It was a busy, good weather weekend at The Flying Circus. Barry, and I split it with Henry and Ray. Barry and I worked Saturday and they covered Sunday. We spent most of the time flying, staying in the office only long enough to check messages with Myrtle at Eavesdropping Answering Service, return calls and sign out our next flight. By the end of the weekend the office was a mess. No one had cleaned up and the invoices for all the flying activity were piled high.

Leanne came in on Monday to a dirty office and a pile of paperwork. She had spent the weekend doing cleaning and laundry at home but she plowed into it anyway. Her whole day alternated between cleaning and accounting. The bright spot in her afternoon was meeting Summer McDay. The university student came early for her lesson hoping to talk to Leanne. Her timing was perfect.

"Hi Mrs. Rains. I'm Summer McDay, Barry's sister," she said in her best, bright-eyed and cheerful greeting.

"Oh, yes," Leanne replied with a smile. "Call me Leanne," she said standing up to shake Summer's hand. "I'm pleased to meet you."

The university gymnast was smart enough not to crush her fingers.

"You're the girl who stumped Al Milton last week," Leanne continued. "Henry told me about it. Nobody had done that before."

Summer blushed. "He seemed like the kind of guy who was good for it. I hope I was right."

"Oh sure," Leanne replied. "If you can't have fun like that, why breathe."

"I agree but I've been known to go too far."

"Don't worry about it here. Does Ray still think you're named 'Summer Salts'?"

"Yes. That one went over his head."

"Most things do," Leanne laughed.

"I assume it was you who completed the invoice for your last flight. I wanted to thank you. It was the only one done right over the last two days."

"You're welcome. I noticed that you don't have anyone working the flight desk when you're not here. My university courses leave me extra time. I have experience working with the public. I wonder if you would be interested in my covering some of it for you?"

"I would but our income hasn't caught up to our expenses. We can't afford anyone right now."

"I'm really enjoying the flying. Would you trade lessons for the desk work?"

A grin of relief slowly spread across Leanne's face. The prospect of sharing the desk load was suddenly within her reach.

"Yes, I certainly would. When are you available?"

"Every Saturday, Sunday afternoons and one evening a week."

"You're on!" The smile spread.

"That's great," Summer exclaimed. "I'll do my best not to joke too much with the customers."

"I'll be disappointed if you do. People are supposed to be coming here to have fun," Leanne said. "I'll show you some receptionist's things now until Ray is finished flying with the student that is ahead of you."

"That's why I came early."

Summer hopped over the desk and they sat down to work.

Illustration by Francois Bougie

A half-hour later, Al Milton came in for a lesson with Henry followed by Ray and his student.

"Hello Myrtle, hello Leanne," Al said. "Am I interrupting something?"

"Al, this isn't Myrtle," Leanne said. "Her name is Summer McDay. She's going to be working the desk part-time."

"We met on Friday but she said her name was Myrtle."

Ray stepped into the conversation.

"Her name is 'Summer', Al, "Summer Salts. She was flying with me on Fri..."

Ray finally connected on the trick name.

"Did you say 'McDay'?" he asked Leanne.

"As in Barry McDay," Leanne replied. Summer smiled.

"You mean I've been hitting on Barry's wife?"

Summer realized that if Ray thought she was Barry's wife, he might be less interested in her and more interested in teaching her to fly. She didn't correct him.

"No harm done, Ray," she said.

"I thought your name was Myrtle," Al said to Summer.

"Who's Myrtle?" Summer asked.

"Myrtle answers the phone when I'm not here," Leanne said.

"What else don't I know about you?" Ray asked Summer.

"Yah," Al said, echoing the thought. "Are you really out on a..., you know, a prison program?"

"Sure," Summer said mischievously. "It's called 'university'."

At that point, Barry McDay came in. Summer walked over and gave him a big hug. "Hello darling," she said.

He backed up in surprise, "Summer, get off me," he exclaimed. "What are you doing?"

"Yup, they're married all right," Al said. "When do we get to meet Myrtle?" he said to Leanne.

As soon as he had said the words, Henry walked through the door with Myrtle. She had asked him for an introductory flying lesson and they had just flown it. The purple housecoat, pink slippers and unruly hair were replaced with a crisp tent dress belted at the waist, pink sandals and a slightly lopsided blond wig.

Leanne spoke first. "Al," she said, "Meet, Myrtle Knickenbacher. Myrtle, this is one of our favorite customers, Al Milton."

"Mr. Milton," she said in her regular sweet voice, "I'm pleased to meet you. We've spoken on the phone."

I was afraid of how Al would react. He was expecting Marilyn Monroe and he was meeting Phyllis Diller. He proved that he could be a perfect gentleman given the right occasion.

"Myrtle, it's a pleasure to meet you. Have you been flying?"

"Yes, we just came down and I've never had so much fun in all my life."

"That's great," Al replied. "And you're the lady who answers the phone when Leanne isn't here."

"Yes, that's right."

"Well, can you tell me how Henry and his partner manage to find such good looking women to work for them?"

In the middle of all the noise, the telephone rang. Summer answered it.

"Good afternoon. This is a flying circus."