The Curse of Secrets

Tanya stretched, luxuriating in the warmth of the sun as she lay on a towel in her back yard. She was, she promised herself, going to get a tan going early on this year. No tan lines either. The thick arborvitae growing around the perimeter of the yard hid her from prying eyes. She was quite alone, save for the fly or whatever it was making that buzzing sound she kept hearing. She waves an arm limply through the air to ward off the insect. So far it hadn’t landed on her but she could hear it.

The buzzing grew a little louder and she opened her eyes and peered around trying to see what creature was making the noise. Come to think of it, it didn’t really sound like an insect. There was something mechanical about the noise, now that she thought about it. Rolling onto her back she sat up and looked all around. “Huh,” she said aloud, not seeing anything. Then a shadow flickered across her still white legs causing her to look up. Hovering about fifty feet above her head was an X shaped contraption. There were propellers at the ends of the X shaped arms, but, she noted with alarm, there was a camera mounted below the hovering intruder. She could see the blink of a red LED showing that the camera was in operation.

Tanya shrieked and raised her arms to hug herself and hide her ample bosom. Then there was a moment of shifting her arms to hide her chest, then the region below her navel. Up, down, up and down she shifted her arms before shouting in anger and making a most un-ladylike gesture to the hovering spy. Four blocks away, three adolescent boys crowded around a computer screen and tittered and giggled at the enraged woman displayed on it. “We need to call it back before my dad gets home.” said Francis, the leader of the small clique. “If he caught me flying his drone …well, I don’t even wanna think about it. He’d be really torqued off.”

“Aw, come on.” said Dave. He was the second of the spy ring and Francis’ best friend. “Another minute.”

“She’s leaving anyway.” said Burt, the third member of the clandestine trio. “Look. There she goes.” The boys all admired the view as their victim grabbed her towel from the ground and ran into her house. Francis reached for the joystick controls and maneuvered the remote controlled spy craft up and back towards his own yard. A half minute later they could hear the whine of the four little motors with their whirring propellers. The boys were all laughing and enjoying their moment, thus the aircraft wobbled along its return course. Francis guided it gently to the ground and then went to collect it while Dave ad Burt packed up the controlling ground station that allowed the pilot of the craft to see through the onboard camera.

“How come you’re so afraid of your old man anyway?” asked Dave. “Why would he be mad at you for flying his quadcopter?”

“This thing cost almost ten thousand bucks. If anything happened to it, he’d kill me.” replied Francis.

“Ten grand? No kidding?”

“Ten grand.”

The boys carefully put the drone and its controller back in Francis’ dad’s closet, just the way he left it. He hooked the big LiPo battery that powered it to the charger, where his father had left it trickle charging. Assured they had gotten away with their prohibited act, they made their way to the kitchen to make some peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.After lunch the boys headed over the park to the public pool for a swim. It was pretty hot for early June, the temperature was in the eighties.

The following day was Saturday and Francis’ dad, Frank, went looking for his son. He found him in front of the television playing his Xbox. “Hey son! I thought I’d take the drone out. There’s no wind and it’s a beautiful day. We can take it over to the park and use it to take some video of the Little League games. What do ya say?”

“Sure!” grinned Francis. “Can I fly it?”

“You bet, kiddo. I’ll bring a few batteries and we’ll take turns. After, we’ll stop by McDonald’s and get a burger and shake. Sound good?”

“Sounds great!”

Francis carried the ground station. It was contained in a suitcase-like carrier. With the ground station you could either use the manual joystick controls, or program it to fly itself on a preselected course. It was integrated with Google maps just for that purpose. Frank carried the drone, holding it as gently and firmly as if it were a baby. In a way, it was kind of like a child. Frank had saved for three years to afford the drone and controller, complete with its ‘first person view’ capability that gave the pilot a bird’s eye view. Or drone’s eye view to be exact.  They walked together the six blocks to the park, amiably chatting as the strolled along. Frank adored his boy and Francis returned the favor. That’s why Francis felt a pang of guilt over his unauthorized use of his father’s drone. His dad worked hard to provide form Francis and his mother, Frank’s bride of sixteen years.

Father and boy set up the ground station and prepared the drone for flight. After a while, the drone lifted off and made a test circuit around the park. As they controlled it, a small crowd of people gathered to watch Frank and Francis, fascinated by the drone and what they could do with it from the electronics in the suitcase. Tanya happened to enter the park and saw the gathering of people. Curious, she walked over to see what had caused the small crowd. Just as she arrived, she heard the familiar buzz of the motors and watched the little aircraft come to a landing in front of the man and boy working the controls. Her face contorted in anger as she saw the drone.

Storming over to the pair of R/C aviators, she asked Frank if that was his aircraft. When he responded proudly that it was, she hauled off and punched him right on his nose. There was a sickening crunch as his nose broke and blood freely flowed from his nostrils. “Cripes lady! What’s wrong with you?” shouted Frank. She yelled at him about not trying to hide his perverted activities as Francis looked on in horror. Tanya called Frank ten kinds of pervert and turned to the crowd and yelled out how this scum had used the drone to spy on her as she was sunbathing in the nude, supposedly secluded on her own private property. The crowd made angry noises and surged towards Frank with menace. All Frank could do was stuttered weak denials that made him sound worse than Tanya had. Realization came to Frank and he looked at his son not with anger, but deep disappointment. “It was you, wasn’t it?” he said quietly to Francis. “You took my drone out and used it to peep on this woman as she was sunbathing.”

There was no need to answer, Francis’ face gave it all away. He looked down and toed the dirt with his toe. “I’m sorry dad. I’m just so sorry.” He explained how he, Dave and Burt had been ‘just trying out the drone’ when they spotted Tanya. His father shook his head and looked to the outraged woman and spoke.

“I am truly sorry about this.” he said. “I’m embarrassed, believe me. I can assure you though that it will never happen again.” With those words he walked the few steps to his precious drone, lifted a foot and then stomped the drone into a million pieces. Francis looked on in horror, knowing how much his dad enjoyed the drone, and knowing as expensive as it was, there’d be no replacing it. Satisfied, Tanya accepted Frank’s apology and strode off. Frank then knelt to pick up the pieces of his ruined aircraft, tossing them into the control suitcase. Francis started to help but his father stopped him. “Don’t.” was all he said. He refused to look at his boy as he spoke. When all of the broken parts were collected up, Frank closed the suitcase and strode through the thinning crowd towards home. Francis followed a few paces behind.

Francis knew that he’d lost something very precious that day. He’d lost the respect of his dad. The anger he knew his father felt would dissipate, and the disappointment would wane. But it would never really be gone. He thought of peer pressure, remembering how his friends had nagged at him to take the drone out, and how he buckled to their power of persuasion. He thought that to ingratiate himself to his friends he had lost an important and precious component of the relationship he treasured the most. His relationship with his father.

Over time the event faded, but things were never the same after that day in the park. But  Francis learned to make his own choices and stick with them, always doing what he believed to be right. If only he’d come to that conclusion sooner.