The Bad News, Angel PETE ABLE Macro-Fiction

map The Bad News, Angel

by PETE ABLE

Published in Issue No. 273 ~ February, 2020

Officially I didn’t believe in angels, but here was one replete with feathery wings and hovering, glowing halo, which lit the four bare walls of my bedroom quite clearly. When I awoke, she was already smiling down at me beatifically.

“I’m here to tell you about Heaven,” she said.

Thinking this the beginning of a pleasant dream, I propped myself up on my elbows and said, “I’m listening.”

“There are often long lines for the bathroom. Think of airports and of rest stops along busy highways.”

I was underwhelmed and carried out a lazy yawn.

Apparently, waiting for more of a reaction, the angel remained quiet. After a short period of silence, in which her halo dimmed slightly, she said, “People usually have a lot of questions.”

As I didn’t believe in an afterlife, I’d never done much serious thinking about Heaven and had no preconceived questions for the angel. I racked my dreaming brains but didn’t come up with anything remotely inspired.

“What’s the food like?” I asked, finally.

“It’s mostly French,” was the angel’s brief response.

“Oh.”

I was somewhat let down, though I’m not sure why. I still didn’t believe in an Afterlife, so what did it matter if the food was French there? What I really wanted was for the angel to go and to take the bright light from the glowing frisbee over her head with her. It was a strange dream. Never before in a dream had I wanted to just go back to sleep.

The angel shifted her weight on the squeaky springs of my mattress and crossed her legs. Up until that point, it hadn’t occurred to me that there was a woman in my bedroom, on my bed. Sure she had wings and a halo, but she also seemed to have all the other parts that made up what seemed like a whole living woman, and I caught my gaze drifting down to some of those other parts.

To humor the angel, and to make conversation, I asked her if everyone wore white in Heaven. The fact that she was wearing a blue sequined dress perhaps should’ve been some indication, but I was hard up for original, intelligent questions.

The angel answered promptly in the negative.

“But clothing is restricted in other ways. There are twenty-one outfits to choose from and to change outfits, there is a considerable amount of paperwork.”

“So, the bureaucracy has even reached Heaven?” I smirked.

“It hasn’t reached Heaven, it began in Heaven. You can’t imagine the amount of red tape God rolls out on a given day.”

Growing bored, I discreetly reached down under my blanket and pinched my thigh, but I didn’t wake up. I pinched it again, harder than the first time, but I still didn’t wake. The angel remained sitting on the foot of my bed, and now my thigh was throbbing with pain.

“I have two other house calls tonight and so can’t stay long, do you have any other, more important questions for me?”

I was all at once alert and had spinning thoughts. How was this not a dream? My eyes scanned the bare walls of my bedroom and came to rest on the slightly whiter patch where my TV had hung before my place was robbed three weeks prior.

“Is there any TV in Heaven?” I managed to stammer.

I sensed the question was a bore to her because the angel’s halo again dimmed a shade darker.

“Yes, there is,” the angel began in the dull tone of a telemarketer, “there are hundreds of programs to choose from, and they all resemble Earth’s long-running sitcoms, dramas, and soap operas, only without any sex or violence.”

Perhaps it was the mention of sex, but I realized for the first time that I was completely naked under my blanket. I usually slept in boxer briefs and a T-shirt, but that night, for whatever reason (perhaps it had been hotter than usual), I’d slipped into bed in my birthday suit.

And in addition to being aware of my nakedness, I was also painfully aware of the angel’s beauty, which wasn’t ethereal or somber like one might imagine angels to be. No, her beauty was much more down-to-earth and wholesome and reminded me a bit of the young woman in the apartment down the hall who I had a longstanding crush on. Now the angel caught me glancing down at her pale crossed thighs, and I blushed.

“Well, I’m sorry, but I really must be going,” said the angel, before standing and releasing the springs of my mattress from the modest chore of caring her slight weight.

Suddenly, armed with the knowledge that this wasn’t a dream, and that this could be my last chance to talk to a real-life angel, I felt panicked. I felt like a child again, like when I used to be afraid of the dark. I desperately wanted the light from her shining halo, and the warmth of her expression, to remain, to stay close to me. I decided my only chance was to make a more compelling conversation.

“Why did you come here? What was the purpose of your visit?”

I may have imagined it, but I thought I saw something twinkle in one of the angel’s clear wide eyes.

“There is a myriad of reasons for angel visits. Some people we visit are having a tough time. Some people we like to prepare for the Afterlife beforehand. Others deserve a reward. The list goes on.”

“Okay, but what’s the reason in my case? Aside from being robbed last month and not particularly liking my job, I’m not having that bad of a time. I don’t believe in an Afterlife. And I probably don’t really deserve any special reward for anything I’ve done.”

The angel took a moment to adjust her halo, screwing it down with both hands like a nut on an invisible bolt. As she did so, the halo grew brighter with each turn, making the walls of my room glow brighter. Her only verbal response to my question was to say that she had her reasons. I was forced to let the matter drop.

“So, what happens on a normal visit?” I continued. “You show up with your wings and glimmering dinner plate over your head and tell people there are long restroom lines in Heaven. What then? Do they get down on their knees to cross themselves?”

“Actually,” said the angel, “so far, you’re a pretty typical case. People are usually in shock. They have mixed feelings, doubt… It takes time to adjust.”

That I believed. It could easily take me the rest of my life to “adjust.” But for the moment, I was more interested in the angel herself.

“So, what do you do with your downtime?” I asked. “What are you doing after your other visits? Maybe we could—”

“Usually I take in the sights,” the angel said, effectively cutting me off.

I was embarrassed again. Just as before when she caught me ogling her legs. Of course, a beautiful angel like her wouldn’t have time for an average mortal like me. When I looked up from wringing my hands, the angel, I found, was kindly looking up at the ceiling.

“I’m afraid there’s not much to see here in Ohio.”

“No, not much,” agreed on the angel. “Tomorrow, I’m going to visit the Pro Football Hall of Fame.”

“Do you like football?”

“Yes, I do. I think it’s a captivating sport.”

With that, the angel stood and smoothed her dress. She stood there a moment unmoving, and I half expected her to vanish in a beam of light. She didn’t, though. Instead, she turned toward the bedroom door.

“I’ve got to say,” I said quickly, “you didn’t paint an all that pretty picture of Heaven.”

The angel stopped with one hand on the doorknob and turned half around.

“No, I guess not,” she shrugged with a grin.

The angel’s winged figure paused a moment in the doorway and then passed into the hall, taking the light from her halo with her. When she pulled the door shut behind her, I was left in darkness, though I wouldn’t be getting any more sleep that night.

I spent the rest of that night, and many long nights thereafter, wondering what could have possibly been the reason for the visit of the angel in the blue dress.

Why me? Why so vague? Why didn’t the angel just come out and tell me her reasons? Why the teaser? Why not simply tell me everything? What could possibly be the harm? Even if she had told me that the world was going to end, who would believe me?

Sometimes I, of course, doubt the whole experience. It had been a dream within a dream, I tell myself. Something like that movie Inception with Leo DiCaprio. The only question then, is who or what was I being played by? But after that, like the movie, it gets too confusing.

Still, I often hope to again be woken by the angel in the middle of the night, as I am now actually hoping for answers. I long to blink open my eyes to see her on the edge of my bed with her pulsating halo and shimmering dress. To my unending disappointment, however, the years go by with no such nocturnal visions. My nights pass with a string of perfect, uninterrupted slumbers, and it seems all I have to look forward to is a dreary, unimaginative Afterlife.

The only good that’s come from my experience with the angel is that it gave me the push I needed to ask out the young woman in the apartment down the hall. It didn’t work out in the end, but still, it got me out of the house for a while, out of my isolation, and benefits snowballed into other areas of my personal and professional life.

On quiet mornings of silent introspection, when I have my coffee, and I’m feeling my most reverent, I even believe the brief relationship worked wonders on my soul. And in rare moments, I sometimes consider issuing a prayer up to something unknown. And, to close out my thoughts, I have very nearly, on occasion, said Amen, as a “thank you” to that same unknown thing. Perhaps that, I think, is the reason. Not to believe, necessarily, but to wonder.

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Pete Able’s work has been published in Literally Stories, Philadelphia Stories, Wilderness House Literary Review, Lost Coast Review, Prime Number Magazine, and others. He lives in southern New Jersey.