Unlike most pilots, Marlon enjoyed flying at night, especially over wooded areas. The old FAA once identified five hazardous pilot attitudes — resignation, anti-authority, impulsivity, invulnerability and macho — and Marlon had four of them. He always chuckled at the old airman saying: “If you lose your engine at night, lower the nose and turn on your landing light. If you don’t like what you see, turn it off.”
Looking down at the faint orange lights clumped here and there, Marlon’s mind wandered back to the shore of Smith Mountain Lake, at the foot of the Blue Ridge Mountains, in the summer of 2012. He remembered sprawling on the blanket, in shade from the pines and poplars, wondering if he should untie the spaghetti straps on Sunday’s new sundress. Then her cell phone rang. She answered it, saying nothing. Eyes watering, she listened for a few seconds and flipped the phone shut.
“It’s cancer,” she whispered. “Pancreatic cancer, stage four.”
Marlon loved Sunday’s mother more than his own. She was a toucher and a smiler and never had a harsh word for anyone. And the feeling was mutual. “Marlon, if Sunday doesn’t marry you, I will,” she used to say. The mother of his first girlfriend never looked him in the eye, not once.
“Nothing keeps Elaine down,” he finally said. “You know that.”
Sunday melted into Marlon’s arms and cried. Marlon cried too. He knew Elaine hadn’t been feeling well. He and Sunday both knew about the vomiting and could see the weight loss. Yet their preciously busy lives at Liberty U. had blinded them. Neither had the strength to force Elaine, a lonely widow clenched in denial, to the doctor. It was too easy to picture Elaine as she had always been, not as she was. And now it was too late.
Marlon jerked up from the blanket. “Let’s get out of here,” Marlon said. “I have an idea.”
Continued in Chapter 8…