Tuesday, April 12, 2016

J is for Jet Engine #atozchallenge

Yes, I know what Overcompensation is.  Why?

I have discovered through observation that men are dangerously fascinated with things that make fire.  Rubbing two sticks together to generate heat and flame wasn't enough.  Soon, men looked for larger pursuits to outdo each other not in the quest for light and heat but the quest for who has the biggest matchstick.  In the end, the only people impressed these achievements were other men.

The only thing better than the creation of fire was the accompaniment of noise. This brings me to jet engines.  Nothing raises the hair on a man’s neck like the sound of rapidly heated air being forced through a column.  The rapidity and the column are very important to remember here.  Speed and length in anything are always on a man’s measuring stick. Nothing says look at how big my stick is like the Saturn V rocket that launched Apollo into space. 
When I was old enough, my father called our cousin, Joel to the house for a “special occasion”.  When he arrived they went into the closet and pulled out  a long object wrapped in a cloth.  As if they were unveiling the Ark of the Covenant they unwrapped the cloth to reveal  a metal club.  It had a finned bulb at one end which was screwed onto a metal shaft that flared at the end.  On the shaft were two metal straps which I assumed were attachment points.  They looked at me smiling, oohing and ahhhing expecting me to fall over like the first time I saw a real pair of breasts.  

I had no idea what it was.  

My father and cousin offered me the thing with a special gentle reverence.  With a puzzled look, I took it and tried to figure out if it was a tool or maybe a weapon which would be in keeping with their standards but it looked too elegant to be a clumsy club. 

“What is it?, I asked. 

" What is it?” My father asked at my asking.  

My cousin looked at him aghast, “You said he’d know what it is.  He’s the next in line to inherit it.  It has to go to him.  He has to know what it is…”  

I didn’t.  

“He doesn’t,” my cousin echoed.  

My father blinked and said with dramatic reverence, “It’s a jet engine,”  and raised one eyebrow while nodding slowly.  

“What do you do with it?”  

My cousin went pale and almost fainted.  My father continued his level gaze, first from me then to the engine.  He said  again, “It’s…a…jet…engine….”  

I hoped the answer would be more informative, like you install it into some kind of aircraft.  Like maybe they had an aircraft kit we could take out to the field and light the grass on fire with the other overcompensating middle aged men.   

 I asked the pair again what I was supposed to do with the jet engine.  There was that uncomfortable silence where they looked at me like the most obvious thing in the Universe escaped my intellect.  My cousin said with pride, "You fire it up”.   They smiled as if that was supposed to clear everything up.  

You fire it up.  Forcing superheated air though a column, remember;  big fire and noise.  I probed deeper,  were you supposed to mount it to an airplane?  Bolt it to the top of the car?  A bicycle (which wouldn’t be surprising)?  

What you're actually supposed to do with it.
They sat me down and like Oppenheimer explaining the Manhattan Project to a three year old, my father and cousin explained that they can’t remember where the engine came from, just that it’s always been around.  They bolted it to an anchoring device and fired it up for as long as the metal could take it.  They didn’t use it to propel  anything.  They didn’t study any kind of science of compressed air.  They just lit it up to see the fire and hear the noise.  The added  bonus was that the annealed metal shaft glowed a hot cherry red and gave of enough heat at a distance to singe your eye brows.  

It was a device that was not only a small scale example of how men travelled to the moon, it unearthed the primal urge of men to do something totally frivolous just to see fire and hear a loud noise.   

Thought: It surprises me that there aren’t more studies done proving man's need to have an erection made out of metal that he can drive, ride, live in or light on fire.   

Now it was my turn to have the engine.  I had no idea what to do with it.  I had no desire to light anything on fire because unlike the men before me, I was aware that putting a rod of cherry red fire in the hands of an inexperienced moron was an invitation to disaster.  I accepted the engine feigning the look of sudden understanding and rejoicing in the discovery they had bestowed upon me. “He understands”,  said my cousin.  “I knew he would” said my father.  

The engine sat in my many closets over the years forgotten about and un-fired up.  I never did bolt it to something and let it rip.  Never saw the cherry red exhaust pipe.  Never heard the high pitched roar as it strained in its moorings and never shared those moments of father-son bonding as  I have no children to pass it to.   

I recently discovered the engine in the back of a closet and I remembered the look on my father’s face as he gave it to me.  I wondered why we never went out and lit it up.  I hefted it in my hand and brought it to my work bench.  I still had no idea how it worked, how dangerous it was or even if it did work.  I polished it up and cleaned it and wondered who I’d call and tell them...I found IT?

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  1. Question: If you could have any drivable metal representation of an erection, what would you have?

    Another great and poignant story. 🚀🏎💐

    1. Today it would be the Corvette. Any year.

  2. I think this is my favorite post of yours. Your dad and cousin sound a bit caveman-ish in this post...very funny. Your writing reminds me of Stephen King :)

    1. Katie, thank you so much! It's very true about them. It was like the Circle of Life Scene in Lion King.