And here was Bruno, suspended in the air between these two
points, 0:21 minutes to destination. He imagined himself as a little
man on the moving map, a crude gingerbread cutout. He plotted his
journey right along that sweeping arc across the ocean. He was just
tracing the line with his finger when, without warning, the screen
The PA system kicked into action again and the cabin lights came
up. The seat-belt signs were turned on and the cabin crew started
moving through the plane handing out immigration cards. Blinking
in the vicious light, Bruno filled his card out carefully with the ballpoint
pen theyd given him. Once hed finished, he discovered he had
nowhere to put the card. He tucked it into the inside cover of his book
and held the book closed in his lap.
A slow descent through the clouds, there was Bruno hunched at
the window, peering hopefully out at nothing. All he could see was
the rain streaking the outside of the window, the gray expanse of the
planes wing plowing on through dense white air. There was no way
of knowing how close they were to the ground.
Suddenly, there was green outside the window. There was wet
grass rushing by and a red-and-white-striped wind sock and a low
gray building and the terrible sound of the wheels briefly hitting the
ground and then bouncing off it again. A messy landing, the body
of the aircraft swung violently to the left and then to the right before
finally steadying itself as the brakes took hold. Bruno held on to the
back of the seat in front of him with his two hands to stop himself
from falling forward.
As the plane wheeled in towards the terminal building, he had
a giddy sense of elation. After all these years, he had finally done it.
Thirty years since that deathbed promise and it had been haunting
him ever since. Now it was done. For a moment he imagined that he
could just stay on the plane and go right back. Until it occurred to
him, there was nothing to go back to.
His spine shuddered as he leaned over to grope for his shoes
on the floor. He stuffed his earphones into the pouch on the back
of the seat. Unclipped his seat belt. Sat there, longing to brush his
The plane jolted to a stop and there was a big exhale as the doors
were opened. Immediately people were up and delving into the overhead
compartments to retrieve their stuff. A moment or two waiting
for the order to move, then they were shuffling along with their heads
bowed like prisoners in a chain gang. Bruno shunted himself over to
the aisle seat, heaved himself onto his feet, and stretched up to get his
carry-on down. Then he moved with the line towards the door of the
aircraft. He nodded at the stewardess and stepped out into the plastic
tunnel connecting the plane to the terminal building. He began
the gentle climb up the walkway, following the people ahead of him.
There was a strange comfort in being part of this orderly procession,
like being on a pilgrimage.
As he crossed over the elbow joint, it wobbled under him, as if
it were a floating jetty. His stomach wobbled with it. He felt light as
a balloon. He took his bag off his shoulder and let it hang down towards
the floor, clutching it for ballast. Without it, he imagined he
might just float up into the air.
THE PLANES COME IN over Howth.
On a clear day you can see Dublin Bay laid out below you as
you come in to land. Dun Laoghaire harbor way over to the left,
Portmarnock to the right. Between them the vast empty stretch of
From the beach you can watch the planes arriving, a steady
stream of them moving silently across the sky. They appear way out
to sea, coming in on a gentle gradient above Howth Head and gliding
along the south wall. Then they disappear noiselessly down into
A Man Called Intrepid author dies aged 89(Dec 03 2013) William Stevenson, a journalist and author who drew on his close ties with intelligence sources to write two best-selling books in the 1970s, A Man Called...