A wizard is a person who knows so much more about a subject than you that their knowledge of how to manipulate reality escapes your understanding completely. I was introduced to this conception of magic at my first unit.

There was a large weightlifting Corporal, whose fierce gaze was withering. In winter, the cold never phased him and he walked the tundra of the flightline with his coveralls rolled down around his waist even on the most frigid of mornings. His arms were so strong and calibrated so perfectly that he did not require a torque wrench. He installed a Leading Edge Flap Servocylinder. I was too unschooled to understand what happened until later. He never removed the panel on the lower side of the wing. I later learned that this was completely impossible. There were lines underneath the servo and cotter pins which could only be reached from the underside, yet somehow he was able to install it from the top. It drove me mad trying to understand how. He was a powerful but unstable wizard. His strength had driven him insane and he bore down on me and my low ranking comrades like a lancer, mail shining bright. We feared his wrath like no other man. But I, trickster that I am, son of Loki, formulated a crafty plan. It was well known that ingesting aviation hydraulic fluid causes severe diarrhea. I poisoned his coffee cup well, as it was the non-rate’s ritual duty to initiate the production of coffee in the morning. I waited, and I waited, intoxicated with glee, waiting for the eruption. But it never came. His magic was too powerful and, like Rasputin, he had become impervious to petty assault.

There were those who tried to invoke such spells but failed miserably. Poor Corporal Wyckoff. Wyckoff understood magic well enough, it was he and my brother Wagstaff who had introduced me to the dorkdom of Dungeons and Dragons. He was sent one evening to install a pump. Not an entirely difficult job, but one that had an event horizon. There was a certain point after which the job became as simple as sliding the pump on, but lining it up and seating it were not entirely easy. The enchanted device employed to leverage the pump was a regulation two-by-four. Wyckoff intrepidly set out, valiant after a day of flight operations. Our squadron had the oldest jets on base and they were frequently breaking down. Wyckoff was out there for a long time under the jet. Sweating, sitting on a tool box, waist deep in the belly of it. The radio crackled.

“Hooter, bring me the two-by four,” he snapped.

“En route Corporal,” I grabbed the magic board and headed out. He took it from me and I returned to my previous task. Hours went by. The other NCO’s went out to see how the job was going. They came back laughing about Wyckoff’s red faced cursing. The radio chirped again.

“Osterhout!” he spit the name like slander.

“Yes Corporal?” I replied.

“Bring me a sledge, a crowbar, and a hacksaw!” he shouted.

Gunnery Sergeant Hale’s eyes narrowed. He leaned over and snatched the radio from my hand and keyed the microphone.

“Don’t move Wyckoff, I’m on my way,” he growled.

We followed the Gunny out to the jet. He pulled Wyckoff out from under it and climbed underneath.  Within minutes the pump was seated. Wyckoff hit the floor. He was sure it couldn’t be done, but Gunny Hale had strong medicine.


Vance Osterhout is a former Marine, current boiler mechanic, student, and writer. His writing spans the genres of poetry, historical treatises, fiction, plays, philosophical tractates, and exudes a working class feeling.

Category: Airplanes

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