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The Angel and the MAC Machine
by Jamilla B.
The airline clerk looked at the check in my hands, then shook her head. "I'm sorry, Miss, but I
can't possibly cash this," she said. "It's not our policy to cash third party checks."
Angel Stories index * Main index
I stared incredulously at the woman. I tried to protest, but as the woman courteously refused to
even consider my request, my heart began to sink. How was I going to pay for the plane ticket home?
It was already Thanksgiving eve, and the plane was due to take off in less than an hour. If I tried
to go back to town to find a bank, I would miss my flight, and I already was sure there wasn't an
open seat to be had on any plane leaving the airport. But if I didn't go back to town, I could never
get the check cashed.
"Oh God, what am I going to do?" I cried to myself. I thought back to the last phone call I'd had
with my mother.
"Honey, I know it's been such a hard year for you. That's why I'm sending you a check to cover the
plane fare, and I've made a reservation for you already," my mother had said.
"I want to see you this Thanksgiving. Just remember to cash the check before you leave town. I know
from experience that they won't cash it at the airport. Remember, cash the check before you leave
town. The ticket will be waiting for you at the ticket counter at the airport."
But in my hurry to leave, I had forgotten my mother's instructions. Now I stood disconsolate, ready
to burst into tears. "Oh God, what am I going to do?!" I cried again. A voice at her elbow startled
her out of her incipient nightmare. "Can I help you?"
I turned quickly. A pleasant faced man with no particular distinguishing characteristics was
standing beside me. A nice man. An ordinary man. Nothing unusual but he had asked if he could help.
Bursting into tears, I sobbed my story, how I hadn't seen my mother for so long because my own life
had been so hard and money had been scarce, and how my mother had kindly sent a check and how I
couldn't get it cashed and how --
"Don't worry", the stranger said. "I can help you." He shepherded me to the MAC machine that stood
unobtrusively in the corner. "My name is Michael," he added. I wasn't sure at first what he meant
until I found myself standing in front of the MAC machine and realized he was going to give me
some money. I reached into my pocket and brought out the disdained check. "Here, I can endorse it
over to you", she said, signing the back and holding it out to him. But at first he seemed not to
notice. He punched some buttons on the MAC machine and $250 came sliding out the bottom drawer. Only
afterward did I remember that the man never bothered to insert a MAC card at any time. The stranger
handed her the money, then took a look at the check I continued to hold out to him. With a small
smile he tore the check into a number of pieces, and, while I, overwhelmed, tried to stammer my
thanks at his incredible generosity, he simply slipped away in the crowd.
Clutching the $250 in my hands, I once again entered the ticket line, finally emerging with my
ticket to home -- and Mom -- in my possession.
An hour later, my heart had finally settled down enough for me to enjoy the plane ride. Oddly
enough, although I had expected the plane to packed to the gills, it was half empty. I didn't know
that at holiday times airlines often put on extra planes to handle overflow traffic. I sat alone by
the window, with no one beside me.
For a while the long ride was pleasant -- with music and lunch and a magazine, the first hours went
quickly. But as the plane moved into a different weather pattern, it began to buck and pitch. Cups
of coffee and glasses of soda suddenly tilted and spilled and the "Fasten Seat Belt" sign went on at
"We're experiencing a little turbulence", the captain's voice boomed. "Will all passengers please
return to their seats?" The voice sounded normal, reassuring, but I was anything but calm. I had
never felt turbulence like this before. The plane hit an air pocket and dropped suddenly. To me it
felt as if my stomach was about four feet above my head. I repressed a little squeal, but all around
her she heard soft gasps and the sound of a child's wail.
And then, all of a sudden, I heard a vaguely familiar voice at my left ear. "It's all right, don't
be afraid. There's nothing to worry about. The plane is safe."
I turned my head, surprised, and got the shock of my life. Sitting beside her was the Good Samaritan
from the airport who had given me $250 as if it were nothing, and who had torn up the check with
which I had proposed to repay him.
Where had he come from? And how had he suddenly appeared in the seat next to me?
I was thunderstruck and groped for words to reply, but everything failed me. I looked intently into
the eyes of the man, who looked just as nondescript as ever. And yet there was something in his
eyes, something comforting, reassuring, peaceful. As I continued to look at him, I calmed down and
began to grow peaceful. My fear broke, and I took a deep breath and smiled.
The plane gave one last bump and for a moment my attention shifted as I looked out the window. But
it was the last bit of severe turbulence.
I sighed with relief and turned back to thank the ordinary man sitting beside me. But he was nowhere
to be seen! He had vanished. I looked around as best I could, craning my neck to see if he had
returned to his regular seat. But he was gone. I waited a while, thinking he might have gone to the
men's room, but he never returned.
I wondered if I had imagined it. The plane touched down lightly. I thought about the whole
experience, but could make nothing of it. I was out of my seat and ready to leave as soon as the
seat belt sign had gone out, and I waited at the exit, scrutinizing every passenger who left the
plane, but none of them was my secret angel.
An angel, of course, was the right word. That's what I believe.