by David McLeod
Death in a Mountain Meadow
"Four Four Golf, this is Seven One Victor. I've lost oil pressure." Toby's voice was calm, but tense.
Gary was standing on the porch when Larry drove up. Larry shut down the engine and then opened the door. Gary stood by the car; his face expressionless, a mask. "Toby's dead, isn't he?"
"Yes," Larry said. "His plane crashed. Uh, how did you know?"
"I felt it. Damn it! I felt it!" Gary lowered his voice, and then added. "He was afraid. Then he was excited. It was a happy excitement. Then there was the most wonderful feeling I've ever felt. Then, he was gone.
"Do you think? That wonderful feeling? Do you think he was in heaven?"
Larry took a deep breath, and held it. I can't say 'yes,' 'cause I don't believe in heaven. I can't say 'no,' 'cause that would hurt Gary. Crap!
"Gary, I don't believe in heaven–or hell–so I can't tell you. I do know that Toby was supremely happy just before…before he died. We were listening on the radio, and we were watching. He knew he could land the plane on the mountain meadow, and would have, too, except that he got hit by a gust of wind just as the engine seized … Anyway, he was happy."
"What's wrong?" Both boys turned. They'd not heard Tyler arrive. "Larry called…said to meet him here…?"
"Toby's dead," Gary answered.
"Oh, God! No!" Tyler cried.
"My folks! I've got to tell them!" Gary said.
Larry scanned the screen of his PDA. "Done. My dad told your dad. Mrs. Gillespie told your mom. They're on the way here.
"Where's Paul?" Gary sounded disappointed.
"Uh, he's sitting in his plane in the mountain meadow, waiting for ground teams and a helicopter. He promised to stay with Toby until…" Larry couldn't finish his sentence.
The church was full for Toby's funeral. Paul, Larry, and Tyler were among the pallbearers, and had arrived early. They sat on the front row. Seeing someone familiar, other members of the LGBT Alliance filled the pews behind them. There was a commotion as the members of the soccer team walked in, and sat together on the other side of the aisle.
The organ played softly. It was not a song that anyone recognized, rather it was soft notes, one blending nearly imperceptibly with the next. Bobby looked around. Something's wrong … That's it. "Walt? Arnie? C.W.? This ain't right," he whispered.
"What?" C.W. whispered back.
"We're all Toby's friends, right?" Bobby asked.
"Yeah," C.W. said.
Bobby looked at Walt and Arnie, who nodded. "Then come on," Bobby said. He rose, and crossed the aisle. " 'Scuse, please," he said softly, and stepped down the pew until he could sit beside Joe and Tony. He didn't have to look. The shuffle of feet and the buzz of whispers from throughout the church told him that the entire Flash team had moved to sit among the members of the Alliance.
When we started the LGBT Alliance, I never figured we'd be able to reach our second goal: something like peace and harmony and acceptance. Toby's funeral probably wasn't a good test of that, but it surely felt good when Bobby got the entire soccer team to sit with us.