by Andrew G. McCann

That's right, you saw me on "Oprah" and "Donahue." And I'll betcha my last beer you're wondering what kind of chucklehead would've done it. Well, let me explain by telling you that only one word describes the Ultimate Joyride: totally awesome. And that's what it was, a joyride. If it wasn't, you think I'd be sitting here telling you about it? Like my lawyer said, I didn't intend to steal the plane, I intended to go for a joyride. It ain't even grand-theft jet.

Look, how could I resist? Here I was, a laid-off beverage deliveryman from Cleveland, hitching out west for the summer. I'm bored, kicking through this empty town in Nevada, Rosy Palm or something, and I come across this long, chain-link fence. Behind it, there's this big empty parking lot, huge sheds built into the side of the mountains, and some dark-blue parade stands. But I don't see anyone, and, like my lawyer told the press conference, I swear I didn't see any signs saying "private property." So, alley oop and over I go. Okay, so why? Because sitting in the middle of this giant, concrete lot, right in front of these stands, was a humongous UFO. A mean, bat-shaped sucker. I wasn’t that scared, of course; I'm used to seeing UFOs. Anyway, I had nothing else to do.

So I come scrambling over low to this evil gizmo, just sitting there like a hi-tech Shelob, the Queen Spider. I took a walk around it: perfectly smooth, dark gray; just a big wing with two vents and massive landing gear for each wing and the nose. Now, if you're wondering how come I sound so knowledgeable, that's because I did a little bit of reading up on the subject during the trial. Newsweek, I think it was. Anyway, I decide to take a look in the cockpit, and I creep up the side of this billion-dollar, Teflon-coated monster. And you never saw such a video game in your life; so in I go. It was very comfortable.

Now I strap myself down and start pressing buttons and making machine-gun noises and, would ya believe it, the thing starts up. Don't ask me how, but the more I tried to stop it, the more it starts moving down the tarmac. Before I know it, I'm airborne. Like my attorney says: "Hey, they left the keys in it."

* * *

And I'm flying through heaven. In a few minutes, I'm over San Francisco, and I go in low and just miss clipping the Golden Gate Bridge. Talk about your UFOs. Then, I somehow swing slowly around and go screaming back across the country. After awhile, I think I must be back over Cleveland -- at least, it looks like a shining city on a lake.

There's this sort of whispery, crackling sound I keep hearing, and I realize it's coming from this really cool Top Gun helmet, which I forgot to put on. So I squeeze it on, and there's this very calm fella keeps asking me my name, and do I speak English and so forth. I say sure, I'm Buck Yaeger. As a policy, I always give fake names to the authorities, but I quickly realize I'm very likely busted already. So I say, Who's this? And he says General Somebody, from CONDOM or MIDOL or something. Well, they said they were having a little trouble locating me exactly because of the Stealth technology, which pretty much neutralized their radar waves, and which on this model was particularly "advanced," as they put it. So he asks my location so's he can talk me down to the nearest airport.

But then I realize, he's gotta be kidding: I wouldn't know an aileron from my elbow. What's more, like him, I hadn't the faintest idea where I was. That's when I panicked. I started sweatin' and flippin' switches and went into this roller-coaster turn where the blood just left my brain. I mean, consciousness said, Later, dude. But I must have pressed something else, too, because when I came to, I was slowly falling to earth strapped into just my bat-shaped seat, with this bat-bizarro parachute billowing above me.

* * *

I landed pretty hard, but the plane landed harder -- right on top of the largest television studio in the Midwest, I hear. As you probably read in the papers, I managed to hide out in a barn for a few days until the horses had enough of me and raised hell one morning. Out of the house totters Old, Wrinkled McDonald with a 12-guage shotgun and no sense of humor. He held me off until the cops came.

My legal counsel expects I'll do only a little time, since public opinion says it was the military's own damn fault for leaving that plane right out in the open like that, with no signs or guards anywhere in sight. And it seems the judge'll let me keep profits from the book I'm writing with some dude from "People" magazine, although the lawyer's fees are gonna snarf down a big chunk of that. In any case, my brother-in-law got me a job as a night guard with Cleveland Secur-i-Tee Co. -- I'm gonna need some scratch when I get out of the slammer and this media rock-star gig flames out.

So, you ask, What are my regrets? I guess the only thing I'm sorry about is that TV studio I turned into an enormous slice of burnt toast. But, hey, look at the bright side: Maybe it means one less talk show you'll see me on. 

Story copyright © 1994 by Andrew G. McCann.
Illustration copyright © 1994 by Andrew G. McCann.

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