Left Behind, pp. 49-54
Right. So. Where were we?
While trying to find some way home from the airport, Rayford Steele checks his mail and finds an in-joke between the book’s co-authors:
Besides a pile of the usual junk, he found a padded envelope from his home address. Irene had taken to mailing him little surprises lately, the result of a marriage book she had been urging him to read. …
That’s probably a reference to one of these books by Tim LaHaye. He’s written several books on the subject, which is interesting coming from a man whose own key to marital bliss was to convince his wife to get a job 3,000 miles away.
Rayford sticks the envelope from his wife into his pocket and sets out to find Hattie the hottie. But LaHaye and Jenkins tell us that the shock of the mass disappearances has softened Steele:
Funny, he had no emotional attraction whatever to Hattie just now. But he felt obligated to be sure she got home.
“Emotional attraction” seems not quite the right phrase to describe the subverted lust of Steele’s previous fantasies for the “drop dead gorgeous” flight attendant. He’d been stringing her along for months, reassuring his ego that, at any point if he decided to, he could have an affair with this lovely but lonely younger woman. That’s not so much “emotional attraction” as it is “warped, manipulative ego trip.”
And now we’re supposed to accept that Steele’s cruel selfishness has suddenly been transformed into pure chivalry. He learns that he can sneak Hattie aboard a pilots-only helicopter ride to the suburbs where they live if he can find her in the next two minutes:
He grabbed a courtesy phone. “I’m sorry, we’re unable to page anyone just now.”
“This is an emergency and I am a Pan-Continental captain.”
“What is it?”
“Have Hattie Durham meet her party at K-17.”
Consider Rayford’s use, again, of the word “emergency” here. Parts of the airport are actually still on fire. The runway is littered with wrecked planes and dead bodies. They have run out of room for incoming planes to land, but more planes are arriving every moment. To Rayford, none of that constitutes an “emergency.” An emergency is something that affects him. If you’ve ever waited tables, the scene is all too familiar: 1) The lack of perspective; 2) the “do you know who I am?” assertion of importance; 3) the adolescent shouting.
Hattie arrives just in time for them to catch the helicopter ride, which is only supposed to be for pilots, but a little more bullying and bluster from Rayford and they let Hattie ride:
The pilot pointed at Hattie and shook his head. Rayford grabbed her elbow and pulled her aboard as he climbed in. “Only way she’s not coming is if you can’t handle the weight!”
“What do you weigh, doll?” the pilot said.
So now we know that Tim & Jerry like ’em small. Hattie weighs 115 pounds — so readers who have been picturing the sexy flight attendant as, say, looking like Catherine Zeta Jones in The Terminal now have to downsize their mental image to something more like whichever of the Olsen twins it is that has the eating disorder.
“I can handle the weight!” he told Rayford. “But if she’s not buckled in, I’m not responsible!”
“Let’s go!” Rayford shouted.
He buckled himself in and Hattie sat in his lap. …
Is that a padded envelope from your wife in your pocket? Or are you … oh, nevermind.
… He wrapped his arms around her waist and clasped his wrists together. He thought how ironic it was that he had been dreaming of this for weeks, and now there was no joy, no excitement in it, nothing sensual whatever. He was miserable. Glad to be able to help her out, but miserable.
This prompts a long oh-what-a-fool-I’ve-been interior monologue in which we are told repeatedly that Rayford no longer feels the slightest attraction to this poor girl. We’re supposed to gather from all this that his feelings toward Hattie have shifted into something wholesome and paternal. Yet his earlier fantasies also seem to have been at least partly paternal. Rayford is one creepy man.
Thankfully, once Hattie gets off of the helicopter, L&J seem to be finished exploring the fetid swamp of Rayford Steele’s sexuality:
She wrapped her arms around his neck in a fierce embrace, and he felt her quiver in fear. “I hope everyone’s OK at your place!” she said. “Call me and let me know, OK?” … “OK!”
She wraps herself around him and quivers. She asks him to call her and he says he will, even though he has no intention of doing so. And then she’s gone and he doesn’t need to worry about her after that.
Nice guy that Rayford.