DIALOGUE WITH AN ANGEL
Maurice sat in that cozy bar that most of us would stop for an after work drink, right at the corners of Princess and Port Royal Streets. You know the one I’m sure: It’s called Moby Dick’s Tavern.
Derrick and John had just left Maurice, and he was finishing his last drink, tinkering with the handle of his glass stein, generally reflecting on his life’s works. All of his children had passed through college; Judy and James were overseas following their career paths, but there were no mates for them as yet. Kaye his wife of many years was home with their last daughter Helen; she would frown had she known he was still downtown sipping beer.
Then into the bar came a tall, dark priest, in a dark suit, with a white collar. He stopped at Maurice’s table, and sat down in a dignified manner, at the chair facing the window, overlooking the palm trees and the bay. His face was thin and gaunt, and the wrinkles on it were many. Yet his features were sharp, which somehow negated the original impression of age that he created. His build, Maurice noted, was strong and hard, and well proportioned, and his wrist and forearm were thick and muscled beneath the dark suit. Maurice, looking up, sized this visitor at his table carefully, and thought that his face was vaguely familiar; though the priest’s dark recessed eyes were expressionless.
His suit was made of fine linen like material, an unusual and attractive fabric, and beneath the dark suit he had a black shirt with silver cuff links. His tie shimmered in a dark blue color with white streaks, as if the twilight stars were painted on its background. His face was partly hidden as he sat, by the reflections from the window, and the sun peeping over a distant horizon on the water, gave his face a reddish tinge. The man virtually glowed in his black and white attire, as he cordially said: “Have another drink, Maurice”.
“I was just going Father”, Maurice replied, “Thanks, but maybe some other time.”
“But I have come so far to see you Maurice, and we need to talk and drink before you leave.” The stranger answered with a deep, but not unpleasant, resonance in his voice. Something touched a chord in Maurice’s memory, a story heard, a poem read, something.
“Who are you?” Maurice asked, becoming somewhat intimidated, and searching his own mind to put an identity to the face looking at him. The stranger raised two fingers of his right hand, and magically, two tall glasses of a dark frothy brew appeared. “This is not my usual drink,” Maurice exclaimed, deciding to listen and hear out the stranger. “By the way, what is your name?”
“Father Angel is my name”, the stranger replied, after a slight hesitation, in a contemplative manner. “Please have this drink with me; I am sure you will enjoy it, it is an old but interesting brew.”
Maurice sipped the frothy ale, whose taste was bitter, but whose after-taste was pleasant to the palette. Perhaps the best bitter ale I have ever drank, Maurice conceded in his thoughts. “This is good ale” Maurice remarked, “What is it called?”
“World’s End,” the stranger replied. “I happen to know the owner of the brewery in which it is made.” Angel also sipped the brew, but grimaced at its bitterness.
Then Maurice remembered a line relating to the drink offered, a line from his youth:
‘Then to this earthen urn I turned,
The secret of life to learn,
And lip-to-lip it murmured, “While you live,
Drink, for tomorrow you may never return’.
The stranger smiled, as if he read Maurice’s thoughts. “What do you want of me, Father Angel?” Maurice asked.
“ I won’t waste your time Maurice, in useless banter, but I have come for you. Your life is about to end, and I have come to prepare you to move on into Eternity, to join us all, in the great march of human souls.”
Maurice became alarmed at that response, looking around to make sure he was in the right place. In reviewing his surroundings, he saw that the Tavern had become quieter and darker, and though he could see the red glints of the Tavern lighting; some kind of haze covered most of the occupants, and the bartender did not seem to be at the counter.
“What do you mean, come for me,” Maurice stammered, “Nothing is wrong with me, and I am not going anywhere, and why should I go with you!”
Angel looked at him sharply, with eyes that were infinity recessed, dark and callous. “I am the Angel of the Death, Maurice, and I have come for your immortal soul, which is only given to you on loan, and which now must return to the pool of souls.It is sometimes my function to sit down and tell individuals that their time has come, so we can assess any redeeming value in their miserable existence.”
“What are you saying to me?” Maurice angrily replied, “My wife is home waiting on me, and so is my daughter!”
“But do they need you Maurice? People leave their lives when there is no need of them by their loved ones, and when they can make no tangible contribution to human life and existence.”
“I have a good job,” Maurice answered, “It pays me well, writing for the newspaper, and people value my opinion. I get great reviews of my editorials every day.”
“These are only from sycophants Maurice,” the Angel said, “ They know the power of your pen, and they do not wish to offend you. But that is irrelevant, as Henry Striker, your assistant, the upcoming editor, will fill your post admirably.” This is probably true, Maurice thought, and Henry is building a reputation for himself. Grimly he thought, he might even write for me a fine obituary.
“My wife needs me by her side, Angel, how often has she told me!”
“But you are not at her side, Maurice,” Angel gruffly replied, “Many evenings you go home late, sometimes stopping at the uptown club, hanging out with loose women, strippers and dancers, and what time do you get home then? One a.m., two a.m., one morning even five a.m., with Kaye up and ready to call the police to find you. She is a fine painter, whose work is well recognized. Losing you will make her sad, but it will put pathos and power into her work making it better. Tragedy often does that for people, it is the inspiration to many great works of art. Her future is slated for greater works, Maurice, you are only a hindrance and a distraction.”
“I can change!” Maurice exclaimed. “I can come home earlier, be with her, bring more love to her life.” “Then why did you not do that before, when she really needed you; she does not need you now.” The Angel sadly commented.
Maurice felt fear climb into his throat and mouth. “Angel, what about Helen, my younger daughter, my last child, to whom will she go for the advice that I give so often. What about my other children, who I call to give courage and support?”
The Angel sipped, grimacing again, looking through the window at the sunset almost fading. The wind was picking up speed, and the tall trees, inclining down to the bay, waved gently in the darkening orange sky. The sea in the distance rippled in the rising wind, as twilight slowly crept up on the horizon.
“Helen hardly sees you, for you to give her meaningful advice. She goes to work as you are awakening, and is home long before you. Her boyfriend,” noting a startled look on Maurice’s face, “Yes, her boyfriend, of some six months, Cedric, is with her almost every day. Kaye knows about him; you don’t, you’re never around. He may someday marry Helen, and they will be good for each other. They do not need you Maurice. Kaye will give them whatever support they need in life. Who needs a drunkard like you?” The Angel asked harshly. “You call your children overseas only when Kaye wants to speak to them, because she wants you to be a family. Otherwise, Maurice you are very selfish.”
Maurice began to tremble with fear and anger: Holding on to the side of the table he responded. “ I am very useful to many people at work, I teach them professional writing tips, and alternate week-ends I pay respect to my Aunt and Uncle, who are in the nursing home. Besides, why am I listening to all this rubbish from you, Angel indeed! Are you expecting me to believe that you are the Angel of Death, and do you expect me to pray and ask you to move and save me? From what danger do you threaten me?
The Angel looked at him and said: “If and when you die, Maurice, die with courage in your heart, and the name of God on your lips, perhaps then you will save your immortal soul.” Then the Angel walked out of the room.
The bar became brighter, as if the mist had disappeared. Maurice began to see all around him, and he ordered another glass of ale by saying “One, of the same as before” to an astonished bartender who realized Maurice was still there. The first glass was almost empty, and he finished it with one gulp. He shook his head, and went to the washroom and bathed his face, and gently wiped it with a towel. Returning and sitting back in his chair, he slowly drank from the second glass of bitter ale. The room had brightened, and the Tavern lights were brighter; more people had arrived in the room.
Was it all a dream? Perhaps. And he was cheered by the thought that the Angel did not say when, if the whole event was not some illusion. Perhaps it would occur to-morrow, perhaps next year, he thought to himself, taking comfort in the idea that the time was not specific. He rose, smoothed his coat and sleeves, left a twenty dollar bill on the table beneath the ash tray .He raised the Jacket slightly up over his neck, walked across the Tavern’s hall, and stepped out onto the pavement.
The night air was crisp and clean; it probably just rained, Maurice thought, for the stars in the heavens were brilliant and shining; there was a half moon and the street was not too dark. He did not like walking this late at night to that parking garage two blocks up the street; there were a few incidents of vicious robberies on that hundred-yard stretch of pavement. Where had time flown, he said to himself. As he started to walk he mused at the Angel’s remarks: What about all that time he had spent growing up with his family, each and every one of them? Did that not count for something? And now this foretelling of his demise! Ahead, the shadows lurked and moved, as if some creature was stalking him.He shook his head, as if to clear it from fear and confusion, and recalled in his mind:
“Oh threats of hell, and hopes of Paradise, one thing is certain-This life flies: One thing is certain, and the rest is lies, the flower once blown, forever dies”. And he moved on to meet his destiny.