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On March 21st I called in sick, because it was Monday, and the sun was shining. It was also my twenty-first birthday….The day was a birthday present in itself—warm enough for just a sweater, with a turquoise sky and the first threads of fluffy white clouds. The city streets were white with ground-in salt, and the last of the snow, plowed into a sooty pile at the end of the street, was already melting in the morning sun. It was a perfect day to play hooky…..I got in the car to go exploring….

I had lunch on a hillside with panoramic view of farms in the valley below. I sat on a big chuck of rock and shared my sandwich with a chipmunk, who was brazen enough to creep just out of reach for the crumbs. The air on the hill was fragrant from a small stand of pines. I took off my sweater and leaned back on my elbows, looking up at row after row of puffy clouds, then looking down at their shadows, where a farmer plowed a dark brown ribbon in a quilt of green and tan.

Suddenly, a dark shadow, shaped nothing like a cloud, skimmed over the valley. It rippled toward the hill, a wedge of grey, and I looked up, holding my hand over the sun, to see what made this shadow speeding toward me.

It was an airplane, unlike anything I’d ever seen, with impossibly long wings, slim as a bullet and whiter than the clouds, flying low and fast and aiming straight for me.