they crashed.

When Frank opened his eyes, he saw his feet dangling in the air. The parachute was caught between two branches of a tree. Steve let go and fell into the snow. He got up and started to walk away.

“Wait!” called Frank. “You can’t leave me up here!”

“You were right,” said Steve. “One of us has to stay, and one of us has to go. It’s your lucky day. I volunteer to go.”

 

"Volunteer" originally appeared in Flash Fiction Magazine on August 20, 2017

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