The change in scent flowing into the cockpit was so subtle that only those who regularly flew the route between San Francisco and Los Angeles would pick up on it. It meant that they had reached the LA basin and that the fog was heavier than they might have wished.
Captain McKenzie Archer was just completing his fifteenth year for the airline, and his sixth on that route. Riding shotgun was his usual sidekick Jim Ashcraft.
Like long-married couples, they could finish each other’s sentences, and recognize slight twitches in facial muscles which could speak volumes.
The tiniest flick of an eyebrow indicated to Jim that Mac also knew they were just 50 or so miles from LAX and that there was fog. There had been warnings all that day that evening might bring on the not-unusual lower cloud cover, indicating it would be too foggy to land at LAX and they might be diverted to a nearby airport. Mac sincerely hoped not and whispered a prayer that God would intervene so he could be home and in his bed before long.
Unusual for Mac, he awoke that morning feeling like he was coming down with the flu. Achy, slightly nauseated, and much more tired than he should have been after a good eight hours’ sleep, he toyed with the idea of calling in sick. But after a hot shower and a much hotter cup of strong black coffee and several aspirin, he was feeling almost like himself.
He logged into his computer and went through his own personal pre-flight checklist, then determined that he was good to go. He only had the turn-around at SFO, and by dinnertime he would be back in Los Angeles and headed for his condo. And he was off tomorrow. He could make it.
From the time he greeted the gate attendant at LAX to the time he touched down at SFO, it was so routine, he could have done it in his sleep. It was rumored that some pilots did just that. He felt relaxed and only slightly more fatigued than usual.
He strolled alone toward the lounge, where he would grab a hot meal from the small café, find a lounge chair and a newspaper, and relax until time to begin checking in for the return flight.
He could keep an ear tuned to the PA in the pilots’ lounge, even while in what he called his “twilight-sleep mode” so he would be alerted to weather changes that would affect his flight. But the only alert he felt was a strange twitch in his mid-section, and a little tingle in his left arm. Odd, but nothing to be alarmed about.
Probably whatever bug he felt he was catching that morning had its own early-warning system, and by tomorrow be would be huddled under blankets during the chill phase of the fever cycle.
As he picked up his pace heading toward the gate, his mind moved ahead to the trip back, and his buddy Jim, always trustworthy, always on top of things. He liked flying with Jim. He had felt like Jim was his “mission field” from the time they first shook hands, and had spent a lot of his free time (and some of the airline’s time) sharing the gospel.
Jim was resistant, to say the least. But Mac knew the Holy Spirit could get through, even though Mac had been unable to. He would just continue to show Jim God’s love and grace, and let God take care of the rest.
Mac relaxed once he realized the flight was going straight to LAX. Not enough fog to divert.
And then it hit. A sledgehammer to the chest. He grunted and Jim sent an alarmed glance his way.
Now sweating profusely, Mac signaled to Jim to take over. As he did so, Jim radioed the emergency to the tower, alerted the head flight attendant, and then took a more thorough look at his pilot and friend.
Flight Attendant Marie Bowles identified herself, then brought in a gentleman she introduced as Dr. Carvey (in an odd twist of fate, a cardiologist), who began attending to Mac immediately.
Things moved so quickly after that. Mac and Jim, together in the back of the ambulance, were able to talk, but only in short spurts: “Mac, you’re gonna be okay…” and “Jim, what about…?” and finally, “Mac, tell me again…?”
“Tell you what?” Mac whispered, fogging the oxygen mask.
“The story of Jesus….”
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