“The angels play their horns all day/The whole earth in progression seems to pass by./But does anyone hear the music they play?/Does anyone even try?” Bob Dylan “For everyone his Gabriel and the Mocker,/The stillness, and the fountain, and the Master.” Mervyn Peake Daniel Eldritch’s mother died in Memphis, Tennessee, on December 5, 20--.

That may have been the start of it. Certainly some odd behavior can be attached to Daniel prior to this, his airiness, his lack of concern about how his hair curled down over his eyebrows in a manner suggesting some kind of Tolkien creature, his habit of saying ‘Sorry’ before almost any pronouncement. Sure, his coworkers at Mutual Bank and Trust found him an odd bird, a good worker, yes, but eccentric and even a bit standoffish. Always seemed to have his nose in his work yet his work proceeded slowly as if by accretion. As if his completed reports were the result of decades of dripping water or millennia of shifting rock. But no one could have predicted Daniel’s talk of a guardian angel. Nay, Daniel’s obsession with a guardian angel. One day he just began speaking of it as if overnight he had been promised a heavenly visitor though he offered no such “proof.” Suddenly, there it was, in the bright light of day: Daniel’s self-assurance that one of God’s messengers would be his soon; one of the Empyrean Seraphs was coming solely for Daniel Eldritch, solely to help him over some of the scabrous spots of life. “Sorry,” he said to Chip Hohenberg. “But isn’t it comforting to know, to be waiting, to be guaranteed that help is on its way? God still is with us. Yep, that’s comforting.” So his coworkers, Lettie Crunk chief among them, began speaking of the death of Daniel’s mother as the catalyst, as in: “He needs help since his mum died.” “He’s having a rough time of it since Mrs. Eldritch passed.” “Daniel’s looking for reason, looking for comfort, looking for godly affirmation, because he has lost his nearest and dearest.” “We all need to wrestle with the Big D question, yessir.” So Daniel was given a wide berth, a large playing field for his eccentricities to prosper. Smiles greeted his strangest pronouncement. Head-nods answered his most abnormal queries. And not long afterwards, on his way to work, on the mile or so walk from his three-room apartment to the bank, Daniel was granted his holy interception. Or so he believed. Walking east, the rising sun a burning hole in his vision, smog and allergens already blurring his tiny eyes, Daniel stopped to remove a piece of grit from his right tear duct, a simple piece of grit. Sent most likely by a MATA bus or FTD van rather than YHTD, Daniel at any rate traced all that happened afterwards to this short pause workward, this serendipity on the sidewalk of the great thronging city. As Daniel wiped at his eye, his body’s natural fluids attempting to aid him in the removal of his irritant, the sun glinted off every available slick surface, and in that bright burning moment of revelation, Daniel saw before him a shadowy presence with wings spread wide, wings dark and fulsome. Daniel saw the figure from the rear but the great wingspan was unmistakable and the vision as indisputable and signifying as the tears on a statue of the Holy Mother. Actually, and here we must present truth as we know it for the sake of our story’s verisimilitude and integrity. We must be neutral. And, to do so, we must turn 180 degrees; as the movie people say we must change our POV. Seen from the east, that is looking westward toward Daniel Eldritch, the figure of Daniel’s vision was actually a homeless man named Richard “Sonny” Lemontina and the wings Daniel witnessed unfolding was actually the opening of Sonny’s battered coat as he exposed his naked lower half to a tourist named Sadie Whitehead from Panama City, Florida, who was not confounded by her flasher (“Nothing would surprise me in this city,” Sadie said later.), but who was interested in the flaccid length of Sonny’s pizzle. Sadie’s reaction was almost clinical. She stared for an unsavory few moments, taking in the veined and muscular length of this membrum virile, which, although dirty, was a healthy specimen indeed, even in its deflated state. Sonny, disappointed by the lack of shock on the face of his “victim,” closed his coat, but too late. Daniel already had him by the arm, a grip like his vice. Daniel’s eyes seem to spin in his face, tiny points of whirling cosmos, pentalphas dancing. “Hey, bub,” Sonny said. “Leggo the material.” His voice was whiskered. Daniel held on for dear life, because he believed he was doing exactly that. Sonny, to his credit, did not make with the testosterone and smack his attacker with a haymaker. He was mesmerized by Daniel’s exorbitant gaze. “Sir,” Sonny said after a moment. “Loosen thy grip and talk to me, man to, you know, man.” Sonny’s breath was fetid. Daniel believed it was otherworldly; nevertheless he loosened his grip on the poor man’s sleeve. “Sorry,” Daniel muttered. “So so sorry.” “Sawright,” Sonny said, taking a cautionary step away and tugging at his sartorial layers as if they were indeed heavenly raiment. “I am Daniel,” Daniel said. “Eldritch.” “Good, good,” Sonny said, extending a bemired hand. Daniel took the proffered hand in both of his, held it like a lover’s. Sonny was still looking for clues in Daniel’s pointy, spatial eyes. “I am why you were sent,” Daniel said. “Sent.” “To earth,” Daniel clarified. “Sorry.” Sonny looked at Daniel closer now. He did not look crazy or homeless or from one of those aggressive religions. He didn’t look like Larry the Licker whom Sonny sometimes slept next to behind Kroger, Larry who thought he was reincarnated not from someone famous like Alexander the Great or Abraham Lincoln but from the soul of a Walmart salesman in Peoria, Illinois. No one knew where Larry got this idea but about it he was adamant. No, this guy didn’t look crazy like Pete the Apostle who stood on the corner of Walnut Grove and Holmes and shouted at passersby in an unintelligible language which he confided was Aramaic, the language of Christ himself. Sonny knew the street crazies, hell he was one of them. Sonny the Flasher. Sonny the Sausage. Sonny was a fixture in this part of town. “I always been on Earth, goo’ buddy,” Sonny now said in as mild a voice as he could muster. “Is that how it works?” Daniel said, nodding his head like Old Time. “How what works, brother? You’re confusing old Sonny.” “Sorry,” Daniel said. “You are my guardian angel.” Sonny snorted through his gin-blossom nose, expelling mucus that he then used the back of his hand to sling onto the curb. “Does I look like an angel?” Sonny laughed. “God works in ministerial ways,” Daniel quoted. “Sorry.” “He does that, brother, yessir,” Sonny said, now laughing so hard he had to put his hand against the side of the Sterrick Building. “Oh! Sorry,” Daniel said quickly. “I’ll be late for work. Listen. Here.” Daniel fumbled through his pockets, his wallet, his checkbook. He finally produced both a pen and the back of a receipt from Videos A to Z. He wrote his address on the back of the yellow piece of paper. “Tonight, after I get off work, um, sorry, say sixish. Come to my place for dinner,” Daniel sputtered. Sonny took the piece of paper and looked at it real hard. He looked up. Daniel’s face was as earnest as a storm. “Sure thing,” Sonny said, nodding, secreting the address somewhere amid the layers of cloth that made up his vestments. Daniel started off, his face alight with delight. “Say,” Sonny added quickly. “You got the price of a sandwich there too?” “Of course,” Daniel said. He threw a handful of bills into Sonny’s hands and off he sprinted. Sonny followed him far enough to see that he entered a bank and Sonny’s smile was as large as his newfound protectorate’s. It was a bright, bright, sunshiny day. Yessir.

*

Daniel was pent-up all day at work, a sparkling effervescence running in his bloodstream like a lifeline. When quitting time came around he practically skipped out the door and half-jogged down the sidewalk toward home. This was not a good idea. Daniel was in wretched condition and his heart pounded as if it wanted out. A block from home he was forced to slow down and his breathing and heart-rate slowed as he neared his apartment building. It was 5:15. Daniel’s angel was waiting for him on the steps to his building. “Oh,” Daniel said, surprise briefly supplanting joy. “Am I late?” Sonny Lemontina asked. Lack of rational, linear thinking was new to Daniel Eldritch and he took a moment to answer. “Um, no, no,” he said. “Let’s go in. I need to get dinner started.” Daniel squeezed past his guest on the stoop catching as he did the redolent odor of the city streets emanating from his angel’s earthly body. Sweat, dirt, halitosis, what-all. Daniel took a moment to wonder at the workings of the Elysian fields. Daniel threw together a quick meal of pasta and clam sauce, some frozen garlic bread which he overcooked and a cheap bottle of red wine. Sonny Lemontina ate like a scavenger at a corpse and his consumption of the wine was a wonder to witness. Daniel could barely pick at his food and when his guest had finished a copious amount of pasta he nodded toward Daniel’s half-eaten plate, an inquiry. Daniel pushed it toward his guest and watched as Sonny also hauled in that portion. Daniel was feeling a bit blue. This wasn’t going as well as he had anticipated. So far his angel had not spoken a word as mouthful after mouthful disappeared down his unceasingly open maw. He longed for talk of futurity, hopefulness, portents, miracles. He counseled himself to be patient. The earth wasn’t built in a day. When all the comestibles were finally sucked away, Sonny leaned back in his chair. His face contorted briefly into a horrendous mask (or was it beatific?) and then, from deep in his terrene interior, a belch emerged to rival the rushing gorge beneath the great falls Niagara. “Ahh,” he continued. “Best meal I’ve had today.” Here Daniel could only stare and wait. Sonny Lemontina looked at him as if he were a museum piece and then let go with a barroom laugh, a sound almost as hideous as the devil’s temptings. “Kiddin ya, little brother,” Sonny elucidated. “Haven’t eaten like that since donkey’s years. Shelter’s food is as horsefeed compared.” Daniel brightened a bit. He sat up straight. “So,” he said. “Tell me about me.” Sonny Lemontina fixed him with a squint. Daniel was beyond his ken. “You,” Sonny began. He was going to try. A few tense moments passed. “You are a kind man,” Sonny attempted. “Ah,” Daniel said. “Thank you.” This was surely heavenly blessing. This was the word that he sought. From here on out he would be granted divine intervention, he now believed. “You,” Sonny continued, straining his grey matter. “You are a jackal’s cousin.” This was odder. Daniel looked at his lap. Of course, he thought, the angel speaks in proverbial riddles. He could try to decipher them or he could accept them as the voice of the sphinx. “Furtherforth,” Sonny said. “The streets call your name late at night. The restless refuse skitters about looking for your kith and kin. Cats in the alley walk on padded feet through your dreams.” Daniel was full of grace. His angel was pronouncing on him. He was surely blesséd.

*

After his angel had stumbled off into the darkness, and after Daniel had extracted a promise from him to meet again tomorrow (a Saturday) in the park, Daniel sank bank into his favorite chair and, with a sublime grin, contemplated all that had transpired during this very peculiar evening. He felt it would be bad luck to attempt to decipher the gnostic edicts the angel had directed his way, but he couldn’t help but run them over in his mind in lapidary fashion, as if they were rocks in need of polish. Like an old-fashioned fortune cookie (not the new kind which seemed full of self-help feel-good emptiness) he knew that at the core of Sonny’s strange mutterings there was meaning, there was a core of meaning. Even perhaps in the way he ate his food, like a starved wilding, there was wisdom. Beyond ordinary human contemplation, perchance, but Daniel felt as if he had been given guidance, sagacity, succor. His guardian angel was in place. The rest of his life would follow as day the night, as a dog the scent. Saturday morning found Daniel Eldritch in Overton Park, sitting on the steps of the gazebo, at 10 a.m., the agreed upon time, nervously tapping his feet on the ground, watching a squirrel throw up (he didn’t know this was possible, but why should it not be?) and watching a suspicious car with darkened windows circle round and round the park’s labyrinthine driveway. His angel was nowhere in sight. Probably Sonny, as Daniel had taken to calling him, as if he were an old school chum, ran on angel-time. It probably knew nothing of earthly timepieces, of minutes, seconds, hours. The shady car was just slowing down in front of Daniel when Daniel spied his angel shambling toward him from out of the murk of the distant trees. Sonny seemed to materialize out of the mist, but this was due to sunshine and dew, leaf-shadow and range, possibly. Daniel’s attention was drawn away from his approaching angel to a voice from the now open window of the mysterious car. “Mack, hey Mack,” the small, wrinkled face was hissing. It was either a dwarf or someone disfigured by something horrible, a fire or chemical spill. Daniel looked into the small black eyes confronting him. “Um, sorry, yes?” Daniel said. He tried a smile but it stuck half-way, like a piece of food which wouldn’t go down. “Mack, you know forest?” the hop-o’-my-thumb seemed to be asking. “This forest?” Daniel said, gesturing toward the trees to his left. “Shelby Forest?” “Mack, Mack,” the screechy little face was frantic suddenly. “Forrest. Big man here. General. Statue here, Big Man Statue.” Daniel thought for a moment, distracted by his angel who was rummaging through a bee-loud garbage container on his circuitous route. “Nathan Bedford Forrest?” Daniel said finally. The gnomic face was alight with glee. “Yes yes yes,” it bounced. “Where? Where is General Forrest, please?” “Well,” Daniel said. “His statue, is that what you want, lemme see…” Daniel gave the little man directions to Forrest Park where, of course, there was a statue of the Confederate general. The car sped off with a purpose. Sonny was now within hailing distance. “Hail,” Sonny called. “Good morning,” Daniel said, rising. “Don’t get up on my account,” Sonny said, nevertheless taking a seat next to Daniel on the bandstand’s steps. “Have a good night?” Daniel inquired. “Slept in there,” Sonny tossed his head sideways. “In the woods?” “Sure.” “Oh my God,” Daniel was appalled. “Good as any. Better than most. Humus very comfortable, lotsa nice leafrot.” “I should have offered my couch,” Daniel said, all chagrin and pity. “So sorry. I’m so sorry. I had no idea you had no place to stay. But of course how could you? You not being of this time and place, right? So sorry. Tonight you are certainly welcome to my couch. It’s a futon, actually, folds out, very nice, firm on the back, right? You’re very welcome.” Sonny was only half paying attention. He had his eye on a half-sandwich a pigeon was trying to drag skyward, its weight too much even for so plump a bird. It’s uncertain whether Sonny saw the sandwich or its possessor as a likely breakfast. Daniel followed Sonny’s gaze, enlightenment dawning on him slowly. “Food!” Daniel exclaimed like a golden trumpet. Now Sonny’s attention turned to his new friend. “You haven’t had breakfast,” Daniel said. “Could use some supstenance, yessir,” the angel said. And so the two men, one earthly and joyous, one otherworldly and skimble-skamble, set off in Daniel’s Toyota in search of the minor miracle of hashbrowns and eggs.

*

So the days went by, the nights scattered behind them. Daniel’s angel began living with him, shrinking the apartment. Daniel found himself cleaning up every evening before bed, fishing day-old coffee cups out of the magazine rack, emptying dishes of cigarette ashes (he was surprised that one of God’s messengers would smoke but every day Daniel had to stop and get Sonny his pack of Kools), scrubbing hardened egg from the sides of drinking glasses. Every time Daniel felt the urge to complain, he said to himself, This is holy work. This is my quittance. Evenings were spent watching television. Sonny was a sucker for the lowest-common-denominator situation comedies, shows without one funny joke, formulaic crap to Daniel’s eyes. But, he sat there with his angel while the angel guffawed and hee-hawed at the worst lines, right along with the audience who were coerced by cue-cards. Daniel smiled the smile of the patient, the penitent, the expectant. Sometimes there was talk and this Daniel lived for. At the bank there was a new lightness to the Bartlebian clerk. He tinkled hellos around the office like flowers. He joined in conversations in the break room, conversations which often centered around television shows, so Daniel was prepared, had done his homework. But, sometimes at home Sonny spoke to Daniel. Sometimes he held forth like a burning bush and Daniel soaked this in. “You get my Kools?” Sonny might begin. Or, “What’re we eating?” But, sometimes this led to deeper pools of reflection. “Sonny, sorry,” Daniel said one evening. “Yes, my compadre,” Sonny answered him while chasing a fly. “This life after death thing, this is real, this is what we’re working towards?” Sonny would wrinkle his great brow, now scrubbed clean in the white-tiled sanctum sanctorum of Daniel’s bathroom. “Daniel,” Sonny would pronounce, his voice deepening with the word of the ages. “I find it better to live in the moment. I find the eternal lengthy and unwieldy. You can’t fit it in the back of your hatchback. You can’t even find a friend to help you tote it. You see what I mean?” “I think so,” Daniel said. “Life is like, um,” Sonny ran a hand through his graying, thinning hair. “It’s like those whirly things, you know…” “Tops?” Daniel offered. “Naw, you know…” “Sorry, um, dancers, egg beaters, merry-go-rounds?” “Exactly,” Sonny said, though Daniel didn’t know which shot hit. “You gotta be prepared all day every day, see. Attach yourself to life, Danny. Attach yourself. You gotta have food, your cigs. And you gotta get laid. Regularly” Daniel found this strange advice indeed. Laid? Daniel didn’t think too much about sex. If he did it was with Lettie from the bank. He had a fantasy about her, sure, picturing her naked which filled him with shame, making her jiggling, fleshy torso jump about like a marionette in his reverie. Who else? He never talked to women. “Sex,” Daniel’s voice broke like a twelve-year-old’s. “Ahem. Sex, sorry, is important?” “Oh, right-o,” Sonny said, a blissful grin broadening across his clean shaven face, a crack in an earthen jug. “You know anyone? I’m kinda horny myself?” Daniel reddened under the interrogation. He found something to do in the kitchen. Where was all this heading? So, it was a few nights later, when Daniel arrived home that his private quarters had been transformed. Everything seemed to be lit with fire, music was playing. The angel greeted him at the door, smiling like a holy fool. “Wha--?” Daniel managed before he saw the women behind Sonny, both standing as if at attention, side by side, Tweedle-Me and Twaddle-Me. They were wearing the briefest of clothing, though the night was heading toward autumnal coolness. “Sandra and Testine,” Sonny said, sweeping his arm expansively backwards, like a gameshow host. “Hello,” Daniel said. “Our guests,” Sonny added. “I, um, sorry, I didn’t prepare dinner for four.” “All taken care of by your protector and translunary catechist,” Sonny said. Daniel smiled weakly. Was Sonny talking in Latin? What did any of this mean? Why were there women in his home? Sonny pulled Daniel into the kitchen while the women smiled and one of them gave a little girl wave. Sonny had on a new silk shirt over cream-colored double-knit slacks. “I had some Chinese delivered,” Sonny said. The kitchen counter was flowered with small white boxes. “I used the money in the catfood jar.” Daniel had had a cat but it had died over a year ago. The money—God knows how much--sat in the jar like a lazy ghost. “Fine,” Daniel said, a bit dazed. “Um, speaking of money,” Sonny said, putting a meaty arm around Daniel and placing his broad mouth next to Daniel’s head. “The girls want it up front.” It took Daniel a moment to register this. Of course, they were hookers. Of course. “Um, how much?” Daniel said and he reached for his wallet like a million sheep before him. Somehow Daniel ended up with the one called Testine, a brunette with the chest of a young boy but childbearing hips and beautiful legs. Somehow they ended up in Daniel’s bedroom. Somehow Testine ended up naked and Daniel ended up lying beside her still in full suit, like armor. Testine was as radiant as an archangel. Her skin shone like ambergris. She took Daniel’s armor off, undressed him as if he were a small child. She placed Daniel’s hand over the thatched notch between her legs and Daniel felt something queer and unearthly, something alive and strange, this moist portion of loam, this birthplace. It felt like an new-born animal, still needing to be licked clean. He had never felt anything like it in his life. Testine took Daniel’s unused penis into her own tabernacle. She performed an ancient alchemy and when his body bucked and squirted of its own accord Daniel saw stars. This was religion, Daniel thought. This was as magnificent as life gets. After the women had gone Daniel sat next to Sonny who was unusually sober and serious, thoughts colliding behind his protuberant brow. “Well,” Daniel said. Sonny still sat, pondering. “Thank you for that,” Daniel had to say. He felt—what?--He felt transformed, turned inside out. He saw an antediluvian wisdom in the actions his angel had put into motion that evening. “What are you thinking?” Daniel finally had to say. Sonny’s face broke into sunshine. “The tits on that Sandra,” Sonny said.

*

In the weeks that followed the two women visited often. It wasn’t all sex, but to Daniel there seemed a lot of it. Some nights the four of them sat watching television, eating pizza. Some nights Daniel cooked for them all. But there was sex. Yessir. And this evident sea-change in Daniel pleased his guardian angel. Coincidentally, something was happening to Sonny Lemontina, also. Sometimes Daniel came home to a spotless apartment, sometimes he even caught the big, burly seraphim in the process of vacuuming or washing the kitchen floor. Sonny was becoming more human, more personable, friendlier. He spoke to Daniel man-to-man. “Hello,” he might greet his host. “Sonny,” Daniel might say, entering his now very attractive apartment. “What’s that I smell?” “I’m trying to roast a chicken. Never done it before but, hell, all you gotta do is what the book says, right?” “My stars,” Daniel might say. And, over time, the two became relaxed and transcendent in their discussions. Sonny began to make more sense. The two men discussed life, love, loss, eternity, childhoods, the future, the present, the past. In short, they became close, each confiding in the other, each offering parts of themselves up for examination, each seeing light where before, perhaps, there was obscurity. And, if sometimes Daniel forgot that Sonny Lemontina was his guardian angel, sometimes Sonny Lemontina felt as if he were heavenly, a conscious agent with a purpose, a celestial spirit. One afternoon, when Daniel came home, the apartment was empty. He walked through it as if it were a museum and he the only visitor. He had to be quiet. He had to be reverential. Where was Sonny? Where was his angel? Daniel felt momentary unsteadiness, as if the shoulder he had been leaning on had suddenly evaporated, or gone all mushy and peculiar. Then the door opened and there was Sonny, resplendent in a new suit. He sparkled. “Where have you been?” Daniel said, a grin of pride sneaking upon him unawares. “I got a job today,” Sonny said. “Wow,” Daniel managed. “I had to borrow some of the catfood money to get clothes. I’ll pay you back, my compadre. Had to look my best for this position. And, of course, they saw the light in old Sonny and hired him on the spot. Whaddya say we get the girls over here tonight and make it a real celebration?” “Yes, yes, of course,” Daniel said. He couldn’t help but think of Testine’s supernal backside, one of God’s finest creations, a plush ticket to the imperishable. “Great,” Sonny said, rubbing his giant meathooks together. And then suddenly, like sheet lightning, he threw his arms around the glowing Daniel. He held him like a lover for a few moments and then stepped back to look into his little eyes. “We are among the exalted of the earth,” Sonny Lemontina said. And Daniel could only agree, life in its pied beauty opening up before him like a Euchologion. And late into that holy night, after the women had come and gone, leaving the apartment perfumed like an odah, the two men sat side by side and, without self-consciousness, they held each other’s hand, two sanctified men. And, of course, Sonny’s job was at Calvary Church, as a maintenance man, for now, but he had designs on the priesthood, not in any organized church, mind you, but out on the streets where life was lived, where men were closer to spiritualized beings, where the light from a thousand homeless souls could flicker in the gloaming like fireflies. Sonny’s church already existed in the parks and gutters, in Dreamland, in New Jerusalem. Daniel Eldritch married Testine, impregnated her with a boy-child whom they named Zeke for Ezekial, was promoted at the bank, quit the bank, wrote a bestselling novel about a man who is transformed by imagination, which is magic, see, which, for all we have learned, is still as close to heaven as man comes, daily, daily, daily. Yessir.

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Daniel Eldritch - Guardian Angel - Știință, ficțiune, fantastic și benzi desenate - Imagikon: 5.0 out of 5 based on 1 reviews.