Angels in the WindErica Jamieson
With the days shrouded in holiday cheer, Eloise sought comfort in song and joined a local gospel choir. At the choir’s annual ornament exchange she was given an Angel crafted of bent metal. Leaving the Angel hanging on the back of a pew she went outside to telephone Eli’s rabbi.
Do you believe in Angels? she asked.
We all miss Eli, the rabbi said.
Companionship among the bereaved, like the words, better his heart than the cancer, were not medicinal. Eloise hung up the phone just as an octogenarian on a bicycle pedaled through the parking lot where Eloise stood.
For the Wages of Sin, the old man shouted balancing his bicycle between his legs while reaching his arms towards Eloise.
The tenor, outside for a smoke, shooed the man away.
Neighborhood kook, the tenor said.
Do you ever see Angels? Eloise asked the tenor.
Only when I’m not looking, he replied.
After choir, Eloise and the tenor went for coffee.
He told her about a check that had come in the mail. The envelope looked like junk, he said, but he retrieved it from the trash anyway. Insurance moneys, didn’t even know my mom had a policy.
The weird thing, he said, the amount? Made out for the exact day of mom’s death in numerals, plus a dollar sign.
At Eli’s funeral, Eloise said, a niece had whispered Uncle Eli’s a butterfly. The tenor nodded and a breach rooted across their sadness until they realized that they were not alone.
The waitress hovered at their booth with a plated slice of Apple pie.
For you, she said.
Eloise and the tenor insisted they hadn’t ordered anything but coffee.
Your lucky day, she said leaving the plate on the table.
Apple pie was Eli’s favorite, Eloise said to the tenor just before she invited him home.
When the tenor understood what she didn’t want, there’ll be other times for that, they stripped to underwear and got under the covers of Eloise’s king bed.
Sure is comfy, the tenor said.
They slept front to back, legs entangled.
Eloise woke in the night. The tenor smelled musky, like bad coffee. It was a smell that overpowered loneliness and would stain Eli’s pillowcases in ways Eloise hadn’t considered.
Sudden Santa Ana winds roared through the open casement. Eloise rose to close the window. In a flash, the great Jacarandas whirled in hypnotic frenzy, dormant branches tipped sweeping the asphalt. The cool air of December hinted at wet earth and damp leaves. Eloise thought of Eli’s grave and the empty vials buried in his suit pocket. It had taken her three trips to get the dosage he wanted.
She had refused the autopsy.
In a denouement to Angels in the wind, the Jacarandas bowed in unison offering a blessing in these graceful prostrations. As quickly as it began the trees returned upright. The tenor never woke in the absolution of fleeting high winds. Eloise thought if only it were that easy.
They realized they were not alone.
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