WW2 aircraft found in California lake
A Japanese floatplane that sank in a lake north of San Diego more than 70 years ago was discovered by four teenage explorers. The high school seniors were seeking a rumored treasure when they came across the single-engine aircraft, inverted but intact in more than 100 feet of water. According to a UCLA historian who reviewed photographs of the find, only a few of that type were ever built, to support an invasion that never materialized.
First it was just a murmuring in his chest, then the ominous droning that presages an attack. He’d seen them in the newsreels. Soldiers pointing to the sky, ack-ack guns swiveling on their bearings. Tension building until Zeros suddenly plunged from the clouds, engines whining, pulling up as iron cylinders of ordinance kicked loose. But that was on the other side of the Pacific. Never here. He studied a cargo ship steaming up the coast under a gray sky that was perfect for hiding bombers. If he warned the army and they stopped it, they’d award him a medal. The city would throw him a parade, with all the kids from his school lining the streets. His fifth grade class would shout his name as he passed —
Cyrus! Cyrus! Cyrus!
Though who would believe him to begin with?
“Jessie!” he called to the girl who had gone past him on the cliff trail. “You hear that?”
“What?” She turned and came back with schoolbooks under one arm.
“You hear it, right?”
She looked out to sea. “Nah. I don’t hear anything.”
“I’ll bet they flew off a carrier. Four engine Mitsubishis.”
“You’re imagining things again, Cyrus. It’s that radio in your head.”
“I’m not imagining anything.” He turned and looked up the slope that was thick with storm-tortured cypress. “It’s from up there.”
She looked, cupping her free hand to an ear. “Yeah, maybe. You want me to check it out?”
“Hell no. Are you crazy?”
“Why? Cuz I’m a girl?”
“Well, you are wearing a dress.”
“And I told Lola you’re such a smart boy.”
“For a gringo. They’re pretty stupid.”
“Come on, race you. Loser is a puta with rotten teeth.” Jessie dropped her books and took off up the slope, using low tree branches as handholds. Dirt and gravel slid down under her bare feet.
“Hey!” Cyrus yelled, “what’s a puta?”
She glanced back. “A whore!”
Cyrus dropped his own books, going after her. They scrambled up, and thanks to a well-timed shove with his elbow, Cyrus got there first.
“Cheater,” Jessie cried.
Jessie popped his shoulder with a fist, but Cyrus ignored it as the droning was much louder now. “Stay here,” he said.
“I’m not staying anywhere.”
“Just for a minute. I’m serious. It might be dangerous.”
She began to object, but he turned and plunged through a stand of pokeweeds, pushing aside wine colored stems until a mass of black berries brushed his lips. He spat and wiped his mouth with his knuckles, as pokeberries were poisonous.
“What’s wrong?” Jesse’s voice, right behind him.
Cyrus glanced back. “I told you to stay put.”
“Like I’m taking orders from a Heimlich.”
Cyrus bit his lip, tasting the sweet pokeberry juice, then spat again. He now hated his name even more, if that were possible. One day he’d change it. He’d take a bus to the recruiting station in San Diego and tell them his name was Wayne, Junior, first name John. And what would John Wayne Jr. think of that splotch of lemon-yellow flickering in the weeds? He wouldn’t run from it. No way.
Cyrus took a hesitant step forward, then another.
“What is it?” Jessie asked.
“I dunno. But it’s got a handle.”
Now he heard Flight of the Valkyries, a record his uncle played at night when he thought everyone was asleep. The enemy’s anthem. Thinking of his Bavarian relative sitting in the dark with his tumbler of American whiskey, Cyrus reached out, gripped the handle, turned it down and yanked. Rusted hinges squalled and clanked, and an explosion peppered his face.
Cyrus yelled to run, but when he turned she was already gone. He plunged headlong through the weeds, then out into dazzling sunlight. Jesse was running down the abandoned road to his right, waving her arms and yelling in Spanish. He ran after her with insects flying past him and firebombing his skin. He stumbled through potholes and grass filled washouts, Valkyries still roaring in his ears. He ran until his side ached and the music began clicking before cutting out. He yelled —
© 2021 Lou Dischler