By chance, Martin joined MJN just two weeks before “Gerti’s Birthday”, so he was only barely initiated into the world of Fitton Airfield when it came around. On that fateful day, he was greeted at the door of the portacabin by Arthur, who was wearing a metallic blue party hat.
“Morning, Skip!” he exclaimed.
Martin grinned, still stupidly pleased every time he heard the new name.
“Morning, Arthur,” he said. “What’s, um…? What’s this?”
He pointed vaguely between Arthur’s hat and the coloured bunting that was draped haphazardly around the frames of the door and window.
“It’s Gerti’s birthday! And it’s an important one. She’s twenty-two.”
“I see,” said Martin, “And that’s… why is that an important one?”
“Well, if she was a person,” said Arthur, “It would be the first birthday after twenty-one, which is the last birthday that lets you do new things, so twenty-two is the first one that’s just a birthday for the sake of a birthday!”
Martin blinked, taking this in. “Right.”
“There’s cake in the galley!” Arthur announced. “I was just coming to ask Mum about some matches.”
The thought of Arthur lighting twenty-two candles in or around the aircraft he was commanding was a troubling one indeed. Martin could only hope that it would fill Carolyn with similar dread.
“What’s it the anniversary of, anyway?” he asked Arthur, as the steward opened the door of the portacabin in search of his mother, bringing down the string of bunting as he did so.
Arthur looked at him pityingly. “It’s her birthday, Skip.”
“I know, but… surely it’s…”
“It’s her date of manufacture, according to my ex-husband’s papers for her,” Carolyn supplied, and Martin noted a yellow paper hat perched on the corner of her computer monitor. “Though I’m not sure they’re entirely accurate. Morning, Martin.”
“Mum, have we got any matches?”
“No. Why would I have matches in the office?”
“For the birthday cake!”
“That’s why you want them, certainly. It’s not a reason I would have them.”
“I’ve got some matches,” drawled Douglas from the opposite corner, and from underneath a dazzling neon pink party hat. “You never know when you might need to smell smoke midair.”
Martin was not sure he wanted to know what his first officer meant by that. He sighed and braced himself for another unusual day at MJN - he was yet to discover what, if anything, counted as a ‘usual’ one.