THE MIDNIGHT SKULKER 28
San Diego, California
March 2, 1974
9:28 a.m. Pacific Standard Time
Feeling a bit ridiculous holding their heavy winter coats over their knees in, by this time, seventy-eight degree weather, the ride to Lindberg Field was in total silence as Marsha and Mitchell stared out the window at the passing San Diego Spring glory.
Finding two seats on the starboard side two rows of seats aft the wing of the Boeing 707, this time accepting the window seat as Mitchell stood aside allowing her to sit first.
A bit surprised that she was going to sit alongside the window, “You’re not afraid of flying anymore?”
“You nuts? Yeah, I’m ‘still afraid of flying’! But if something happens, it’s not going to matter if I sit here…” As he was now seated, “or here,” patting Mitchell’s knee.
The hatch closed and secured, the portable staircase rolled away.
Within a minute or two, feeling a slight pressure in their ears, the cabin pressurized as, swallowing to clear their ears, they felt the surge of power as the four port and starboard jet engines came to life…
After two or three minutes of hesitation, the Boeing 707 airliner began to roll.
The plane taxied slowly. It turned to the right then to the right again and stopped.
The roaring of the four engines barely heard within the cabin…
Shuddering, straining to be on its way…
A sudden jerk as the plane began to move forward….
Slowly… Faster… Faster… Faster… faster, faster. Faster until the patched cracks in the runway and the weedy grass alongside the concrete strip became a blur… Inches. The wheels were inches off the ground… A foot… A yard… Two, three, five, ten yards off the ground…
The plane rose in steeply angled flight over the terminal and hangers and planes and commercial structures that dotted Lindberg Field, then over houses and swimming pool strewn yards…
Higher… Higher… Higher…
Banking easterly, the early-morning sun, shifted from port to starboard.
Both watching, looking through the port at the Lavender bathed hills.
“Oh, Mitchie,” Laying her head on his shoulder, “I love San Diego so much I can’t wait until we’re back and our family’s with us.”
His hand on her cheek, "I can’t tell you how bad I feel about leaving here.”
“And the sunshine, Mitchie. Can you imagine, no more winters.”
“No more shoveling driveways.”
“No more scary, ice storms or …”
“Think the kids’ll miss snowball fights?”
“In exchange for their own swimming pool? “
“Nah, I don’t think so.”
Sighing, “I can’t believe that we’ve only been gone for a day and a half.”
“Me, too, Mitchie. It almost seems like we’ve never left this plane.”
Above the mountains, in the clouds now with nothing but gray out the port, Marsha’s head resting on Mitchell’s shoulder with Mitchell’s cheek upon Marsha’s hair, the husband and wife slept.
“Ladies and gentlemen,” The co-pilot announced. “We’ll be making our final approach to O’Hara Air-Field within the next twenty minutes so kindly observe the ‘no smoking and fasten your seat belt’ sign. The mean temperature in Chicago stands at minus two with the wind chill factor of fifteen below
As a reminder, remember to set your watches forward two hours as Central Standard Time is now three-twenty-seven. On behalf of the Captain and crew, we wish you an enjoyable stay in Chicago and thank you for flying ‘United’.”
Looking at their watches, Mitchell and Marsha moved the time forward two hours.
Leveling off now, approaching the narrow ribbon of concrete, the ground and the roofs of all structures within sight appeared to be covered in white.
March 2, 1974
4:12 p.m. Central Standard Time
Pushing through the revolving door to the outside world of bone chilling, face numbing, squalling wind. Breath coming in thick plumes of vapor, walking as quickly as possible from the O’Hare Air-Field Arrivals Terminal to the parking lot. Their jackets, zipped and buttoned from hem to throat, willowed in the howling wind.
Spotting their tan, 1973 ‘Mercury’ Station Wagon, “Thank God!” Quickly unlocking and tossing their two suit cases through the rear door, then unlocking the passenger door for Marsha, Mitchell rushed to the driver-side door as she reached across the seat to unlock it.
Out of the wind now, sitting a moment to acclimate to the comparative quiet, putting the key into the ignition, starting the motor, letting it run for about thirty seconds, Mitchell turned the heater to ‘Hi’, put the car into ‘D’, and drove from the parking lot.
©November 2, 2011 / Mark M. Lichterman