We were looking for planes.
We stopped what we were doing and we looked. I had been sitting in the driveway, wrapping presents, but I stopped doing that. Angela had been reading a book called Lizard Music by Daniel Pinkwater, but she stopped doing that. Rachel – for reasons less than entirely clear to me – had been attempting to transplant a small tree from one side of the driveway to the other side of the driveway, but she stopped doing that, too.
Our mouths hung open. Our heads swung around in all directions. We were looking for planes.
Wherever they were, they were not commercial airliners. They were not that kind of plane. These planes ripped the sky open. The echoes of these planes between the townhouses cracked and crackled.
At the end of the driveway, an old couple in purple and green sweats had been walking by, but they stopped now, they shielded their eyes, and they pointed.
Angela was the first one of us to spot the planes, there, in that small crack of sky between this townhouse right here and that townhouse right there.
She said, “Mom, are those planes here to drop a bomb on our house?”
I looked up. They were fighter planes. I do not know what kind. The loud kind, I suppose. They were flying in formation, circling downtown Houston. This meant, in effect, that the planes were circling my house.
I said, “No, Angela.”
I said, “I’d say these are probably ours.”
The planes had circled around now. I could see them heading south again, in the small crack of sky between this tree right here and that townhouse right there.
Angela’s eyes grew wide as she turned to find another crack of sky, anticipating where the planes would turn up next. She said, “Those are yours and Belloq’s?”
She seemed a little impressed.
I picked up my tape dispenser, went back to wrapping presents. I said, “No, they are ours. They are America’s.”
Angela looked down. “America’s?”
“Yes, America’s. The military. You know, like Great Uncle Mac?” I gave her a mock salute, which she did not return.
The planes were circling north again, coming in closer now than before, so they were visible for longer this time over the top of the townhouse right there.
Angela stared up at the planes again, she squared her jaw, and she looked back over at me. She said, “Are you SURE they’re not going to drop a bomb on our house?”
I folded the end of the sheet of wrapping paper over and taped it almost perfectly, but I did not reply again.