Sometimes angels don't look the way you expect...
|Writer's Cramp entry: Write a story or poem in 24 hours, any genre, that includes a whistling stranger, a classic red Mustang convertible, a bag of apples, a tattered book of poetry, and a new pair of shoes.
An Old Book of Poetry
You won't believe the tale I'm about to tell you. That's OK. I don't accept it either, except I saw it with my own eyes, and I’m telling you exactly what I observed.
I was sitting on the pier, my legs kicking out into space. Down below twenty feet or so was the Pacific Ocean. My old pole was leaning against my leg, when the line started tugging. So, of course, I pulled it up. A brand new pair of shoes was hanging, fastened on the hook.
Now, already I see you disbelieving, and rightly so, but I haven’t even told you how the shoes were just my size, and not even wet. I plopped them on my feet, tossed my old holey ones down into the water, and wiggled my toes about. They felt just fine.
When you live on the street, you don’t question gifts. I was delighted with those new shoes. But darn if that fishing line didn’t start wiggling again. I pulled it up, and there was a whole bag full of red delicious apples attached. Once again I removed the gift from its hook, and settled to enjoy my prize.
The sun, all this time, had been decimating its light, spreading out bigger and bolder than a month of Sundays. I pulled my ragged coat tighter about me and decided to call it quits. Then, like I always did, I checked my right front pocket for my tattered book of poetry. It was there. Old Walt Whitman was still keeping me company
I threw the bag of apples over one shoulder, my old pole over the other, and clumped down the wooden pier, heading towards the beach. But then I heard whistling. I looked up. A classic red Mustang convertible was hovering almost at my nose.
The man inside the vehicle, the one doing all the whistling, was a stranger to me. Yet I felt almost as if I should know him. He was dressed like all of us who camped down underneath the railroad tracks.
“Howdy,” I cried out. “What you doing up there?”
Now, I know that I should have been taking in the fact that the man was floating in the air in a brand new car. There were lots of things I should have noticed, but I couldn’t get past the sight of the feathers coming out of his face and arms. They just didn't seem to go with his ratty old clothing. He smelled, too. There was no doubt he was one of us homeless, but what was with the feathers?
“Hush up a minute, buddy,” he said to me. “Can’t you see I’m trying to talk to you?”
I could see that quite clearly. The guy was hanging over the car door as leisurely as if he weren’t thirty feet above me. His gray, frowzy hair was sticking out all wiry and uncombed as if he hadn't even attempted to plaster it down to be social. His beard looked like a billy goat’s fuzz except for the tiny white feathers poking through. And his face was as wrinkled and dry as dust. He sure didn’t look like an angel to me.
I sat down on one of the benches and stared up at him. I lay the bag of apples beside me and placed my old pole next to it.
“You give me these new shoes and the apples?” I asked him, trying to piece it all together.
He grinned. “Yeap. And I got some other goodies for you, too. Only thing is I want something from you.”
“What you want from me? What could I give you that you couldn’t get for yourself up there in Heaven?”
“Well, see, they don’t have many books upstairs,” he told me, his voice scratchy as a brillo pad. “Books kind of drift back down to Earth after they've been read. So I was thinkin’ -- I’d really like to have that Walt Whitman book you carry around -- if you’d be obliged.”
I couldn’t tell him “no.” Not after he gave me shoes that fit. I pulled the book out of my pocket, stood and reached up as high as my old arm could go. It wasn’t nearly high enough, but the mustang lowered -- elevator style. I handed him the book, staring almost level with his red-rimmed eyes. His finger closed around my hand. They weren’t cold fingers as I’d expected. They felt normal.
The guy took my book of poems and then tossed me down a black garbage bag full of stuff. I didn’t have time to ask him about it or to pepper him with questions like I intended. The mustang lifted up, and then it shot off into the sky, winking out like a bad light bulb.
The pier was by that time darkening. Already the night patrol was heading for me with their flashlight brigade to order me off the pier. I started to question them about what they’d seen, but it was obvious from their faces they hadn’t spotted the guy and his mustang.
I threw the bag of apples over one shoulder, the garbage bag over the other, picked up my pole, and strode forward. The night patrol escorted me to down to the beach and then lectured me about sleeping anywhere near the pier. I nodded, kept my head down and then moved off when they stopped talking at me. Around the corner from their watching eyes, I paused to use the public bathroom. Then I took advantage of the overhead lighting to peek into the garbage sack of goodies that the angel had given me.
I pulled out a pair of jeans, a clean shirt, and two pairs of boxer shorts. The stranger had even included a dark brown corduroy jacket. I changed out of my old clothes, rolled them into a bundle, and stuffed them into the black garbage bag.
That night I slept under the stars and thought about the angel's visit. I know it sounds crazy, but darned if I didn’t find a heap of comfort in the fact that once you got up there into Heaven, you could dress just like you wanted, come down and say hello, and still pick up your favorite reading material. And the fact that it all came with a flying classic red Mustang convertible was like cream for a kitty!