by Kathryn Kulpa

Every morning we gather on the sandy shore and pledge allegiance to the plane.

From wing to shining wing! We sing.

Morning stretch, morning fire, morning chores, and so on until last meal and night stories and first sleep, or first watch, depending on the rotation. People’s lives didn’t go so well when they had long days and nothing useful to fill them with, Grandpa says. They made a mess of things out there.

“Out there” is where we came from. Not all of us. Grandpa and Grandma and Dad and Mama-may-she-rest-in-peace. We were born on the island, Wilson and Robinson and Ginger and me. We only know the stories, wars and diseases, fires and people dying. How we got away just in time.

The plane was broken—that’s how we ended up here—but it’s fixed now. Every week we check the plane, turn on the engine, watch the propellor spin. We don’t have fuel. Maybe enough to get us to the next island, but we could swim there, and there’s nothing we don’t have here, except some very grumpy pigs. Someday we’ll have new fuel, Grandpa says. The Professor here will invent it out of taro peel and coconut oil.

He’s clever like that. It’s why we took him along.

Then he claps Dad on the shoulders and laughs, but I’m not sure what’s funny. Sometimes at night after the grownups tell their stories we make up our own. We look at the sky and tell stories about the star people, who ride flying horses and swim in moon pools. I like to think Mama-may-she-rest-in-peace is one of them, but I don’t say that. I’m the oldest; I remember her best. She’s already half a story to most of them.

One night we see a bright star circling, moving fast. A falling star, Dad calls it. But I’ve never seen a star move like that.

Wilson and I are pulling weeds in the garden when we see the plane, bigger than ours and shiny. We jump up and down, like if we got close enough we could pull it down to us. Grandpa says we should hide. There could still be bad people out there. The plane goes away.

That night Grandpa’s stories are the scary ones, about the woman who turned to salt because she looked back, about a flood that covered the earth, and the man who built a boat to save his family.

The next morning the plane comes back. Grandpa tells Grandma to take us into the caves, but we can still hear the crack, like the time a pig charged me and Grandpa shot it. We can hear the explosion. Smell the fire.

By the time Dad lets us come out, the plane is black hunks of metal floating on the waves.

They could have saved us, I say.

Someday you’ll know how much I love you, Grandpa says, and I’m not even sure which part of that I don’t believe.