Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Christmas Night

“I shouldn’t have had that piece of pie,” Beth said, as she hopped down the last porch step, holding an arm over her stomach.

“Well, you didn’t have to have ice cream and whipped cream on top of it,” Jack said, hefting the box and picking his way carefully down the steps. Beth reached out and steadied him when his foot slipped on a patch of ice at the bottom.

“I could have let you fall, for that remark,” she said.

“Yeah, but then I might have broken your stuff,” Jack said with a grin, shaking the box.

It had stopped raining some time after the sun set, and ice had formed over just about everything. Jack kicked and stomped his way through the yard, clearing a path that was at least clear of most of the slipperiness. Beth kept a gloved hand on his shoulder, leaning more heavily when she put weight on her right ankle.

“Hey, Jack.”

He looked over his shoulder. “Hmm?”

“I really, really, really like the picture you did of my mom. But… I have to ask…. Why did you give her wings?”

“Well… I just figured… you know, with her being gone, that she was probably up in heaven as an angel, or something.” He looked up.

Beth was silent, until they reached the hedgerow.

“It’s a very sweet sentiment, Jack.”

He stopped, glancing back at her. “But…?”

“An angel? You don’t honestly believe in those, do you?”

“Why wouldn’t I?”

“Where on earth did you get such a silly notion?”

“It’s not—”

“People living on clouds, with wings, playing harps and singing all day?”

“Okay, it sounds a bit silly when you put it like that. But Granna—”

Beth raised a hand in a warding gesture even as she rolled her eyes. “Say no more, Jack.”

“It’s not all silly, is all I’m saying.”

“Jack, have you ever been on a plane?”

“You know I haven’t.”

“I have. When we flew into New York from London, we flew through a snowstorm. Well, above it, but then we had to go through it.”

Jack let out a frosty sigh. “Your point?”

“No angels up there, Jack. No people with wings. Nobody singing. Just the moon, and then lots of snow and wind and ice.”

“Well, if it was at night, how would you see them if it was dark?”

“Halos, Jack. They glow?”

“Maybe they take them off at night. I mean, who could sleep with all that glowing going on?”

Beth leveled a long, flat glare at Jack.

“And just so you know,” he continued, “not all angels have wings. The pre-renaissance painters really started that trend. And they don’t al play instruments. The medieval artists got all instrument crazy.”

“You… you’ve studied this,” Beth said. It wasn’t a question.

“You’re not the only one who soaks up useless information about one thing when you’re researching another. It came up a lot in books about art history.” Jack shrugged.

“Some angels don’t even have bodies,” he said. “Or they don’t have them when they don’t need them. I don’t remember all the details. So I’m thinking they could be invisible. Or from another dimension entirely.”

There was a long pause between them.

“Jack, I was trying to be serious.”

“So am I, Beth.”

She moved past him without a word, pushing her way through the hedgerow.

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