Lately, the bunstronaut office kept Molly very busy, and she rarely got to play with her Skyhop-172, an old four-seater aeroplane that she helped her grandma restore. The following night was the time for the harvest moon, so she was going to enjoy this view from the air. It had been a while since she enjoyed some night flying. Thus, prudence dictated knocking off any rust that had accumulated on her paws over the past few weeks.
Molly turned on her electric water kettle to make some tea and powered up her desktop flight simulator. She sat down to practice a few landings at her home aerodrome and placed the icon of her plane on a straight-in approach to a runway landing west. In front of her, the digital city at night looked very much like the real one. Indeed, she thought the sim did the view enough justice to remind her of how much she loved the actual night view. The exercise went on boringly enough, so she had to force herself to pay attention. When she got closer to the runway, her toes danced gently on the rudder pedals; she was getting a feel for the machine at slow speed when the airflow is slow over the wings and controls and are not as effective as they are at cruising speed. The slower her plane flew, the more pressure she had to put on the controls to make the machine do what she wanted it to do. She was almost hovering above the runway now, keeping up the nose of her Skyhop, sinking gently and waiting for the squeak of the tires.
Molly paused and on another screen, zoomed in on the image of her ground track. She scrutinized the red lines plotted over the map. She grimaced; no matter how straight the lines looked, she thought they could be straighter.
The electric water kettle started to whistle. The herbal, spicy tea smelled delicious, and Moly set a small teapot to brew the goodness. While that was getting ready, she repeated the exercise one more time and then took a break to enjoy the hot beverage.
It was getting late, but she promised herself just one more go on the sim. She pulled up her chair, got comfortable, and quickly glancing at the control panel, hit a button to begin a new session. Gripping the yoke, she anticipated seeing the familiar night scene.
When the scene loaded, it looked odd. Molly recognized the city and the airport, but the runway was wrong. She felt a squeeze in her belleh. She hit the wrong button and set herself up for the approach to the wrong runway, the one running north-south! A quiet voice needled her, "Remember, when you swore to look before you click anything?" In another split moment, she decided to carry on with the exercise just the way it was. The simulated winds were OK; this would work. If she reset the sim now, the night would only get longer. She promised herself that above all else, she would get some decent sleep tonight. She stared at the evening scene and momentarily forgot she was looking at a computer screen. The exercise took only a few minutes and came to a smooth, soft touchdown. She threw back the rest of her tea, licked her lips with satisfaction and called it a night.
The next day, Molly couldn't wait to go to the aerodrome. She had hoped that the late afternoon thunderstorms would dissipate in time to let the harvest moon shine. Storm clouds were to the north and south of where she wanted to go, and they looked like she would have no trouble with them. The evening was approaching fast, and she knew she would have to treat the flight like a proper night flight. Flashlights? Check! Red headlight? Check! She had a bunch of torches; all were working properly.
She flew to the practice area over the ocean as the night fell and the only light in the sky came from the distant lightning. There would be no harvest moon for her to enjoy tonight.
She didn't let that dampen her spirits, though. She carried out her practice routine the way she planned it, made mental notes on what to improve next time, and she enjoyed every second of it. The lightning illuminated the monstrous clouds far away, putting on a spectacular show, just as powerful and awe-inspiring as any moon. That's what Mother Nature was serving for supper tonight, and Molly's soul was grateful for the plate.
The only regret she had was that the flight would be coming to an end soon and she would have to disappear into, and mingle with, the masses hidden among the city lights below.
She got the clearance to land early, miles away from the aerodrome, and she thought, "What a shame no bunny else is up in the air enjoying the beautiful night. On the other paw, it's nice to have the entire aerodrome to oneself." She realized what was about to happen. Molly was setting up to land to the north on runway three-six. That was the scenario from the night before when she hit the "wrong" button. She felt goosebumps spreading all over her body from the cuticles of her hind paws to the tips of her ears, but she had to pay attention now. The "before landing check" had to be done, traffic had to be looked out for, and no matter what happened, the plane had to be flown.
Molly rolled out from the turn and lined the plane up with the runway. The scenery in front of her looked exactly as her practice run did on the "toy" simulator at home. Molly wiggled her toes and softly danced on the rudder pedals; her front paw gently gripped the yoke. It was pitch dark outside, and she could only make out where the runway was from the little lights placed along its edges.
She held her craft steady, her paws relaxed and attentive, feeling the plane, nursing it to a smooth touchdown. She barely noticed the tiniest of squeaks when the wheels of her Skyhop caressed the tarmac and settled down for good.
The hair on top of her head tingled. She was certain that if there were a thin, fuzzy line between "play" and "reality," it vanished somewhere since last night. As her aeroplane rolled to a stop, she kissed her lucky cuticle that pressed the "wrong" button last night.