She parked her vehicle in the lot and made her way with her new luggage to the check in counter. “Hi, I’m here for the 6 a.m. flight to Houston” she told the clerk behind the Cherokee Airlines Counter. The girl in the burnt orange uniform smiled her sweet smile and said “Yes I have you right here. Come with me.” They walked down the stairs and out onto the tarmac where a small plane and a pilot stood waiting. Gladys looked around and saw several business men dressed in smart sports coats and three piece wool suits waiting to board the plane. They pulled the door open allowing the steps to descend and they began to board. The men all looked to Gladys since she was the only female in the group to board first. She wiggled her skinny skirt like Mrs. Wiggins from the Carol Burnette show to the plane and tried to lift her leg high enough to stop on the first step about two feet too high.
She tried going at it straight on but couldn’t lift her foot high enough to reach the step. Then she tried it sideways and still could not lift her leg high enough to be lady-like and hit the step. The group of men stood around somewhat amused at the spectacle happening before them. Gladys eyed the step and let out a sigh and tried pulling her skirt up higher than her knees still no luck.
The little commuter plane was a small 13 passenger plane with barely enough headroom to crawl. The pilot told Gladys to take the seat behind him and she did with the other travelers filling in around her. The co-pilot went about his check list as the pilot gave a little speech about what to do in case of an emergency. Then they revved up the engines and sped down the runway. The wheels picked up off the ground and they were aloft.
Gladys could see the pilot and the co-pilot from her seat since there was only a curtain between them. They had not fastened the curtain closed and she could not only see but hear the two men talking not only to each other but to what she envisioned to be the control tower. Gladys looked around her companions on this two hour flight. It was obviously an assortment of oilmen and bankers. She felt so ‘corporate’. She took her journal from her attaché’ and began making notes for her upcoming meeting.
Gladys was happily jotting down thoughts as the engines droned. She would cast an occasional glance through the front windshield to see floating clouds. She looked out her cabin window at the highway below and the occasional clump of trees around a lake or the vast ranchlands. Then she heard panic in the captains voice “Holy SHIT! It’s headed right at us”. The co-pilot reached for the curtain just as there was a horrible smacking sound then a wush of wind and more noise.
Gladys felt wet. She felt wet and sticky and cold all of a sudden. She looked down too see her beautiful winter white coat covered in something red and yellow and gooey. Then it dawned on her that it was blood and she let out a scream. The captain turned to look at her and with horror on his face cried “ma’am are you okay?” Gladys looked up at the captain and he was covered in blood and she screamed again. Then she realized there was something wrong with the front window and she screamed again. The pilot came on the speaker and told everyone that everything was okay to just remain calm. He went on too announce that we would be making an unscheduled stop. Gladys knew differently she knew everything was not okay. She was covered in blood as was the captain and the first officer. They were all a bloody mess. She turned to look at her fellow passengers and saw the revulsion on their faces as they looked at her.
Gladys could not wrap her mind around what had happened. Why was she bleeding and what was that putrid smell? What was this yellow and green slim that was dripping from her hair? Then she felt a hand on her shoulder. She turned and there was an older man with a handkerchief. He was saying something soothing but she still could not comprehend. Then he was gone and she could feel the bumping and hopping of the plane. Gladys looked out the window to see the ground growing closer and closer. Finally she felt the wheels hit the ground and the little plane skidding to a stop. She saw fire trucks and ambulances waiting on the runway. “Oh My GAWD! I’m dying!” she thought to herself. She sat in her seat not moving afraid that she might die even faster if she did. The men began to deplane and as each one passed her they mumbled something incoherent and averted their eyes. The pilot and the co-pilot both ushering the men out as fast as possible. Finally Gladys looked up to see the blood soaked pair grab her and practically toss her out of the plane. “Oh My GAWD I’m dying and they are throwing me out of the plane” her mind screamed. An emergency worker ran toward Gladys as a Firefighter carried her toward the ambulance. They were screaming at her “Ma’am are you hurt? Can you hear me? Are you injured?” Gladys looked at them with that same blank stare. All she could hear was the drone of the engines in her ears mixed with the pounding of her heart. The paramedic wrapped her in a towel as he started to assess her for injuries. They were also working on the pilot and first officer.
The firefighter ran back to the plane. Gladys’ eyes followed the man as he climbed upon a ladder on the front of the plane. That is when she realized the front windshield was shattered and part of it was missing. She watched and the fireman began pulling something big and black from the plane. She looked at the pilot. He was wiping blood and guts from his face and his uniform. She looked down at her own ruined clothes. She finally found her voice and said “WHAT IN THE HELL JUST HAPPENED?” The pilot smiled a comforting smile and said “we just hit a buzzard. You have buzzard guts in your hair.”
They were stranded in the little airport until they could repair the windshield. Gladys went to the restroom and tried to repair her make-up and her clothes but they both were ruined. She found a pay phone and called her boss and explained the situation complete with the fact that it might be hours before she will arrive as well as the state in which she would arrive. Mrs. Boss said “honey you just stay right there. I’ll have someone there in twenty.”
Gladys waited in the restroom and true to her word in walked a pretty young woman about Gladys’ age. “Hi, Mrs. Boss sent me here. Come on” the girl said. Gladys accompanied her out the door into an awaiting car. The car took her to a small house where the girl handed her a towel and showed her to a bathroom. Gladys was showered and made up complete with her hair fixed within the hour. The girl was waiting in the bedroom and said “that buzzard blood ain’t going to come out of your clothes. I’m sorry cause that was a right pretty blouse. I cleaned your shoes and here is a dress.” Gladys took the flowing dress with the large circular skirt and put it on over her slip. “Who are you” Gladys asked the guardian angel. “I work at the local Savings and Loan. Mrs. Boss is my Aunt and she asked if I could help you out.”
They drove back to the airport comparing stories of their jobs and promising to stay in touch. The airline had sent another plane to pick up its passengers and Gladys arrived just as they began to board. She walked out onto the tarmac to join her fellow travelers just as the wind gusted blowing her dress above her head.