A BENCH QUANDARY
Ever since I received my wings, Gladys thought, I have been feeling like a fraud. I’ll never be a worthy angel. No matter how many eternities I am destined to be in this angelic service, I don’t think I can ever agree with all those articles in the Manual. I particularly dislike this new one suggesting we change our appearance each time we are on a different assignment. I am perfectly happy the way I dress now, unpretentiously. I blend in. Isn’t that what’s important in our business? I only hope they allow me to keep my lovely hat. That’s not too much to ask, is it?
And I’ll never be like other angels either. I just don’t have the audacity required. Look at Clifford who saved all those people during that flood in Mississippi, Elliot who stopped old Mr. Boyle from jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge, and Maureen who gave Dr. Barnard the idea for heart transplants? These are true angels. I don’t measure up to them. I would have been perfectly satisfied to remain an intern. Someday I may even get up the courage to tell Elton, my supervisor, my feelings about that except he has a tendency to ignore everything I say. Sometimes I think Elton is an ass. See, there I go again. According to the Manual, we are not supposed to say ass.
So here I sit on this Gage Park bench in Brampton, watching a throng of little ones skate around and around; their innocence and joy seeping from every pore. It must be a school holiday as there are very few adults on the ice. I have no idea what I am doing here. Elton, this time, didn’t give me much of a briefing, being too busy posturing for the Cherubim choir. I wish I knew what I am supposed to do. Oh, oh! Hold on!
A little boy, perhaps four or five, falls right in front of me. He is dressed in so many layers of winter wear, he can’t possibly be hurt, but I hurry off the bench anyway to pick him up before he decides he is and begins to cry. I reach down, set him back on his skates again and say gently,
“Hi, I’m Gladys. What’s your name? Isn’t this a beautiful day for skating. Do you go to school yet?”
The little lad looks at me with wide eyes, first with alarm which turns to trust almost instantly. A smile lights up his whole face.
“My…. name….. is… Barry… I don’t… go to school… yet… I have…been kind of sick… I’m starting to……feel better…..though.”
Suddenly I feel taller. I look down to see that somehow I too wear skates now; standing with Barry unafraid of an activity I have never attempted. Without hesitation and to my absolute amazement, I boldly take his hand and off we glide. As we round the far corner of the track, a frantic young lady rushes up to us, her face portraying a gamut of concern. She grasps my arm and demands,
“Who are you and what are you doing with my child?”
Barry answers before I can. “This is…. Gladys, mom…..She’s…..my friend.”
The poor woman gasps and turns pale. I think for a moment she is going to faint right there in the snow. But she quickly gathers the little fellow into her arms and rocks him while keening softly. She hugs him as if he was still a babe for a long time, tears running down her frozen cheeks, then turns to me, struggling to get the words out,
“I don’t know how to tell you this, maam. My Barry was born with severe brain pressure in the area that controls speech. The doctors told us he could be mute all his life. He communicates with us by way of sign language. He has never spoken a single word until this very moment. Though he is in perfect health otherwise, his father and I have never heard him utter as much as a sound. This is a miracle! Thank you, thank you for whatever it was you did. There is just no way this can be explained.”
But, I know better, don’t I? There is an explanation. Elton is not always an ass.
As the young mother hurries off to tell the planet her news, I distinctly hear a small voice over her happy laughter,
“You have……a pretty hat……Gladys.”
Richard Torpey February 5, 2009
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