Sometimes we are sent down from the sky. Stardust surrounds us. We fall as needed. Into stories, lives. We arrive, not sure of our path, not sure where we are, not sure where it will begin.
It started with a good deed.
I found a bag on the side of the road – a mouldy old sports bag with a torn handle – full of money. Hundreds and fifties. There must have been at least ten grand in there. I thought about handing it in at the police station but I’m not a saint after all and I knew I could put it to better use.
Dora was in the supermarket, buying baby formula and nappies, counting out loose change. The check out girl’s mouth was held in a thin line, impatient. A queue was forming as Dora shakily counted out the money. She was two dollars short. The check out girl sighed, knowing she’d have to void the sale. Dora began to cry in tiny little gulps. ‘Allow me,’ I said, handing over the money.
Dora accepted my offering, shoulders bowed. ‘Thank you,’ she said. ‘I’ll pay you back.’
I helped her carry her bags along a road where crepe myrtles stood to attention. The footpath was dusted with tiny pink blossoms, soft as crushed chalk. She was worried, leaning away from me, fearful I would ask for more than she was prepared to give.
We reached a house, grey, nondescript. An elderly woman stood in the doorway holding a baby. She regarded me with a suspicious eye.
‘What are you after?’ she asked.
‘Nothing,’ I said. ‘I just wanted to help.’
I carried Dora’s bags inside. The house was shabby, barely furnished. Dora saw me taking in the emptiness. ‘We just moved in,’ she said. ‘We haven’t unpacked the rest of our stuff yet.’
I knew without her having to tell me. That this was it. There was nothing else to unpack. I handed her the sports bag. ‘This is for you,’ I said. Her eyes widened when she saw what was inside. I left, striding down the street.
‘Are you some kind of angel?’ Dora called after me.
I smiled. It’s true. There are those who have called me angel.
I passed twenty houses, thirty, fifty, looking for a sign. The sign that would lead me back from whence I came. It grew dark. The streetlights cast hot pearls onto the road. I knew there would be no sign tonight. Ah well, maybe tomorrow I’d find my way home.
Paul was standing on the beach. It was a dawn where the gulls immediately began soaring, enveloped in shining joy. He had on a long coat as if he had mistaken the day for winter. One by one he filled his pockets full of stones.
‘The water is cold,’ I said as he staggered towards the waves. ‘The stones will pull you under.’
Paul sank onto the wet sand. He wept, taking the stones out one by one, throwing them with a plop into the water. ‘It’s all too much,’ he said. ‘There is no joy in the day.’
‘You might be wrong about that,’ I said.
We drove in silence. The sea rose and fell beside us. We had the windows down and the wind plucked at us like the fingers of children. The gulls circled, thinking we would lead the way to the morning catch.
At Paul’s house a woman was waiting. She ran down the garden path, clutching at him. ‘I’ve been waiting all night to tell you,’ she said.
‘Tell me what?’ Paul asked.
‘About the baby,’ she replied.
Paul wept again, shaking. His eyes full of light. ‘How did you know?’ he asked me. ‘Did you come from Heaven?’
I smiled, walking back to the road that led to the water. Some have used that name for the place from whence I came.
I walked back to the sea. Great cliffs rose, hanging like a premonition over the water. Meringue peaks capped the waves. I sat, drinking in the wonder until nightfall, waiting once more for a sign. The sky remained dark. Ah well, maybe tomorrow I’d find my way home.
The voices fill my head. It is worse at night when loneliness closes in, when the bite of despair draws blood. The voices of the people. The voices of the world. Wanting, needing, suffering, pleading, begging for mercy. Answer my prayer, they cry. Save me.
Clouds skim the moon, they thin and spread like dripping paint. In a different time I might have been flesh and blood. I might have asked: Where are angels when you need them?
I understand why there are so many questions. Life shatters. Glass on slate. Pick up the pieces and start again. Maybe tomorrow. We’ll find our way home.
* Inspired by this week’s Search Engine Stories prompt – maybe tomorrow.