Daryl led him to the two waiting men. One was very tall, about a head taller than the other. He looked purely business with his hands clasped behind his back; nothing to hide. The other wore the warmest smile John had ever seen.
During introductions, a small crowd of greeters circled the four. John felt himself being whisked away to a more private meeting.
“We’ve been looking toward your arrival,” Jason said in a rehearsed voice. “Our responsibilities cover a lot of ground, as you’ll soon learn.”
“Thank you both for the welcome. Daryl has been briefing me on your little operation here and I’m anxious to get started.”
“I can assure you there is nothing ‘little’ about what we do here,” Jason defended. “There are many people who rely on us for logistical support.”
“Sorry, did I say something wrong?” John asked.
“Never mind him, as the backbone of the setup, Jason’s a little overworked. In fact, he has staff just to monitor his blood pressure,” Steve said chuckling.
“All right, excuse me if I take a little pride. I’m sure you meant no harm, nor did I. I just wanted you to know how important our work is. New pilots don’t understand this until reality hits them head on, sometimes in the form of disease or a plane wreck. Working here is no way to collect flight hours. Our business is people’s lifeline, an intravenous line straight to their hearts. Realize this early on and your work here will be rewarding for you and those whose lives you touch,” Jason said.
“I couldn’t say it better myself,” admitted Daryl. “I guess that’s why you’re in charge.”
“Steve, why don’t you take John’s bags and show him to his quarters and I’ll have the mechanics service Daryl’s plane.” Jason clapped his hands together as if a movie director was cutting a scene. “Why don’t we have a little informal get together for dinner tonight, since we have some special guests. “Around 6:30?”
“Sounds good. You know that Rachel will be more than willing to help,” Steve volunteered his wife. He turned to John. “Let’s get you settled into your new home.”
“Good to have met all of you.” John waved wearily. “I guess I’ll see you tonight.”
John followed Steve to a cinder block building adjacent the hanger compound. It was a long one-story complex with roll-open windows. Just inside a large cork board displayed messages and swayed as the two walked by.
Inside, John’s new room was surprisingly pleasant. Wicker furniture offered a homey atmosphere and was far from tacky. John found himself escorted to a roomy suite doubling as a dining or study area then to a separate bedroom. Everything was furnished except for the kitchen and plumbing which were shared in a community room down the hall.
“After saying good-bye, John unpacked and stared out of the window at the people working to outrace the sun. He recognized some faces of people he had already met. They now struggled to tow Daryl’s plane to a primitive shelter. Some of the now familiar residents removed clothing from clotheslines and others prepared for dinner while another small group carried notebooks and Bibles back to their rooms.
The setting sun reminded John that he had about an hour to clean up. Settling into a creaking chair, he wondered how he would ever have the strength to socialize during the coming evening.
Jeffrey W. Bennett, is the author of Commitment-A Novel and other non-fiction books, novels and periodicals.