The sporting goods store in Chicago fired Quinn after three months; not only was he disinterested in fishing and rock climbing but he hung around listening to his iPod and paid no attention to the customers.
Quinn’s best friend Winston had dropped out of college downstate to live in a trailer and work on an assembly line.
They hadn’t seen each other in months when Winston phoned. “I have two words for you, Quinn: sky diving.”
Having joined an aviation club, he whistled. “You gotta try it.”
“This rich guy Dowling will lend me his C-182 since I got my pilot’s license.”
Next Thursday, Winston called again. “All Dowling said was—don’t get caught. I bought him a beer and he handed me the Cessna’s keys. We’ll take it up Monday when the center’s closed.”
Winston said, “I’m telling you, Quinn, the rush is phenomenal.”
“All right.” Quinn had read in a sports magazine that sky diving was nowhere near as dangerous as people imagined.
He arrived at Winston’s Sunday afternoon.
“Turns out that because this is clandestine, you won’t have an automatic safety line, Quinn. But who forgets to pull the rip cord?”
Wearing Winston’s jump suit and helmet, Quinn practiced jumping from the trailer’s back door into bales of hay.
“Belly first, back arched,” Winston said. He would be both pilot and jump master. “The jump master’s essential,” Winston said. “He asks, ‘Are you ready to sky dive?’ and unless you say ‘yes!’ we fly home; no worries. Then I’ll ask again, ‘Quinn, are you ready to sky dive?’ And if you don’t answer, ‘Yes!’ both times, it’s no go.
“It’s easy,” Winston claimed as they drank beer and listed to the Foo Fighters. “Brace, reach, and release. Brace inside the plane’s open door; reach for the wing’s strut, and release. That’s all.”
“That’s all?” Quinn continued leaping belly first into bales of hay.
“Pretend the hay is the atmosphere at 10,000 feet,” Winston said. “The silence is amazing. When your altimeter reads 3,000, pull the rip cord. Then steer by pulling the guide lines.”
“Last thing,” Winston said. “Packing the parachute is critical. Never trust another guy with it.” That said, Winston packed the parachute. He demonstrated every fold and Quinn did it exactly as shown. Except Winston redid it.
Overnight, Quinn wondered about trusting Winston with his life. Winston had slept with Quinn’s girlfriend once. Back in Little League, he yelled, “Out,” when Quinn was safe. He copied Quinn’s homework and stole his CDs.
Small stuff. Even the girlfriend, because they were drunk and Quinn was home with the flu.
Monday afternoon Winston yelled the jump master’s questions from the pilot’s seat. Quinn answered, “Yes!” twice. Then he braced in the door, reached for the wing’s strut and released.