I was fallin’ down to Earth at a gawd-awful speed through the clear blue skies of Zephyrhills, having made my peace with Jesus, knowing – finally – how the universe began and how it would end:
“Helluva lot of good that’ll do me now,” I thought.
A six-pack of things crossed my mind, including: who would get my Frank Sinatra album collection, where did I park my car, would my sainted Mother have to ID my crushed body, how would my Nets, Mets, and Jets do next year, would anybody miss me when I was gone, and, most importantly: “Whatever happened to Arch Deal?”
In June, 1975, Tampa Bay TV newsman Arch Deal jumped out of a small airplane at 3,000 feet over nearby Cypress Gardens and his main chute didn’t open. At 2,000 feet, his reserve chute failed to deploy. At zero feet, he hit the ground – yet managed to survive, except for his broken neck, six broken ribs, separated pelvis and hundreds of contusions, lacerations, and bruises.
I was in a similar situation – but without the chute.
Would I survive?
The spinning, churning, and turning was taking its toll. I was fadin’ in and out. I’d managed not to look down by keeping my eyes closed as long as I could. When I finally opened them (wide) and stared at Mother Earth, I saw (floating in the sky) what looked like a large, eerily thin, crown of thorns.
A sign from God?
Then the crown slowly transformed; first, to a winking eye; then, to a butterfly.
My last sane thought was of the card game that dealt me this death drop.
“Never play poker in an airplane when you’re out of money,” I thought. “Never.”
Wish somebody had told me that sooner.
The rushin’ wind, like an old train, was blastin’ (unmercifully) through the dark, moist caverns my brain. The last functional thought I had was a joke I heard as a kid. The punch line:
“It’s not the drop that kills ya . . . it’s the sudden stop.”