Published in Zyzzyva 89 (Vol. XXVI No. 2 Fall 2010) The story of two lesbian WWII Women's Airforce Service Pilots (WASPs), Olive "Livie" Sparks and Georgiana "Georgie" Cooper, who dare to be themselves while tackling the harsh realities of being a female pilot in the 1940s. This was my first professional publication.
Excerpt: The rays from the fierce Texas sun sliced through the clouds of smoke coming from Lt. Rooney’s pipe. With a small wooden airplane in his hand, Rooney discussed flying the B-26 in the event of engine failure. “Let’s say you are down to just one engine,” he said. “The thrust from a single engine is off-center, see, so it can cause the plane to yaw. What you gotta do is hit that rudder pedal and hit it hard.” Sitting on top of one of the squadron tables with her back to the Lieutenant, Georgie used the index finger of her bandaged hand to draw spirals in the erased chalk lines that still clung to the blackboard. Every once in a while, her nail scratched the board causing a few of the fly girls to glance her way and rub their arms. “Lieutenant?” Savannah Moore asked. “There’s a lot of talk around here that your boys never answered our request to get that canopy latch fixed on the A-24 that Mabel Hurley died in. She would have lived, you know, if she could have gotten out.” Lt. Rooney sat silent for a moment. His soon-to-be totally gray hair was a little too thin for the buzz cut he wore. He took a long drag from his pipe and said, “Any other questions, ladies?” Still with her back to Rooney, Georgie raised her hand. “I got one,” she said. All eleven girls turned her way. “I’m finding the meat down here in Texas is just too darn dense. Is there any way we can see about getting some poultry or, better yet, a little pork?” Rooney set the wooden airplane on the table. He removed the pipe from his mouth and rubbed his eyes. “You’re all dismissed,” he said. He stood and walked out of the training room, not making eye contact with any of us as he left. Everyone piled out of the room; some of the girls secretly batted their eyelashes at Georgie as they walked by. I approached Georgie who was still spiraling her finger on the chalkboard. “What’s wrong with you, anyway?” I asked. “I’m not a big fan of beef.” “Seriously, Georgie. Why you wanna go and piss him off? He can kick you out of here just as fast as say grace.” “He won’t.” Georgie clapped her hands together to rid them of the chalk dust. “We’re cheap and disposable. If we die in a crappy, poorly maintained plane, they can say it’s all on account of us being women. They need us.” She tightened the bandage on her hand. “Besides, I’ve logged more flight time than most of them boys overseas.” She jumped down off the table. “How’s he going to justify kicking me out for making a special dietary request?” She adjusted her poplin cap. “Damn, caps. Don’t fit worth a crap.” Georgie picked up one of Rooney’s model airplanes and flew it through the air before landing it gently on the table. “You know, I got fourteen hundred more flight hours than that yuck, Rooney.” She tossed the airplane onto the floor. “You okay?” I asked. “I know Mabel was your friend.” “My friend.” She sighed. I never thought of Georgie as a pretty girl, but at that moment, there was something soft and delicate about her. She turned so I wouldn’t see it. “Hey, speaking of friends, guess what I did for you?” She was suddenly beaming. “Cochran asked me to ferry a B-17 over to Mather Air Force Base. Said to find two other WASPs to fly with me, so I requested you and Buffy Tillman. I’ll fly while you two have a little fun in the navigation bubble.” “Shush, will ya?” I looked around then smacked Georgie in the stomach. “How many times I gotta tell you? You’re gonna get us both thrown out if you don’t shut your big trap.” “Not a chance,” she said, rubbing her ribs. “They’d never kick us out. You and me. . .we’re the most disposable of them all.”