Harold and the Mischievous Angel

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Humor  |  House: Contently Deranged Travelers
An angel arrives to escort Harold's soul to the gates of Heaven. There is just one problem. Harold isn't dead yet.

Submitted: December 17, 2014

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Submitted: December 17, 2014

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Harold and The Mischievous Angel

 

They called it the Windy City; but Harold had never before known the city to be pounded by a gale of such ferocity. It had been calm enough when he left home; but now the wind blew with such malevolent force that movement was both difficult and hazardous.

Harold was a stubborn old coot who never thought he would let adverse weather conditions keep him from his daily walk. It was one of his few remaining pleasures after he lost his dear wife. She died soon after he had taken early retirement to spend more time with her. Now he had no job and nobody to share his time with.

Today, he had to admit that walking was no pleasure. He reluctantly decided to return home; an easy decision to make but not so easy to implement. With his streaming eyes screwed almost shut against the wind, he could barely see where he was going. He could hear nothing at all except the banshee howl of the wind.

A wise person would not attempt to cross a road in such conditions; but this road lay between Harold and his destination. Like the proverbial chicken, he had to cross the road to get to the other side.

As a child, Harold had been taught to look right, look left, and then look right again before stepping onto the road. It was a good rule that Harold might have obeyed under calmer conditions. As it was, he just wiped the moisture from his eyes with the back of his hand and glanced quickly at the road directly in front of him. It was a perfunctory glance. The road in front of him was clear. The road to his right was not.

Harold did not see the bus coming. He did not hear it coming, either. The screeching of tortured tyres, the roar of the diesel engine and the frantic blaring of the bus’s horn were all drowned out by the howling wind. Leaning into the wind, he stepped into the path of the advancing bus, unaware that his life was about to come to an abrupt and rather messy end.

Except it didn’t.

In those last few seconds before impact, the fickle wind abruptly changed direction. Harold lost his balance and staggered forward. The wind helped him along with a mighty belch that flung him clear of the bus and sent him tumbling onto the road, shaken but unscathed.

The bus skidded on for several metres before coming to a halt. Harold glanced back as he picked himself up from the road, and saw the bus for the first time. Where the hell did that come from?

The driver leapt from the bus and ran back in time to see Harold climb unsteadily to his feet. Relieved at seeing Harold unhurt, the driver gave him his uncensored opinion of people who stepped out in front of buses. Harold might have been offended by the driver’s language; but the wind prevented the words from reaching his ears. He smiled politely at the driver and gave him a friendly wave before turning away to continue to the other side of the road. The bus driver had clearly wanted to have a chat with him about something; but Harold wasn’t sure that he wanted to engage in conversation with this man. He had a grumpy face and seemed rather cross about something.

The driver returned to the bus and drove on with a crash of gears and roar of the diesel engine, fuming at the reckless stupidity of some pedestrians. He was not a happy man. The incident had given him a nasty turn. He would have to change his underwear as soon as he got home.

As if exhausted by that last strong gust, the wind calmed down enough for Harold to see and hear the world around him again. He watched the bus roar off and fade from view beyond a noxious cloud of its own exhaust gas, leaving Harold alone with his thoughts.

Except he wasn’t alone.

“Why aren’t you dead?” The voice came from immediately behind him. “You should be dead!”

Startled, Harold turned and saw a young lady glaring at him. This was the second time he had been glared at in the space of a few minutes. It was most disconcerting.

There was something strange about this girl. Her blond hair and pale skin were almost white. She wore a white dress and her feet were encased in white slippers. Her silhouette was surrounded by a slight halation, giving her an ethereal appearance. Harold was quite sure he had been alone on the footpath a few seconds ago. People can’t just appear out of nowhere like that. I’m hallucinating! I must have banged my head when I took a tumble on the road. Perhaps if I close my eyes, this girl will go away.

“No, I will not go away!”

Yikes! She can read my thoughts!

“Of course I can read your thoughts, but you shouldn’t be having any thoughts. You should be dead.”

The girl sounded too real to be a hallucination, but there was something weird about her – and she could read his mind. If she wasn’t a hallucination, Harold rather hoped that she would turn out to be a ghost. He liked to believe in ghosts; but he had never met one in the flesh – er – ectoplasm – so he wasn’t really sure.

“Are you a ghost?” he enquired eagerly.

“Not exactly; I’m an angel. You can call me Angela,” said Angela.

“You don’t look like an angel.”

“What makes you say that?”

“You haven’t got any wings.”

“You want wings? I got wings.” Whoosh! An enormous pair of wings suddenly sprouted from Angela’s back.

“Wow!” said Harold, entranced.

“But I don’t like wings. They just get in the way.” Poof! The wings vanished. “I don’t need wings anyway,” continued Angela. “It’s not as if I had a heavy body to lug around. I am just a disembodied spirit, you see?”

“No I don’t see. Do you mean you are just some kind of illusion?”

“Not exactly. What you see of me is a manifestation of my spirit. I created it so we can communicate; but we can’t touch each other.”

“Why not?”

“Because I can only appear as a kind of a hologram.”

“You look solid enough to me.”

“I’m not though,” said Angela. Try to hit me, go on.”

Harold was brought up to believe that it’s OK to beat the crap out of other boys, but he should never hit a girl. It seemed a bit unfair to let girls beat the crap out of him without being allowed to hit back; but if he did, his mother would beat the crap out of him too.

“OK,” said Angela, reading his thoughts, “just give me a bit of a push then. Go on. Nobody will beat any crap out of you for that.”

Harold leaned forward to give Angela a gentle push on her shoulder. Meeting no resistance, he fell right through her. He could see her clearly, but she wasn’t really there.

“All right,” said Harold, “I believe you. An angel isn’t as good as a ghost, but it’ll have to do I guess. What’s this nonsense about me being dead? I’m not, am I?”

“No,” replied Angela, “and there’s the problem. My job is to collect people’s souls when they die, and escort them to Heaven. You were meant to be killed when you stepped in front of that bus, but a freak gust of wind saved you.”

“Really? I didn’t even know the bus was there until after the wind blew me off my feet. The wind saved me, you say?”

“Yes. That wasn’t part of the plan.”

“Lucky me; I guess you will have to go back to Heaven without me.”

“I can’t do that. They won’t let me back in Heaven without your soul. I have to stay with you until you die so I can take your soul with me.”

“Are you going to – er – hasten my demise then?” enquired Harold anxiously.

“Of course not!” replied Angela. I couldn’t do that even if I wanted to. I’m just an illusion, remember. I can’t touch you physically any more than you can touch me.”

“I’m relieved to hear that. So what are you going to do? Follow me around for the rest of my life waiting for me to die?”

“Well, yes, I’m afraid so.”

“That’s not going to happen any time soon, you know. Can’t you just disappear until the time comes for you to do what you came here for?”

No reply.

“Angela?”

Still no reply.

“Angela!”

“There’s no need to shout at me young man,” said an elderly lady nearby. “I may be 92 years old but I can still hear perfectly well. Besides, my name isn’t Angela.”

“I’m sorry,” said Harold. “I was talking to …” He looked around. Who was I talking to? I don’t know anyone called Angela!

“I was singing,” he said lamely. “A song about a girl called Angela.”

The elderly lady stared at Harold for a few moments. “Don’t give up your day job,” she said, moving hastily on her way.

 

***

 

Angela realised that she had made a dreadful mistake by revealing herself to Harold while he was still alive. She had immediately vanished by switching off her visible image, and had then erased his memory of their encounter. Harold would never know that he had just been talking to an angel. Angela was nevertheless stuck with him now until he died. Judging by the state of his health, she could be with him for quite a while. That seriously peeved her; but she was forbidden to do anything that would cause or hasten his death.

For several weeks, Angela grumpily watched over Harold as he followed the same boring routine day after day. She wanted to reveal herself to him and tell him to get a life; but he already had a life, dammit. That’s what made her so grumpy.

It wasn’t much fun being grumpy all the time, especially since there was nobody she could grump at. Angela decided to relieve the monotony by playing practical jokes on Harold. She couldn’t do anything that required physical contact, like spreading plastic film over his toilet pan; but she could easily mess with his mind.

Harold soon found himself doing strange and embarrassing things; like sitting on his front fence and crowing like a rooster at dawn. It was as if he were responding to post hypnotic suggestion, except he knew that he had never been hypnotised.

He began to worry about the state of his mind. He almost left the house one morning wearing his underpants on the outside of his trousers. He couldn’t remember putting them on that way. A similar thing happened a few days later when he set out on his daily walk. He got as far as his front gate before realising that he was still in his pyjamas.

Harold knew that he ought to see a doctor about these strange lapses; but he was reluctant to do that. Doctors had a nasty habit of finding things wrong with people even when they were feeling fine. He was sure these lapses would pass of their own accord. He just needed to pay more attention to what he was doing.

He tried hard to avoid doing anything silly, but still came close to eating a bowl of soap flakes for breakfast instead of cereal, taking a shower with his shoes and socks on, and doing other equally silly things. Occasionally, he thought he could hear giggling. It seemed to come from inside his head. What is wrong with me?

 

***

 

Angela soon tired of these simple jokes. She wanted to try something more ambitious, perhaps involving other people. An idea struck her as she followed him down the main street of town on one of his walks. Something – Harold had no idea what – compelled him to look up at the clear blue sky. He saw, or imagined that he saw, a figure flying up there.

 “Look! It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s Superman!” he shouted as he pointed excitedly skyward. All around him, people stopped what they were doing and gazed up at the sky. Several people pointed as if they had seen something up there. People were still gazing up at the sky when Harold slunk guiltily away. Nobody saw him leave, but nobody saw Superman, either.

That wasn’t too bad. If anything, the joke was on the crowd rather than on Harold, but he was worried nevertheless. This was no memory lapse. He knew exactly what he had done and said, but had absolutely no control over it. Worse was to come.

Two days later, he was walking down the main street again, thinking about nothing in particular. A lady ahead of him suddenly paused as she approached a doorway and rummaged in her handbag for a key. She was in Harold’s way but he dodged a collision by stepping nimbly aside. Just as he was about to walk on by, he had a sudden urge to spank the lady’s bottom.

No, no!  He forced the thought right out of his mind; but his mind had no control over the situation. To his dismay, Harold watched as his arm drew back of its own accord. His hand opened, and then descended rapidly onto the lady’s posterior. Smack! Harold’s hand stung with the impact. So did the lady’s bottom. The thin fabric of her dress gave her little protection against the sudden assault on her rear end.

The lady yelped in surprise and swung around to face Harold. She was a large woman who might once have been attractive. Harold could see that she was past her youth; but the evidence of her true age was concealed beneath a thick layer of makeup.

“Oh my goodness!” exclaimed Harry. “I’m terribly sorry. I have no idea what made me do that.”

“Of course you do you naughty boy,” said the woman, favouring Harold with a wicked smile. He gawped at her in surprise. Why isn’t she angry with me?

“You spanked me on purpose,” she continued, “because you’ve been a bad boy and you want me to punish you.” She licked her lips and gave a little shiver of anticipation. “Isn’t that so?”

“I … I don’t understand,” said Harold nervously.

“Of course you do! Gentlemen don’t go around spanking ladies’ bottoms unless they want something in return. Well, you have come to the right place. Welcome to Madam Brunhilda’s establishment.”

Brunhilda stood aside to reveal the door that she had been about to unlock. Harold had passed that door many times before without noticing it. He noticed it now! A sign on the door told Harold exactly what this place was.

Oh my God! I just spanked a dominatrix outside her parlour!

“I’m sorry … this is a mistake ... I didn’t … uh.” Harold had no idea how to explain what had just happened. Brunhilda misunderstood his hesitation.

“Come on love; don’t be shy. Is this your first time?”

“Yes … no … yes …oh crikey! I’m so sorry.” With that, Harold took off in great haste down the street, leaving a bewildered Brunhilda with her passion unrequited. She bemoaned the departure of her first and only customer of the day.

“Such a pity,” she said to herself, enjoying the afterglow of Harold’s spanking hand on her bottom. “We could have had such fun.”

 

***

 

That evening, Harold decided that he really needed to see a doctor, even if it resulted in bad news.

“No, no, don’t do that. There’s nothing wrong with you, really!”

The voice came to him from inside his head, but it wasn’t his voice. It sounded vaguely familiar.

“Of course it’s familiar,” said the voice. “It’s Angela. Don’t you remember me? Oh, of course you don’t. I erased your memory, didn’t I? Well, now I will un-erase it.”

Harold’s memory of his earlier encounter with Angela came flooding back.

“Angela? I thought you had gone." He recovered quickly from his surprise at seeing her again. "Do you know what’s been happening to me lately?”

“Yes, I do,” replied Angela, “and you don’t need a doctor. What’s been happening to you is just me.”

“You? You’ve been making me do all those silly things? Don’t you realise the trouble you nearly got me into today?”

“Ha-ha. Yes, that was a bit of a giggle. I should have let Madam Brunhilda have her way with you. You might have enjoyed it!”

“Enjoyed it? You must be mad. My hand still hurts from the slap I gave her. Imagine what she would have done to me!”

“Oh don’t be such a sook,” said Angela, manifesting herself. Harold looked at her as she draped herself comfortably on the sofa. She is really quite pretty.

“Why thank you sir,” said Angela.

“Dammit! That isn’t fair – the way you can read my thoughts. Look, those silly things that you made me do. Why did you do that?”

“I was bored,” said Angela.

“Bored?” said Harold aghast. “You made my life a misery because you were bored? I thought angels were supposed to be the good guys.”

“We are,” protested Angela, “but we can get bored just as easily as humans, and – let’s face it – you weren’t getting much excitement out of your life before I came along.”

“I was getting along just fine, thank you very much. Are you going to leave me alone now that you’ve had your fun?”

“No way. I’m going to make your life a lot more interesting from now on. I might even take you back to see Madam Brunhilda. That really would be interesting.”

Dear God. What did I do to deserve this?

“It’s not what you did, darling. It’s what you didn’t do. You didn’t die; so I am stuck with you until you do. You can’t blame me for wanting to make the best out of a raw deal.”

 

***

 

Angela didn’t erase Harold’s memory of her this time. She was beginning to enjoy his company and the banter that passed between them. She stopped playing practical jokes on him and began to think of ways in which she could make his life more interesting. For example, when he went on his daily walk, he always followed the same route. There were lots of more interesting places he could explore.

When Angela compelled him to turn left at an intersection instead of right, it was such a gentle nudge that he didn’t immediately notice the new direction that he had taken. Angela walked manifestly beside him. Nobody but Harold could see her, but it was the nearest she could get to feeling like a human. Harold liked to be able to see her, too.

They came to a dairy. Harold stopped outside the door.

“I say, would you like an ice cream?”

“Gee, thanks mister. That would be cool. Can I choose the flavour?” The response came from a boy who could best be described as an urchin. Harold hadn’t noticed the lad sitting in the shop doorway. Damn. I suppose I will have to buy the kid an ice cream now.

“I wasn’t talking to you, punk,” said Harold. “Scram! Go on, put an egg in your pants and beat it, unless you want to carry your teeth home in a handkerchief.”

The urchin looked up at Harold in surprise, and then took off in haste without waiting to put an egg in his pants. That’s not what I wanted to say.

“Angela, that wasn’t funny. It was downright mean. Are you sure you are an angel?” admonished Harold.

“I suppose that was a bit naughty of me,” admitted Angela, “but I’ve always wanted to say something like that to someone. Don’t feel sorry for the boy, though. He was after your wallet.”

“What makes you think that?”

“Yours isn’t the only mind I can read, Harold. Anyway, thanks for the offer of an ice cream but you seem to forget that this body I am in isn’t real. I couldn’t even hold an ice cream, let alone eat it. I would love to have a real human body, though, even just for a little while, so I could enjoy the things that humans enjoy.”

Under the circumstances, Harold thought it would be diplomatic to give ice cream a miss; but he, too, sometimes wished that Angela could have a human body. She was much easier on the eye than Madam Brunhilda.

“Be careful what you wish for.” The voice came from inside his head; but it wasn’t Angela’s voice. It sounded more like the voice of his dear departed wife. Perhaps she knew that his wish was soon to come true, but not in a way that he contemplated.

 

***

 

By now, Harold had no idea where they were. It was a part of town that he had never visited before, a part of town where no honest citizen could feel safe. He saw three youths loitering by a doorway up ahead.

“Angela, I think we had better turn back. I don’t like the look of those young fellows up ahead. One of them is playing with a flick knife.”

“I think not,” replied Angela. “There are two more following us. They looked a bit creepy so I peeked into their minds. They want, not only your wallet, but your watch and your clothes, too.”

“My clothes?” Harold hadn’t thought of that. The expensive clothes he was wearing would fetch a good price. Harold was afraid. He noticed that Angela was no longer manifest. I wish I could disappear like that right now.

Angela was afraid too; but for a different reason. She was strictly forbidden to do anything that could cause Harold’s death, yet by leading him to this unsavoury part of town, this could be just what she had done. She might be in deep trouble for this.

“Angela,” said Harold, using mental telepathy to talk to her. “Can you help me beat these guys, like the way you made me hit Madam Brunhilda?”

“Too complex. By the time you hit one of them, the other four would be on to you. At least two of them have knives.”

“Thanks for your words of encouragement.” Harold wondered if, by offering the youths all the cash that he had in his wallet, they would then leave him alone; but he didn’t think $10 split between the five of them would be enough to save his watch, his clothes and maybe his life.

“I’ve seen a lot of unarmed combat over the past few hundred years,” said Angela. I have also learned a lot from the souls that I have taken to Heaven afterward. I could take these losers down if only I had a human body” .She paused. “I wonder … would you let me take over your body for a while?”

“I thought you had already been doing that,” replied Harold.

“No, that was just your mind. I have never tried to take control of an entire body before.”

By now, the three toughs in front of them had spread across the footpath, barring their way. The one in the middle continued playing with his flick knife. The two behind them were only a few metres away.

“OK, do what you have to do. Just get us out of this mess. Right now would be good.”

“That’s a cool jacket you got there man,” said one of the youths confronting Howard. The two behind him came to a halt. “Why don’t you let me try it on?”

“Because …” said Harold; but that was as far as he got. He suddenly felt a tingling sensation, after which he felt nothing at all. He had lost all communication with every part of his body. Angela had taken control.

None of the youths had expected any resistance from the old coot who stood nervously before them; so Angela had the advantage of surprise. She went for the knife man first. A skilfully aimed kick sent the knife flying. Harold winced as he heard the sound of wrist bones crunching. Before the knife man had even drawn breath to howl with pain, Angela had swung around and kicked one of the other youths in the stomach. He doubled over, obligingly exposing the back of his neck to a rabbit punch, after which he lost all interest in the fight. Just then, an arm clamped around Harold’s neck; but not for long. Harold watched in awe as its owner went sailing majestically over his head, coming to a sudden halt when his face encountered a steel lamppost. He fell to the road with blood streaming from his smashed nose. He, too, lost all interest in the fight.

Angela whirled round to face the attackers behind her. They were nowhere to be seen; but their footsteps could be heard rapidly fading in the distance. Angela gave a little gasp of disappointment. She had been enjoying herself. She surveyed the human garbage around her and decided that they wouldn’t be bothering anyone for a while.

Harold felt the tingling sensation again as Angela left his body. He also felt his muscles aching from the unaccustomed exercise that Angela had given them. His foot hurt, too, where she had kicked the knife man in the wrist. Despite these minor discomforts, Harold was delighted at the outcome of the fight.

“Angela, my dear, you can borrow my body any time you like,” he said, magnanimously.

“Any time?” enquired Angela.

“Yes, any time at all.”

“Then how about right now, so I can enjoy that ice cream you offered me.”

“OK, but let’s find our way to a more savoury part of town first. OK?”

By the time they had reached the centre of town, Angela’s ambition to sample ice cream had expanded to a full lunch with wine. Harold thought she deserved at least that much. He couldn’t enjoy lunch with her, of course, because he had only one body, and he had lent that to Angela so she could eat. He watched her enjoy the lunch that he couldn’t taste, and worried about the amount of wine she consumed.

“Hey, go easy on that wine,” he complained. You are going to give me a dreadful hangover.”

“Oh shush,” replied Angela. “I have never tasted anything this good before. In fact, I have never tasted anything at all before. Oops! I’m starting to feel a bit giddy. Perhaps another glass of wine will help.”

“No, don’t! That will make it worse!” Harold tried to take his body back, but Angela wouldn’t let him. “Angela, that’s enough. No more wine!” Angela poked out her tongue – or to be accurate – she poked out Harold’s tongue. A well dressed lady two tables away looked shocked, and then poked out her tongue back at him. “Angela, please behave!” he pleaded.

“OK,” replied Angela. “I’ve had enough anyway – spoilsport.” She got to her feet and promptly sat down again. “Would you mind holding the room still while I stand up? On second thought, you can take your body back and stand up yourself.”

Harold found himself back in control of his body; or as much in control of it as its blissfully intoxicated state would allow. He weaved his way across the floor to the reception desk. There, he offered to pay for the meal with his library card. He grinned stupidly at the receptionist when she pointed out his error.

“I knew that,” he said. “I was just testing you.” Peering owlishly at the collection of plastic cards in his wallet, he tried to decide which one was his credit card. The receptionist helpfully withdrew the right card and slid it into the card reader. Harold laboriously stabbed at the keys one number at a time. By thinking carefully between each stab, he managed to enter the correct PIN on his first attempt.

“Are you feeling alright sir?” enquired the receptionist.

“Yes, I think so,” replied Harold as he groped various parts of his body. “I can feel me just fine. Would you like me to feel you too?” He giggled at his little joke. The receptionist was glad there was a solid desk between them.

“Are you driving?” she enquired sternly.

“No, I am standing here answering your silly questions.” He belched.

“I mean,” said the receptionist with more patience than she felt, “are you intending to drive a car after you leave here?”

“No.”

“Good.”

“I’m driving a truck.”

“What??”

“Just kidding, just kidding,” said Harold as he lurched toward the door and then tried to exit without opening it first. He rubbed his nose where it had smacked into the glass door panel and fumbled for the handle. A concerned customer quickly jumped up and opened the door for him.

“Thank you sir,” said Harold. “You are a scholar and a gentleman.”

The customer did not appreciate the compliment. She returned to her seat in a huff. Out on the street, Angela looked at Harold disdainfully.

“You aren’t very good at holding your liquor,” she said.

“It isn’t liquor, it’s wine, and you drank far too much of it.”

“No, you drank it.”

“But that wasn’t me. I was you. No, that’s not right. You were me. I think … I think I need to lie down somewhere.”

“Oh you are such a fuddy-duddy. I felt really good after that meal. I’m taking your body back!”

“No, no, you can’t …” Harold felt the familiar tingling sensation, and then nothing.

“I just did!” said Angela. “You said I could take over your body any time. Wee, this is great,” she added as she wove her way unsteadily down the street.

“I didn’t mean … oh very well,” said Harold. Have your fun but do try to look after me. And don’t do anything I might regret.”

Angela started to skip happily as she made her way down the street.

“Please don’t skip,” said Harold. “People are staring.”

“I like to skip. I’ve never been able to do this before – oops!” Angela stumbled and nearly fell. “Perhaps you’re right. Your body seems to be malfunctioning.”

“My body is drunk, that’s what. Let’s go home and stay there until you – I – we sober up.”

“Oh wait,” said Angela as they passed an expensive boutique. “Look at that darling dress. Do you know, I’ve never worn a real dress? I want to see if they have it in my size.” She darted into the shop.

“OK, but be quick. We really ought to get home. Hang on a minute! That’s my body you are in. You can’t go trying on dresses while you are in my body!”

“Oh shut up!” said Angela. “You are spoiling my fun.” She entered the boutique and approached a well dressed lady near one of the counters.

“S’cuse me miss. Do you have that dress in my size?” she spoke with Harold’s voice and waved vaguely at the window display. The well dressed lady said nothing.

“How rude! Harold, this salesgirl is ignoring me – er – you. Can you believe that?”

“Yes I can. You are talking to a mannequin!” said Harold. He would have smirked if he had a face to smirk with.

“Oh yes. I knew that. I was just practicing,” retorted Angela. She swayed across the floor to another well dressed lady.

“Ha!” she said. “You can’t fool me. You look too gormless to be real. You must be a mannequin too.”

“How dare you sir!” said the well dressed lady, who happened to be the proprietor of the establishment. “You are drunk. Please leave these premises immediately.”

“But I want to try that dress on in the window! I mean, I don’t want to try it on in the window.” She giggled. “That would be rude. I want to try it on in a dressing room, of course, but …”

“Leave! Right now!” bellowed the proprietor.

“Charming!” said Angela. She didn’t like being bellowed at. “You can take your silly body back now Harold. I don’t think I like being human any more.

Harold could understand the proprietor’s concern. Back in his body, he was about to apologise, when he suddenly felt himself storming over to the shop window, snatching a dress from a display stand, and storming back to the proprietor. He waved the dress in her face.

“Madam!” he said, “I am not leaving until you allow me to try this dress on.”

“Angela!! What the blazes do you think you are doing?”

“Go on Harold. Show her that the customer is always right,” replied Angela. “Put the dress on.” She released her control over Harold’s mind and waited to see what would happen next. She hadn’t had this much fun for, oh, hundreds of years.

What happened next was that the proprietor retreated to a back room and reappeared moments later, wielding the plaster arm of a mannequin like a club.

“Careful Harold. She’s armed!” cried Angela, grinning at her pun.

The plaster arm looked lethal to Harold. He tried to pacify the outraged woman behind it.

“Now see here my good woman …”

“I am not your good woman,” screamed the proprietor. “I am your very bad woman and I am going to show you just how bad I can be!” The lady advanced on Harold. He could see through his drunken stupor that she had totally lost her cool.

Harold decided that further conversation would be unproductive. He lurched toward the door, knocking over another mannequin on the way.

“Pardon me miss,” he muttered to the fallen mannequin. He reached the door just as the plaster mannequin arm exploded against the wall next to his head.

“Temper!” he admonished the proprietor. “I suggest that you go and sit down for a while with a nice cup of tea.”

“Argh!” said the proprietor, turning an alarming shade of red.

Harold disappeared out the door, too drunk to worry much about the chaos that he left behind him. He managed to stagger home without getting into any more trouble. Once there, he dragged himself into his bedroom and collapsed onto his bed. He clung grimly to the sides of the bed and waited for the room to stop spinning.

“Angela, we need to talk,” said Harold. Angela didn’t reply. Harold didn’t care. He drifted into oblivion and began to snore.

 

***

 

He woke next morning with his mouth feeling like the bottom of a bird cage and his head pounding like a kettledrum at the climax of the 1812 Overture.

“Angela?” Still no response. Perhaps she was ashamed of her behaviour yesterday and was keeping out of Harold’s way. Harold was feeling better by lunch time, when Angela finally appeared.

“Harold,” she said. “There’s been a dreadful mistake.”

“You can say that again!” Harold retorted, “Your behaviour at the boutique was …”

“No, no, that’s not what I am talking about. I shouldn’t be here.”

“I know that, but you said that you couldn’t leave without my soul,” said Harold.

“That’s just it. It isn’t your soul I was supposed to collect. I was called back to Heaven last night. They told me that you weren’t meant to be hit by that bus, so you weren’t meant to die that day after all. The soul I was meant to collect belonged to a man on the bus. He died of a heart attack. He had the same name as you. He has been hanging around in limbo ever since, waiting for me to take him to Heaven.”

Harold wasn’t sure whether to be happy or sad at this news.

“So, you have to go?” he asked with some regret. Angela had caused him no end of trouble, but he had grown quite fond of her and her mischievous ways. She had certainly made his life more interesting, just as she promised.

“Yes, you won’t see me again in your lifetime. I will erase your memory and …”

“No, don’t do that. You are the most exciting thing that has happened to me since you – or another angel – took my wife to Heaven and left me on my own. I want to remember every bit of our time together – yes, even Madam Brunhilda and the boutique proprietor from hell.”

“OK,” said Angela. “I have broken so many rules already; I don’t suppose one more will matter much.”

“Oh, one more thing … Angela? … Angela?”. But she had gone – as angels do.

 

 

Epilogue

 

A year later, almost to the day, Harold was again caught by a windstorm while he was out walking. It was just as fierce as the previous storm, in which he had almost decorated the front end of a City Council bus. When he came to the place where he needed to cross the road, he could not hear anything over the wind, but looked both ways and saw the same bus approaching. He waited patiently for the bus to pass.

He did not hear the large plastic wheelie bin tumbling end over end along the footpath behind him. He felt a thump on his back, followed by an even harder thump as the bus swatted him aside like an annoying fly and sent him sprawling across the road. Oh no, not again!

Harold picked himself up, but knew immediately that something was not right. He could see himself still sprawled out on the road.

“Hello Harold,” said a familiar voice. Harold looked up and saw Angela smiling down at him. “You can come with me now.”

“I’m really dead this time?” asked Harold.

“Yes, you are really dead; but your soul will live on in Heaven. You will really like it there. I found someone who wants to meet you.”

Angela led Harold to a tunnel of swirling white mist, sparkling with the light of a million stars. Harold paused to look back at the world he was about to leave. He had no regrets. He had a good life and now it was time for him to go.

“Come now, Harold,” said Angela. Harold looked at her. It was hard to believe that this charming angel was the same mischievous rascal who had led him on such a merry romp a year ago.

They arrived at the golden gates of Heaven to the sound of a distant celestial choir. Inside the gates, another angel awaited their arrival. Or was it an angel? Harold couldn’t quite make out the bright apparition before him.

“Hello Harold, dear. I thought you would never get here,” said the apparition with mock severity. “I have been waiting so long for you.” Harold gave a cry of delight as recognition dawned on him. His wife had never looked more beautiful. How Angela had found her among the infinite number of souls that now populated Heaven was beyond his comprehension.

“Thank you Angela,” said Harold. “Thank you so very much.”

No reply.

“Angela?”

But Angela had already gone – as angels do.

 

End



© Copyright 2020 Joe Stuart. All rights reserved.

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