With apologies to Tyger and Daphne, authors of Touched by an Angel. I read their story several years ago. The thought of writing my version has percolated in my head ever since. Here it is finally. I hope you enjoy it.
I was watching the world go by, 41,000 feet below me, when I heard and felt a loud mechanical thump followed by teeth-shaking vibrations coursing through the plane. I've been flying for over forty years and never felt or heard anything like it before. A horrible metal on metal shriek was coming from the engine right outside my window. My first thought was, 'If those turbine blades come off that thing, they'll rip through the aluminum side of this jet and turn me into hamburger.'
I glanced around the plane. People were looking around, concern reflected in their faces. They hadn't a chance yet to reach panic, but if this kept up... The girl sitting next to me had grabbed my arm and her fingers were sinking into the flesh. I hardly noticed. I looked back out the window, morbidly fascinated by the thought of those turbine blades. The vibrations and sound were already starting to diminish and continued diminishing moment by moment. I let out a big sigh, aware now that I had been holding my breath since the thump.
"Are we going to crash?" the girl next to me asked.
'Put on a brave face, man, ' I said to myself. I smiled, "No, we're going to be fine. After all, I'm flying with an Angel."
She laughed at the strained witticism. Her name was Angel.
Looking out the window again, I sure as hell hope she does bring good luck.
I had been working in Baltimore for three weeks and was headed to our home office in Seattle for a big meeting about the project. I just wanted to go home, not to a waste-of-time meeting in Seattle. However, I had been summoned, so I went. Soon I'll get to sleep in my own bed, I kept thinking. I was flying first class. Not that I usually rated first class, but travel was covered in the contract.
Angel, whose hand was still squeezing mine desperately, had been visiting her grandparents and was now flying home. We'd struck up a conversation. After all, there's not a lot to do for six hours on a jet. This was her first time traveling alone. She was fifteen and frankly a real looker. If she hadn't said fifteen I would have taken her for nineteen easily. I can see how some guys get in trouble and later swear they thought the girl was legal.
I saw the emergency procedures card in the pocket on the seat in front of me. All those times previously, I had ignored it. Now, when I might need it, I was too scared to pull it out and look. I justified it by saying to myself, 'I don't want to scare Angel.' Nothing to worry about.
The whine and vibration had died away, leaving a thundering silence on this side of the jet. That's the problem with these new designs; only two engines. What happens if the other engine conks out? I could feel that we were losing altitude, which made sense with only one engine.
"Ladies and Gentlemen, this is the Captain speaking. As you may have noticed we have begun a descent. We will be diverting to Fargo, North Dakota. There is nothing to worry about. We will be landing in about fifteen minutes. Please follow the instructions of the cabin crew. Thank you."
Fifteen minutes. It usually takes a half-hour to descend and land. That must mean we were heading down fast. I hoped that also wasn't something to worry about. I had enough on my plate as it was. Just then, the aircraft began a banking turn. Judging by the position of the sun, we wound up heading due north. We were definitely heading down faster than usual. I could feel my ears popping from the rapid descent.
"What does that mean?" Angel asked me.
When things happen on flights, like if the plane is bouncing around from turbulence, I always check the stewardesses. If they look unconcerned then I figure there is nothing to worry about. I looked at one of the stews as she came through the cabin. She looked a little pale as she forced a smile. Not good.
I wondered if I should tell Angel what I really thought. If she was a little younger I would have come up with a story. But I figured she was old enough not to be lied to. "I think it means we are having a serious problem."
Her face went pale and clouded up. "Are we going to crash?"
"I don't think so. We lost power in one engine. But these jets are designed to fly on one engine. The pilots have to practice it. As long as the other engine keeps working we'll be okay," I said with more confidence than I felt.
Angel settled into her seat still holding onto my arm, "And I've never been kissed."
I laughed, that's what I would have been thinking when I was fifteen. "Heck, I'll kiss you if that's what you're worried about," intending to make her laugh.
She turned back towards me, surprise on her face which changed into resolve. "Okay." Now I was the one surprised. "I mean it," she said.
Well hell, I might as well. I leaned over to give her a chaste kiss. When our lips met she kissed me for real. My body responded and our lips parted. Actually, it was a hell of a kiss. She put everything into it and I matched her passion. We parted and Angel settled back again. "Wow."
"Yeah, wow," I said.
"That was better than I thought it would be," she said dreamily.
"Thank you. The advantage of years is experience and practice," I said smiling. "Don't worry. You'll have years of experience yourself."
Angel nodded, then looked across the aisle towards the engine on the other side. I'm sure she was thinking what I was, 'Just keep working.'
We had dropped most of the altitude already. I looked out at the flat prairie, snow covered and dotted with an occasional farm building. There was absolutely nothing to distinguish it from any other flat land. I just hoped there was an airport ahead. The engine on the other side was groaning and surging as the pilot fought the one-engined beast. There was something in the sound of that engine that made my hair stand on end. When I was in the Air Force, the one thing the pilots worried about, was trying a one-engine landing because of the way the aircraft handled. 'Don't get behind the power curve, ' I willed the pilot.
There was a bump, which made both of us jump, then I heard the landing gear going down. "It's just the wheels," I reassured Angel. She tightened her grip on my arm. Then the flaps extended and again I heard the single engine roaring to make up for the lost power on the other side. The craft slewed from all of the power on one side and drag on the other. The pilot wrestled it back on beam. A city was below us now. I hoped it was Fargo.
We continued heading straight in, no circling or lining up. The ground was rushing below and getting very close. Please, please let there be a runway out there. Then, a fence flew by and the first lights. Yes. The ground rushed up to meet us. The end of the runway appeared as the plane slammed onto the concrete, a bounce, and it settled again, as the flaps all extended and the engine powered into reverse thrust. We slowed, not as fast as usual, until we were slow enough that the pilot could use the brakes. Engaged, the brakes quickly brought us to taxi speed and we rolled off the runaway and onto a taxiway. That's when I saw the fire engines, lights flashing, lined up on the taxiway. They quickly surrounded the jet. There was a whining sound as the flaps all started pulling back. That was when the entire plane burst into applause. The anxiety, which had hung in the air like a fog, vanished, replaced by exuberant gaiety. The crew came on with the stay in your seats, welcome speech which none of us paid the least attention too. We were down safely.
The release of tension created a mild euphoria. I looked at Angel who was broadly smiling. "We made it," she said. I nodded. "Thanks for the kiss."
"You are more than welcome," I said. "I really enjoyed it. You're going to have a fine career as a kisser."
We had stopped on the taxiway and I heard the other engine dying away. We sat on the taxiway for five minutes or so as they hooked up a tow bar and towed us to the terminal. The fire engines turned off their lights and motored away. Nobody seemed to be grumbling about the delay, just happy to be down safely I suppose. I sure was.
Angel was still holding onto my arm, but was much more relaxed now. Once we were at the terminal, the stewardess came on thanking us for traveling and telling us that an agent would meet us in the terminal for instructions.
We were some of the first people off, being in the first class section. Angel came up beside me in the jetway and grabbed my hand. She smiled and said, "Do you mind if I hang with you? I don't know what to do."
She must have been still a little shaken by the experience. I held her hand as we emerged into the terminal. An agent was herding the passengers to one side and asking that we remain until all of the passengers were off the plane. I led Angel off to one side and looked around the terminal. Some terminal. I saw six gates in total. I had been in bigger hot dog stands. There was a sign announcing, Hector International Airport. International? I'm sure people from all over the world were lining up to get to Fargo in the dead of winter.
.... There is more of this story ...