He rode his bicycle in the hills, straining his knees to keep his course straight, his arms outstretched like wings, and felt the air beneath him. He ran through flocks of nestled sparrows in the cobbled square, driving them into the sky. He lay in the grass and watched the biplanes reel and climb and dive.
He knew just how it felt to bank and arc, to glide on the wind, to feel the plane strain and release in maneuvers. He went to the hangar, a great white barn, and touched the propellers, smelled the engine oil, and listened to the plane squeak as the pilots disembarked.
He was born to fly, but too early and too big. He was fifty in 1912.
In his waking dreams, he turned into the glare of the sun and then dove, the squares of farmlands spinning below, beyond white clouds. He heard his scarf snap in the wind.
One sleepless night he crept into the hangar and climbed into a Sopwith. They heard the plane squeaking and dragged him away, through the sparrows in the moonlit yard, startling them into the sky.