“Tonight, no matter what happened, this place would be lost to him.”
The Last Flight, by Michelle West.
This is yet another tale from the anthology Creature Fantastic, edited by Denise Little, and once again I encourage you to take a look at your local secondhand bookstores. I’ve really enjoyed this collection of stories so far, and I recommend getting your own copy if you like any of my reviews of these short stories. It should be fairly affordable since it was published in 2001, and if you can’t find it in a nearby bookstore, Amazon always has a few copies here.
This piece is about an old man, dying of age in a park, who spends his last few hours with his granddaughter. During this time, she asks him questions and he talks about his very, very long life and history, including the day he met her grandmother in the very same park. As time passes, the old man reveals much more about himself than his granddaughter could ever expect, and while she loves her grandfather, the young girl is left with more concerns than ever before.
The opening few paragraphs really set the tone for this tale. It was sombre and sweet all at once and remained so throughout the telling. I think that’s one of the main reasons I really enjoyed this one: the writing was thoroughly enchanting, and even though I knew very little about the characters, I found their sentimentality endearing.
Speaking of the characters, I found the grandfather strangely relatable, despite his oddities and otherness. I could see myself in the granddaughter’s place, sitting next to my own quirky grandpa, having a similar conversation and not knowing what to feel. I found this story universal enough to be relatable, yet strange enough to be its own story. It was fascinating, and it was done very well.
Perhaps my only criticism is towards the ending, when the old man’s son shows up. I think, though it added to the story itself, including a third character took away from the special and specific tone that had been building between the grandfather and granddaughter. That being said, the presence of the old man’s son opens the conversation to more questions and debate. So I think, while it subtracted from the tone, the son added to the ongoing dialogue and theme.
The Last Flight is a 5 out of 5 for me. It caught me off guard with its depth and meaning, and stole me away with its melancholy mood. I would absolutely recommend this tale to anyone who has a special connection with their own grandfather, and perhaps to those who have lost a grandparent before. It really touched my heartstrings in that regard.
Michelle West also goes by Michelle Sagara West and Michelle Sagara, and is a Canadian author living and selling books in Toronto, Ontario. She has a website here, including a bibliography here, and appears to be on twitter occasionally at @msagara.
What’s one memory you want to pass on to your children, future children, or just those younger than you?